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Micro-credentials for teacher PD: Why? What? How?

Professional development is an essential part of the teaching profession — teachers are expected to remain lifelong learners. Naturally, this benefits their students because their teacher continues to stay abreast of the latest developments and trends in education, and it also benefits the teacher who gains certifications, and improves their earning potential.

Despite the advantages, PD is also a challenge for many teachers. Not only do they not necessarily have the time to complete the required PD hours, but in many instances PD courses offered by their districts and schools do not necessarily fit with their particular professional interests or are not nuanced enough to address specific professional goals.

One key critique offered by teachers of current PD generally is that it does not include enough input from actual teachers. In addition, the courses do not provide ongoing teacher-communities were many teachers feel a peer-to-peer approach would be more or additionally effective.

After all, if we are revolutionizing education for students away from the “sage on the stage” approach, then surely we should be applying the same thinking to PD?

Micro-credentials for teacher PD: Why? What? How?

WHY micro-credentials for PD?

Many teachers are also quick to point out that teacher outcomes are improved when districts place as much attention on salaries, infrastructure and improving the “school climate” as they do on PD — which I’m sure every teacher would agree is a fair point.

Fortunately internet technology has stepped in to bridge the gap between racking up hours in a workshop and being actively engaged on a “personalized learning pathway” or your “skills wayfinding journey” — please excuse the jargon, but I have found that additional to some of the drawbacks mentioned above there is a serious resistance in PD circles to plain speaking!

But I digress… technology, specifically in the form of micro-credentials (sometimes called digital badging) has emerged not only as a powerful, accessible and appropriate way to learn online, but is also allows teachers to manage their time and resources better (keep in mind many teachers pay for PD out their own pocket).

Micro-credentials work as small, specialist modules that teachers earn and accumulate, thereby progressing along a learning pathway of their own design. The outcome is usually a PD learning portfolio that excites and empowers.

WHAT exactly are these micro-credentials?

One of the most prominent micro-credentialing concepts is badging. A badge is an “online validation for an achievement, credit or skill.” It takes the form of a graphic icon, that is web-enabled and links to a host of validation material regarding that person’s skills in a particular area. In this way teachers earn micro-credentials that allow them to modularly build a living PD learning portfolio that is based more on actual competency than hour-credits spent in workshops or seminars.

One of the most prominent badging platforms is Open Badges, which started primarily as a movement that sought to credit learning outside of the traditional education system. Powered by Mozilla, and an ever-adapting open source code, the system has been adopted across the world by a number of established education, government and technical institutions.

It aims to enable people pursuing “interest-based projects, self-directed tinkering and information gathering, community participation or on-the-job experience” to achieve a form of recognised credit, that could be used to establish expertise across a wide range of topics, and across borders. Since 2011, when Mozilla in partnership with the MacArthur Foundation, mooted the system, they have made much progress. Today Open Badges are issued by over 3000 organisations including IBM, Intel and NASA (yes, the NASA).

HOW to do this?

A major caveat when it comes to badges is that it remains a technology in its infancy as far as school and district administrators are concerned — there is however a growing momentum to get micro-credentials accepted as a form of valid teacher PD:

  • IMS Global, a technology standards organization focused on higher education has begun to administer the Open Badges platform with a view to developing full interoperability across platforms.
  • The Alternative Credit Project, by the American Council for Education aims to “elucidate quality” in competency-based education, and connected credentials, and
  • The Credentialing Transparency Initiative is working to create “greater coherence and transparency in the U.S. credentialing marketplace”.

These are powerful signals that badging and micro-credentials are here to stay, and that current PD formats (the ubiquitous seminar/workshop) often cited as being “lousy” will and must evolve.

Have I piqued your interest in micro-credentials? Is there an opening for a badging maven at your school? Then kick start your journey with this free four part course offered by Skyward.

FREE Resource: Using CYPHER for Professional Development for teachers

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