A New Model for Professional Development

Research from the Center for Public Education asserts that the traditional workshop model of professional development is largely ineffective. It is disconnected from the classroom and doesn’t change teacher practice or improve student learning. On the other hand, online professional learning that is ongoing, personalized, and fits into a teacher’s schedule can be a very effective way to upgrade teachers’ skills.

A report released this month by Getting Smart and Bloomboard suggests that we make a shift from the concept of seat time to competency in professional development by focusing on microcredentials. As defined by the report, micro-credentials are a digital form of certification that indicates the teacher has demonstrated competency in a particular skill such as data learning or teacher leadership.

Traditional ways of measuring professional development, such as Continuing Education Units (CEUs) are giving way to just-in-time and modular units that feature continuous feedback. The report states, “Micro-credentials solve a number of current problems with professional development and offer a path to more personalized and powerful professional learning.

The advantages to this type of professional development are:

  • The teacher has some control over the time, place, and pace of it.
  • A balance of goals that include teachers’ defined goals, district instructional goals, and the goals defined by administration through evaluations.
  • Job-embedded integration into the classroom.
  • A competency-based progression.

A Lot of Money

Districts spend more than $18,000 per year, per teacher for professional development. This is a staggering $67 billion per year. That’s a lot of money spent on what most educators think is ineffective. As a practical matter, districts have little idea as to what works and to what degree it impacts teachers’ behavior.

The report recommends that just as we are transforming our education model for students to be more personalized and meaningful, we need to use the same strategies to upgrade the professional development experience and impact for teachers. One of the ways to accomplish this is by developing micro-credential programs or digital badges.

The leading benefits of such a program to school leaders is that it allows them to offer differentiated professional development to their teachers. It also is a clear-cut method to understand and certify their competencies in particular areas. For teachers themselves, it allows them to improve their practice, receive recognition, create a portable portfolio, collaborate with peers, and stay on top of emerging needs within their profession.

The Six Steps to Earning a Micro-credential

Here are the six basic steps toward earning a micro-credential:

  • Identify a skill gap or a desired learning outcome.
  • Understand the learning criteria to align with personal goals.
  • Engage in the learning experiences.
  • Submit evidence.
  • Complete evaluation.
  • Receive recognition.

Evaluating the Micro-credential

Not all programs are created equally, so whether you are an educator looking for a program or a vendor creating a program, here are some key elements:

  • Quality third-party content.
  • Focus on feedback.
  • Requires an evidence-based portfolio of practice.
  • Features researched backed competencies.
  • Opportunities for different stages of career and fields of study.

For a deeper dive into this content, check out Moving PD from Seat-Time to Demonstrated Competency Using Micro-credentials or The Friday Institute at North Carolina State University.