Using Micro-Credentials for Competency-Based Professional Development

Virtually all educators believe that professional development is important to keep their teaching skills sharp and participate in their districts approximately 30 hours per year of required professional development. Almost three-quarters of teachers also participate in informal professional development according to a new report from Digital Promise. However, educators’ satisfaction with formal professional development such as in-service days hovers in the low digits.

Once teachers see a description of Microcredentials, more than 70% express interest in finding out more about them.

Micro-credentials address the need for competency-based learning for educators by allowing them to identify specific competencies they wish to develop, submit evidence of their competence and then receive recognition for that learning through digital badges. (6)

However, their level of eagerness to try out micro-credentials varies:

  • 31% are likely early adopters
  • 34% are likely mainstream adopters
  • 35% are not likely to try them (potential late adopters)

Early adopters are motivated by the desire to learn new skills and are more likely to be satisfied with professional development opportunities. They are less likely to be motivated by extrinsic benefits such as a pay raise and tend to be female or science teachers.

Mainstream adopters share qualities with both early and late adopters. They are focused on learning new skills; believe that the credentials will help them identify and share best practices; and are generally less invested in their professional development.

Late adopters are usually driven by extrinsic motivation such as whether the micro-credentials would qualify as professional development or an increase in pay. They also tend to be less engaged in professional development activities.

Survey respondents reported that they want professional development that improves their teaching and skills; shares best practices; and validates specific competencies. Teachers also want professional development that is easy to access and use and is tailored to their individual needs.

Although 56% of teachers believe in the value of being recognized for their skills, most are not very interested in posting the badges or sharing them through social media. One survey respondent said, “I don’t need to show off badges on Facebook, I need to improve next week’s lessons.” 69% of teachers noted that learning new skills and honing existing skills (68%) are the most appealing aspect of micro-credentials.

A New Ecosystem

Digital Promise is developing a micro-credential ecosystem that will provide a new way to recognize the accomplishments of teachers and to recognize and share the best practices of the country’s educators.

The micro-credentials would be developed by reputable organizations. Each micro-credential:

  • Focuses on a singular competency
  • Is supported by research
  • Is assessed by classroom videos, project plans, or student work that demonstrate the educator’s competency
  • Is assessed by experts or peers who have already earned that micro-credential
  • Is displayed through a portable/shareable digital “badge”

The early adopters represent about 30% of teachers interested in trying micro-credentials. These educators are driven by intrinsic goals such as becoming a better teacher. The attraction to micro-credentials is different for mainstream adopters and late adopters. They tend to be interested in more extrinsic motivations such as recognition by their superiors and peers as well as potential increase in earnings.

As this new ecosystem develops, the early adopters will be able to help shape and influence how these micro-credentials will add a competency-based component to teachers’ professional development.