Kimberly Sheppard is a personalized learning coach for Henry County Schools in Georgia. In that capacity, she is participating—along with eighty or so of her Henry County colleagues—in the Assessment for Learning micro-credential project, led by the Center for Collaborative Education (CCE). In June, she submitted evidence for and earned all the micro-credentials in the full stack, “Leading a Performance Assessment Community.” Below, she reflects on the experience.
Why did you choose to join the micro-credential pilot in Henry County? How did the goals of the micro-credential stack support your work?
As a Personalized Learning Coach, I primarily focus on professional development for teachers. Because I work with teachers to create performance assessments, learning more about collaboratively creating performance assessments through micro-credentials was a meaningful opportunity. I also help create Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) that benefit teachers (and students) through collaboration and reflection. I was already working on creating PLCs in other schools, but I thought I could benefit from further information and ideas from CCE.
What challenges did you overcome?
Starting a new initiative at a school can be time-consuming and challenging because it requires asking people to change their current practice in ways that may be unfamiliar or uncomfortable. For this project, I had to get each stakeholder—the principal, teachers, and others—on board with performance assessment, a different way to measure student learning.
Carol Dweck’s growth mindset philosophy really resonates within my work when having conversations with stakeholders. For example, even a principal with a strong vision that is shared with their staff may have a “fixed” mindset and therefore be unable to move forward with the work. It took discussions, guidance, and reflection to change the school staff’s mindset and enable us to understand the vision of the administration and create our vision at the school level. I believe it is important to foster a shift in mindset to make such change possible.
In what ways did you interact with your colleagues in completing the micro-credentials?
I worked collaboratively with my colleagues to design the professional learning sessions associated with each micro-credential. Using a checklist of what was required to complete all three micro-credentials, I worked with my project managers to create a timeline for all of the second semester design team meetings. Through this process, we created the agendas and determined who would lead each part. We broke each micro-credential into smaller chunks, which was much more effective for our team.
Starting in January, I focused the design team meetings on redefining the norms of the group to increase effectiveness. We used protocols provided through the micro-credential to guide the process. The design team found the Looking At Student Work Protocol micro-credential to be the most valuable, so we decided to also use this protocol in department meetings.
The design team continued this process of reflecting on each protocol for each meeting. For example, we used a protocol to discuss and reflect on whether there was a need to revise and connect the 2009 and revised 2015 visions of one of our district high schools. We used a process of reflection and protocol, the Post-It Strategy, to create a joint vision. Individually the participants wrote words that they felt represented their idea of the vision. Teams of two then worked to create a vision from the words. The finalized vision is now succinct and represents the entire body of the school. This led to a creation of goals for the school that promote the use of performance assessments.
To what do you attribute the high quality of your submission?
I followed the rubrics and requirements carefully to make sure it followed the plans of my school. I appreciated having all requirements up front. Through this, I was able to decide which part to complete at what time so that the plan worked for the school.
I also had to set some time aside for writing out the reflections, basing my ideas on citations and quotes from books and articles that I was reading. I kept track of each micro-credential in a separate Google folder so that I could organize the requirements in one Google doc and each of the finalized parts in other documents.
What do you see as the value of micro-credentials for your professional learning?
I learned a great deal through the process, especially about what is required for completing a micro-credential, as well as how to work collaboratively on creating performance assessments. I am often required to assist in creating professional learning communities in the buildings I work with each year. I have learned new ways to effectively engage school stakeholders, whether through one-on-one conversations or information share outs. For example, when talking with teachers, sharing initial information in a whole group setting allows everyone to hear the same message. It is better to allow for questions in department meetings, after they have had time to process and formulate questions. Engaging with the micro-credential resources such as the structured conversations led to an increase in buy-in and understanding.
What advice do you have for other educators pursuing micro-credentials?
Know that you can do this. It is manageable, but it does take planning and deciding what works best for your school. Flexibility is also important. Events and changes will occur in the schedule so it it may mean working on the micro-credential for longer or changing your original plan.