Knowing the what, why, and how of microcredential programs can help instructional coaches, curriculum supervisors, and school administrators package yearly professional development to motivate teachers, allow them to add to their professional portfolio, and document for families and other stakeholders their expertise.
What Are Microcredentials?
According to Digital Promise, microcredentials are “digital certifications that verify an individual’s competence in a specific skill or set of skills.” Microcredentials can be added to a teacher’s portfolio or resume, demonstrating expertise through advance training beyond their teacher certification/licensure programs.
Microcredentials vary in size and scope, but most resemble online course training. Most programs usually have various components to complete, culminating in mastery of specific skills that when taken together, can create a robust microcredential.
Why Should Schools and School Districts Offer Teachers the Opportunity to Earn a Microcredential?
Microcredentials should be offered to teachers within your school and/or district for many reasons, such as:
Energizes Professional Development: Professional development is already provided to teachers throughout the school and it typically may be something that teachers may not look forward to engaging in, and would rather use the time to lesson plan and grade. Instead of offering traditional PD that teachers sit for hours for, and then leave when it's over, a microcredential program may be more exciting because teachers are earning a credential and better utilizing their time. In addition, microcredentials are also often self-paced, so teachers will maintain control of their time.
Elevates School District Profile: In areas where there is school choice and competition for students is focused on, being able to demonstrate how well qualified all teachers in the school or school district are can be an attractive feature for families when comparing schools. In addition, foundations looking to fund schools and other stakeholders, such as accreditation agencies, may be more attracted to working with schools whose teachers hold advance training and microcredentials in certain skill areas.
Provides Students with High-Quality Teachers: Last listed but certainly the most important, when teachers strengthen their capacity and pedagogical skills, students benefit! Depending on the microcredentials that teachers earn, the learning activities and assessments they create can become more dynamic, individualized, and culturally responsive.
How does a School or School District Go About Offering a Microcredential to Teachers?
How your school or school district goes about offering microcredential opportunities will depend on many factors, including human capacity, available funding, and time. The good news is that there are different options.
Three popular approaches:
Couple with Continuing Education Credits: In most states, teachers must take a certain number of hours to maintain an active teacher certification. Some states allow teachers to take graduate level courses at institutions of higher education in lieu of taking continuing education courses. However, graduate courses usually cost more money and are charged by credit. Your school or school district could have teachers complete PD that counts for the state’s continuing education requirement, and create badges for each after completion. Once the teacher completes the required number of courses, earning the corresponding badges, they could receive a full microcredential.
Partner with a College or University: Higher ed institutions that offer teacher education programs often offer PD opportunities for in-service teachers. Contact someone from a teacher education program in your state and see about the potential to work together to offer a microcredential to your teachers. By working with a teacher education program to offer your teachers the chance to earn a microcredential, your school district could have more control on the content being offered but at the same time would not have to put together the content or find instructors to run the courses and training.
Use Established Pre-packed Options: If your school or district does not have the time or capacity to create or partner with an entity to offer teachers the opportunity to earn a microcredential, another option is to use prepacked microcredentials. Research professional education organizations to see what options already exist. For example, the National Education Association (NEA) has a catalog of 175 microcredentials already available for teachers.
Microcredentials come in many formats, offering a wide range of skill development for teachers in all subject areas and grade levels. Consider starting a program with a small cohort of teachers to see the potential value and fit for your school and/or school district.