Lauren Acree is the Policy and Personalized Learning Lead at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at NC State University.
When I was a teacher, I valued every day in my classroom. When professional development required me to miss a day with my students, I wanted to be sure it was going to be meaningful. These day-long sessions often left me inspired to make changes in my classroom practice. However, the following day I would return to my classroom and real-world demands would kick in. The changes seldom happened.
When I first learned about micro-credentials, I was immediately excited about the potential to address this common problem. Micro-credentials provide educators an opportunity to take control of their professional development. With micro-credentials, educators can self-select learning experiences that support their professional goals. Educators can also learn the content in a way that best meets their learning needs and receive credit for that learning once they’ve demonstrated concrete connections to their practice. Additionally, micro-credentials provide a way for educators to receive recognition for these demonstrated skills.
The Friday Institute has worked with Digital Promise to implement our first set of micro-credentials related to Learning Differences. Three months and more than 400 submissions later, we have learned a lot about the potential for micro-credentials and areas of further need and we’ve documented them in a white paper. We learned that:
- Teachers who earn micro-credentials want to earn more of them. More than 97 percent of surveyed participants who earned the first micro-credential in one of our our Learning Differences stacks indicated that they wanted to earn another one, demonstrating that the more people learn about micro-credentials, the more interested they become.
- Micro-credentials facilitate concrete applications to classroom practice. One of the coolest parts of reviewing the micro-credential submissions has been seeing what educators are doing in their schools and classrooms around the world. With micro-credentials they are no longer asked to merely think about change, they are asked to demonstrate this change — addressing the dilemma I and many other educators have experienced in the past. The paper highlights some of our favorite submissions.
- Micro-credentials scaffold teachers to engage at an increased level of rigor. To encourage teachers to make meaningful changes in their classrooms, the micro-credential rubrics provide support for teachers as they engage with the content, assisting them as they move from recalling the information to changing their classroom practice.
- Teachers can demonstrate competency/mastery in a variety of ways. We have seen educators submit videos, pictures, poems, and student work to demonstrate their mastery of our learning differences competencies. Micro-credentials allow educators to do what works for them to make the most of each learning experience and truly meet their needs.
- Instructional design and online platform matter. Effectively designing instructionally appropriate micro-credentials was the steepest learning curve we experienced. Our team had to figure out a way to streamline the content as much as possible, while still providing educators with everything they needed to build their knowledge, understand the requirements, and easily submit their submissions. Plus, we had to figure out how to meaningfully give educators formative feedback that would be useful to them. If it’s not easy to use the platform, educators will get confused, frustrated, and leave. Unfortunately, in our initial pilot, more than 50 percent of educators dropped out of the process before completing their submissions. However, after gathering feedback and streamlining the process to make it simpler for users to navigate, that number fell to around 27 percent.
- Micro-credentials should not have a one-size-fits-all approach. It has become abundantly clear that there are many ways to approach building micro-credentials to best support educators. The potential here is exciting, and we cannot wait to see what types of micro-credentials emerge.
- Many questions still exist around micro-credentials. Micro-credentials are still new, and we are excited to dig in and better understand their potential. As we do so, we find ourselves wondering:
- What’s the right grain size for a micro-credential?
- How do we scale micro-credentials?
- What are the necessary incentives for teachers to engage with these micro-credentials?
- Should micro-credentials be connected to systemic processes like teacher licensure and relicensure?
- As more organizations build micro-credentials, how can we continue to ensure high-quality micro-credentials?
The Friday Institute has enjoyed digging into these questions with Digital Promise.
The biggest lesson we’ve learned is that there is so much potential for (and lessons to learn about) micro-credentials. Micro-credentials could be the game-changer teachers have been hoping for in professional development. The Friday Institute is excited to continue our learning through our latest set of micro-credentials in the upcoming Fractions Foundations MOOC for Educators. Read more about our lessons learned by reading the full paper available here.