Digital Promise, an organization that champions innovation in education, has developed a new professional learning tool called micro-credentials for educators in the U.S.
Micro-credentials personalize professional learning by providing educators with competency-based recognition for the skills they learn throughout their careers. Each micro-credential, developed in partnership with experts in specific content areas and available online, focuses on a single competency, has a key method that is backed by research, requires the submission of evidence, and includes a rubric or scoring guide. Once educators have selected a micro-credential to earn, they collect the required evidence (i.e., samples of student work or a project or lesson plan) and submit it through the online platform.
An expert reviewer then reviews the evidence using the rubric and scoring guide in the micro-credential and provides feedback. If the educator has successfully demonstrated competence, he or she will be awarded the micro-credential in the form of a digital badge. This badge can be shared with administrators or colleagues. Should the educators’ evidence not demonstrate competence, he or she will receive feedback and be invited to try again.
Digital Promise is also working with school administrators and districts across the country to provide value for the micro-credentials that educators earn (PD credits, salary increases, stipends, and so on) Additionally, 11 states (Wyoming, Delaware, Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New York, and Montana) offer credits for educators who earn micro-credentials. Beyond traditional credit mechanisms, micro-credentials can provide currency to educators as they share their expertise with peers or pursue new roles and responsibilities.
Sandra Hurst, the director of educator effectiveness in the Arkansas Department of Education, has this to say about micro-credentials: “Through micro-credentials, we’ve been able to shift the focus of our professional development model from compliancy to competency. This competency-based model provides educators with greater flexibility and allows them to progress at their own pace as they work towards demonstrating the skills and competencies needed to improve their practice.” Micro-credentials are considered an alternative to traditional professional learning for teachers because they represent a shift from the typical “place and time” PD model to a demonstration of the skills and competencies an educator acquires throughout their career.
Kurt Morris, a veteran teacher in the Kettle Moraine School District in Wisconsin, shares how the micro-credential process changed his practices when he tackled the “Student Voice and Choice” micro-credential that allows students to showcase their learning by solving challenges. “As I gathered evidence to submit for that micro-credential, I was able to reflect on the shifts happening in my teaching to be more student-centered… I see the Digital Promise micro-credential ecosystem as my own teaching partner where I can sharpen my own efforts to create and deliver learning experiences that inspire students.”
In 2015, Digital Promise teamed up with the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center (GFLEC) at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., to create 20 financial literacy micro-credentials. PwC, a global professional services firm, provided funding for the project. These explore many aspects of personal finance, including “Simple Savings Strategies,” “Rules of Thumb to Build Credit,” “Understanding Credit Scores with Graphic Organizers,” and “Digital Game Based Learning: Identity Protection,” to name a few. Each micro-credential is aligned to personal finance national standards and explores topics and situations relevant to high school students.
Brian Page, an Ohio-based personal finance high school educator who developed the GFLEC micro-credentials (as well as creating separate Knowledge@Wharton High School lesson plans available on the site that are related to these micro-credentials), wrote the following: “All 20 micro-credentials are guided by an evidence-based teaching method, implementation guide, and resources where teachers can learn more about a topic to craft lessons…We know there is a direct relationship with the instructional support an educator receives, and the classroom experience they are able to provide their students. This stack of micro-credentials offers educators the support they need to prepare financially skilled and fiscally responsible students to thrive in the world.”
Digital Promise is launching a pilot project for educators around the country who want to learn about and potentially earn these personal finance micro-credentials. The pilot will include two non-consecutive days of online professional development, the first of which will be a webinar to explore the micro-credentials and select which of the financial literacy micro-credentials participants would like to pursue. A second day, planned a few months later and also virtual, will provide more guidance and check in on progress. The goal will be for teachers to submit for at least one micro-credential by March 2019. Each participating educator will receive a $300 honorarium. Register with Digital Promise if you are interested in the pilot.
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