Micro-Credentials Support Targeted Professional Learning

Maybe "micro" is a bit of a misnomer in the work of "micro-credentialing." Teaching Matters has spent the better part of two years developing a system of coaching and assessment that's all about determining just what skills are most essential for teacher leaders. And that's no small thing.

The reason that we use the words "micro-credentialing" or "digital badging" is because we are zooming in on specific knowledge and well-defined skills that can be shared and demonstrated in a reasonable period of time. And it's not just us. Our work is part of a new movement in competency-based education and micro-credentialing. For our part of this shift, it's about what one needs to know and do in order to be a great teacher leader, and it's about making professional development most effective.

Talking about the virtues of micro-credentials for professional development, Superintendent Mike Nagler said it well: Teachers need to be constantly updating their pedagogical practices and skills. Often this is smaller snippets of learning - not a whole course. Micro-credentials really focus on the right "bite-size" of skills that people need. They're very efficient.

That's an important endorsement at a time when professional development has come under attack for not meeting the needs of either teachers OR systems.

About two years ago, Teaching Matters decided to couple professional development focusing on teacher leadership with a micro-credentialing plan that identifies, coaches, and rewards the kind of digestible chunks of knowledge and competence that are especially worthwhile. We made it our business to target the highest leverage skills in a prioritized and integrated way so that demonstrating these competencies is meaningful and substantial - and they can be recognized as the essentials that characterize a well-prepared teacher leader.

And now, we've written about our experiences in three different settings.

The process of micro-credentialing has proven to engage learners as agents in their own professional development. It is a strengths-based approach that supports demonstration of competency at one's own pace, and it has the kind of flexibility that allows learners to assemble evidence that is not only rigorous, but also of relevance to their own teaching. The micro-credentialing process supports teachers to apply what they learn, receive feedback based on what they submit, make adjustments, and ultimately demonstrate that their learning has resulted in a real impact on their classroom.

Micro-credentials help zero in. Evidence is critical - because unlike typical professional development that relies on broad workshops, micro-credentials not only get very specific, but put the onus on participants to show what they've learned.

Given our initial results, we are forging ahead with the digital badging approach. Competency-based education and micro-credentials are worthy ingredients to transform teacher growth, school climates, and ultimately, student outcomes.