In many districts, teachers are provided the same professional development regardless of their subject area, grade level, or personal goals. The irony of this is that many of us educators have been successfully navigating the waters of personalized learning for our students, but haven’t been given the opportunity to transition that same approach to our own professional learning. Micro-credentials were my path to do exactly that.
As a secondary science teacher in Wayne County, a tight-knit rural community in southwest Tennessee, I know most of my students beyond the classroom. Most of our district’s students come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. In a small school district with limited resources committed to meeting the needs of all our students, the professional development opportunities made available to us are often in tight supply.
In the fall of 2016, after searching online for professional development opportunities to supplement my own, I found the Micro-credential Pilot Program through the Tennessee Department of Education headed up by Machel Mills, who is coincidentally also a member of Digital Promise’s Micro-credential Advisory Board. I decided to contact her and ask to become part of the pilot. I successfully completed three micro-credentials during the first phase: Wait Time, Idea Generating, and Design Thinking and Doing. I then agreed to become a virtual community facilitator for the second phase, which allows me to support Tennessee educators who are beginning their micro-credential journey.
Engaging with micro-credentials continues to be an empowering experience for me. Although completing a micro-credential is autonomous work by definition, I continually feel connected to a group of learners throughout the process. For example, although teachers can pursue the micro-credential they choose according to their own schedules, technological challenges have been an issue for a lot of educators coming up-to-speed with technology. However, the strong sense of community created through the micro-credential pilot here in Tennessee helped to solve a lot of those challenges through peer support. Personally, I struggled with video editing and uploading artifacts, but after a lesson from a student of mine and some collaboration with a colleague from the pilot, it became very easy for me.
I’ve always believed the best professional learning for any teacher takes place in the classroom – a belief foundational to micro-credentials. By doing so, my students become a critical part of my micro-credential journey. And what I’ve found is that they love having a role in my learning. They enjoyed seeing me “in their shoes” as a learner, watching me adjust my practice “on my feet” and make my learning visible.
I’m excited for the continued growth I’ll get to share with my students through micro-credentials. As is the case with any form of professional learning, micro-credentials may not be the path for everyone, but they have been an invaluable partner on mine.