Recognizing Skills of Afterschool Professionals with Micro-credentials - Digital Promise

Recognizing Skills of Afterschool Professionals with Micro-credentials

October 9, 2019 | By

An estimated 10.2 million children participate in afterschool programs each year. Skilled staff are key to quality afterschool programs that produce positive youth outcomes and meet a critical need for keeping kids safe during out-of-school time. The National AfterSchool Association’s Professional Credentialing System (NAAPCS) recognizes individuals for competencies that contribute to the development of high-quality programs for young people.

The National AfterSchool Association (NAA) is the professional membership association for people who work with and on behalf of young people during out-of-school time. NAA, which contributes to young people’s success through quality afterschool programs led by a skilled field of professionals and leaders, launched NAAPCS to give afterschool educators a chance to develop and be recognized.

Shifting from seat time to competency-based professional learning with micro-credentials

To better meet the needs of increasingly diverse populations of young people and afterschool professionals, NAA encourages professional development and learning that focuses on competency, rather than seat time. The NAAPCS is a competency-based system that lets people personalize and demonstrate their learning through evidence. The shift from seat time to competency-based professional learning allows individuals and organizations to focus on the discovery and application of new learning—building the competencies that we know matter—and not simply clocking hours.

The NAAPCS, provided through Digital Promise’s micro-credential ecosystem, is designed for a broad audience of professionals and leaders with varied interests and competence levels. At present, the NAAPCS includes 10 STEM Facilitation micro-credentials. A facilitator earning all 10 micro-credentials is eligible for a Comprehensive STEM Facilitation Credential awarded by NAA.

In the pilot phase of the credentialing system, focused on STEM facilitation and funded by The Noyce Foundation, participants cited “learning more about how to incorporate STEM into their programs” and “seeing the students actively involved in projects and excited about what they are doing” as the most rewarding part of the process as they worked toward earning their micro-credentials. STEM coaches noted that afterschool staff added quality STEM experiences into their programs more consistently as a result of the project, and that the micro-credential earners finished the pilot excited, eager, and armed with new confidence and strategies for incorporating STEM in their afterschool programs.

Earned micro-credentials serve as validated, industry-wide indicators that afterschool professionals and leaders are prepared to facilitate learning across a variety of settings.

What’s in store for micro-credentials for afterschool professionals

In addition to the STEM stack, NAA will be introducing micro-credentials recognizing key competencies in youth development and leadership, as well as in facilitation specializations such as training, literacy, digital learning, social-emotional learning, healthy eating and physical activity, and other out-of-school time topic areas. All micro-credentials are aligned with NAA’s Core Knowledge and Competencies for Afterschool and Youth Development Professionals and other research-based frameworks.

Interested in learning more about the NAAPCS, how to apply, or becoming a professional development provider for the system? Visit

Start earning micro-credentials from NAAPCS and other issuers today by visiting the Digital Promise Micro-credentials Platform.

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