Can Micro-Credentials Create More Meaningful Professional Development?

[I serve as the co-chair of the Emerging Technologies committee for the Consortium of Schools Networked (C0SN). For the spring Edtech Next report we’re looking at Micro-Credentials and Digital Badging. Mindshift highlights in this article a number of schools/district across the United States that are using some form of micro-credentialing. The largest project is a partnership between the Digital Promise and Bloomboard. In the next year you’ll be hearing more about this micro-learning approach. It’s not only beneficial for staff members, but also has potential for all learners. Here in the Pittsburgh area schools like Holy Family Academy and Avonworth are taking a lead using Micro-credentials for student and staff learning.]


Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

Learning science says people learn best when they apply new information to their own contexts. When learners can make mistakes, reflect on new strategies, get feedback, and try again they gain a deeper understanding of the topic. But these elements are rarely applied to professional development.  School districts spend a lot of money on trainings for educators, but the returns on that investment are not always clear.  Many teachers say that even when the professional development is interesting — not always a given — they often feel like it’s one more thing to do in an already jampacked academic schedule. While educators around the country are slowly adopting various approaches that allow them to better differentiate learning for students, the same is rarely true for the adult learners in the system.

In order to help teachers learn and and become proficient in relevant skills, a nascent movement of nonprofits, states, districts and educators are exploring what a competency-based professional learning system could look like using micro-credentials. Digital Promise, a nonprofit with a mission of “accelerating innovation in education,” has been a strong proponent of micro-credentials, describing them as competency-based, on-demand, personalized and shareable.

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