Micro-credentials Symposium – Digital Promise

Micro-credentials Symposium

The Symposium on the Currency of Micro-credentials brought together state and district leaders, practitioners, and other stakeholders to design solutions that formally recognize the micro-credentials educators earn. The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and Learning Forward co-hosted the event with Digital Promise.

Symposium Overview

Karen Cator, Digital Promise president and CEO, kicked off the Symposium with a question to frame the next two days: How do we encourage, recognize, and reward educators for competencies they develop that support student learning throughout their careers?

Mary-Dean Barringer, senior advisor at CCSSO, explained that micro-credentials excite state school chiefs because they can pivot professional learning systems from focusing on accountability to developing and supporting the capacity of teachers. According to Barringer, micro-credentials have the potential to “honor [educators’] development by remaining sensitive to their local context, still with an understanding of what is effective professional and adult learning, all the while encouraging the professional autonomy of teachers to craft their own course.”

Stephanie Hirsh, executive director of Learning Forward, highlighted the connection between micro-credentials and Learning Forward’s Standards for Professional Learning by pointing out that both tie learning to specific and demonstrable outcomes that develop skillsets through practice, offering greater accountability for learning quality. Hirsh cited the creation of learning communities, opportunities for leadership development, implementation of robust data and research systems, among other components, as necessary supports for engaging and effective professional learning.

The evening concluded with a discussion between KIPP DC special education teacher, Aneka Stewart, and Digital Promise’s Hashim Pipkin on the educator micro-credential experience. As an educator working to support the learning differences of students dealing with various types of trauma that make processing new information challenging, she was immediately drawn to Friday Institute’s Executive Function micro-credential. “I wanted to see research around intervention in this area,” she said. Stewart was committed to developing student coping skills.

Through the micro-credential’s supporting research and resources, Stewart recognized meditation and yoga as ways to support mindfulness. After earning the Executive Function micro-credential, Stewart was able to secure a grant to bring yoga to her school. “Key to any micro-credential,” said Stewart, “is that it must have an impact on student learning.” Her school’s mindfulness center is her way of bringing that goal to fruition.

The second day of the Symposium began with a keynote from Jennifer Kabaker, director of educator micro-credentials at Digital Promise. Kabaker gave an in-depth look at the burgeoning micro-credential movement in educator professional learning — where it began and where it can go.

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Kabaker then moderated a panel on exploring insights from the field. Panelists included Ann Coffman, senior program analyst, National Education Association (NEA); Machel Mills, director of professional learning systems, Tennessee Department of Education; Jim Short, program director, Carnegie Corporation of New York; Jill Snell, resource teacher, Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS); and Mary Ann Wolf, director of digital learning programs, Friday Institute at NC State.

Panelists discussed what initially drew them to micro-credentials. Wolf shared that the Friday Institute has built micro-credentials into their MOOCs (massive open online courses). She remarked on the richness of the artifacts they have received and the frequency with which educators resubmit if they do not initially earn a micro-credential.

Snell described BCPS’s micro-credential pilot, which first launched in 2016. She attributes their early success to the meaningful support and structure the district provided to the educators, including a kick-off professional development day.

Mills said that in Tennessee, once teachers were on board, policymakers quickly followed. Coffman agreed that having educators be part of the conversation is essential. “Artifacts are better when relevant [to teachers], and solve real problems in the classroom,” she said.

Rigor was important for the panelists. “Our job is to provide quality experiences and products,” said Coffman. NEA has embarked on the development of over 100 micro-credentials which will ultimately be made available to all educators. Wolfe referenced the importance of the research included in each micro-credential, as it grounds them in powerful practice.

Assessment was also a common challenge among panelists. To address the need to scale assessments, many are considering engaging educators at the local level. However, appropriate compensation for those assessor educators is yet to be determined. Tennessee, for example, asked teachers from its year-one pilot to provide assessment in the future. The state also offered five professional development credits for those who earned a micro-credential. Short suggested that the assessment training models used for Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests – which provide participants with both social and networking opportunities in addition to professional growth – could serve as potential points of reference.

The panel was marked by a high level of enthusiasm for micro-credentials and the promise they have for educators. While there is still much work to be done, early findings suggest that educators are driven by the promise of a truly personalized and competency-based system.

After the panel, participants used the Challenge-Based Learning framework to explore different types of recognition for micro-credentials and design solutions to make those mechanisms a reality for educators.

Navigate through each session’s icon above or below to learn more about each discussion and the resulting solution. Each page includes a detailed slide deck participants prepared to present their solutions during the closing session of the event.

Financial RecognitionFinancial Recognition: This session focused on the mechanisms through which educators can earn financial compensation for the micro-credentials they earn. Participants designed solutions for the changes and new systems that might be required to provide educators who earn micro-credentials with direct stipends, base salary increases, or other forms of monetary compensation.

CEUs And Other Professional DevelopmentCEUs and Other Professional Development: This session focused on the mechanisms through which educators can earn continuing education units (CEUs) or other professional development credits for the micro-credentials they earn. Participants designed solutions for the changes and new systems that might be required to incorporate micro-credentials into existing professional development structures.

UnconferenceUnconference: This session focused on a topic selected by this group: micro-credential quality and assessor training and reliability. Participants designed solutions for the changes and new systems that are necessary to ensure micro-credentials remain a trusted and sought-after professional learning tool.

Career PathwaysCareer Pathways: This session focused on the mechanisms through which micro-credentials can provide educators with access to and progression through new career pathways. Participants designed solutions for the changes and new systems that might be required to build meaningful career pathways through micro-credentials that are incorporated into state or district human capital policies.

Licensure and RelicensureLicensure and Relicensure: This session focused on how micro-credentials can be used to support the educator relicensure process by professional and state organizations. Participants designed solutions for the policy changes and new systems that might be required to implement a relicensure system that relies on micro-credentials rather than traditional seat-time measures.

Pre-service CredentialingPre-service Credentialing: This session focused on how micro-credentials can effectively be integrated into pre-service teacher credentialing and training. Participants designed solutions for the changes and new systems that might be required to integrate micro-credentials into human capital decision making and onboarding systems.

Digital Promise is grateful to the Carnegie Corporation of NY for making the Symposium possible.

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