Making Professional Learning Count – Digital Promise

Making Professional Learning Count

October 1, 2015 | By

According to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, states and school systems spend $18 billion annually on professional development for educators in the United States, and almost all teachers participate in some form of professional development.

Educators want and need this development for themselves and for their students. Additionally, the vast majority of states require educators to participate in professional development to earn or maintain their teaching credentials. As in other industries, professional development for educators can offer valuable opportunities to improve their practice, learn new skills and grow.

In addition to traditional professional development activities like courses, workshops and in-service sessions, technology brings boundless new opportunities for continuous learning through classroom-based videos, online courses and educator-driven idea exchanges. Tapping into teachers’ intrinsic love of learning, educators often supplement their formal professional development. They have come to rely on resources like Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube to fill out their professional development toolkits. Yet, current structures rarely recognize educators for the learning that happens in these informal settings.

Micro-credentials, a system that provides educators with competency-based recognition for their skills and competencies, could help shift professional learning structures to focus on competency rather than seat time, and give educators a chance to get recognized for that professional learning journey, regardless of where or how they learn.

A new study commissioned by Digital Promise and conducted by research firm Grunwald Associates, “Making Learning Count,” examines the attitudes of a nationally representative sample of 856 K-12 teachers toward professional development and competency-based micro-credentials. Survey questions included asking teachers:

  • what they know about micro-credentials
  • under which circumstances would they earn them
  • what would convince them to earn one


“We learn and use skills that are not always measured in a classroom observation. Using micro-credentials would allow us recognition in those areas.” — Survey Respondent

Their answers reinforce the critical role professional development plays in expanding teachers’ skills, knowledge and careers—both formally and informally. Although only 15 percent of teachers were initially aware of the concept of micro-credentials, after learning more, 65 percent are interested in trying to earn one. These teachers value that micro-credentials are both competency-based and personalized. Teachers also emphasize that they must be easy to use and accessible if educators are going to try them.

In addition to sharing these findings, we want to hear from you. What challenges could micro-credentials address in your district? Are you interested in learning more about micro-credentials? What micro-credential would you be interested in earning?

Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter by using the hashtag #Love2Learn.

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