Micro-Credentials Provide Educator Personalization

Our world is changing at such a rapid rate that our schools need educators with very specific skills and experiences. Gone are the days when schools could supplement an educator’s “general education degree” with a one-size fits all professional development model. Today’s educators need access to professional develop that is highly personalized, competency-based, and targeted to specific knowledge and skills. From this need, the national non-profit Digital Promise has partnered with other organizations to develop a new model to deliver that kind of personalized professional development known as micro-credentials.

According to Digital Promise, micro-credentials are a digital form of certification. Each one focuses on a single competency with a key method that is backed by research. In order to demonstrate mastery, an educator must submit evidence through an online platform as indicated on the associated rubric or scoring guide for that micro-credential. That evidence may include lesson plans and projects, student work samples, text/audio/video of a classroom interaction, educator reflections, or student reflections. Evidence is then reviewed by an expert educator who has already earned that particular micro-credential. If the educator is successful, they are awarded the micro-credential in the form of a digital badge that can be shared with administrators or colleagues. If the educator is not successful they receive feedback and are invited to try again. 

Any educator can earn a micro-credential by searching through the many available options on Digital Promise’s micro-credential website. Options are organized into dozens of focus areas, things like checking for understanding, data literacy, executive functioning, global graduates, deeper learning, or learner motivation. Digital Promise is now promoting a new Deeper Learning Micro-credential Challenge that has been designed to “support educators as they design learning experiences that support students as they develop critical skills such as collaboration, effective communication, and critical thinking.” Educators can enter this challenge in teams of two or more. The team with the highest scoring submissions by May 1, 2016 will win a $10,000 cash prize.

In a recent Getting Smart podcast with Jennifer Kabaker, Director of Educator Micro-Credentials at Digital Promise and Jason Lange, Bloomboard CEO,  Kabaker thinks of Digital Promise’s micro-credential system as one that “provides educators with concrete validation of their learning that can be used as a type of currency in professional learning.” In an eSchool News blog article, Kabaker suggests that “To make our national focus on competency-based, personalized learning a reality, we must also make this type of learning integral part of every educator’s career. Micro-credentials offer a tool to do just that.”

Getting Smart Co-Founder Tom  Vander Ark talks about Building Micro-Credentialing Momentum in America’s educational system. He writes, “Now that a growing number of organizations are creating and offering micro-credentials, the new challenge is to make them more valuable to educators by increasing the number of states, districts, and networks that recognize them as signals of professional growth.” That work has started with individual school districts such as Kettle Moraine and the Houston Independent School District providing their educators incentives to take advantage of micro-credentials as professional development. Maine has become the first state to offer micro-credentials to educators.  Several colleges and universities have also started developing plans to make micro-credentialing a part of their educator professional development plan. 

If successful, micro-credentials will change the way that educators engage in professional development. They will change the way that schools and school administrators offer ongoing support to educators. They will bring about a new way for teachers to document their own learning and be recognized for their knowledge and skills. In the coming years, I predict that micro-credentials will become the “new norm” in our educational system. Want to get involved? Try a micro-credential today! 

This article was written originally for Multi Briefs Education.


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