There’s a Badge for That

3 ways micro-credentials enhance professional learning.

GUEST COLUMN | by Adam Geller

Micro-credentials are much more than a buzz word or simply the latest professional learning trend. Instead, micro-credentials provide districts a way to recognize teachers’ exemplar skills while allowing teachers to show their mastery of teaching skills via a digital badge.

‘…micro-credentials provide districts a way to recognize teachers’ exemplar skills…’ 

However, there is often misunderstanding around micro-credentials which gives some districts pause on getting started with this innovative professional learning approach. Many district leaders may find themselves asking: What exactly are micro-credentials? How will they benefit educators? And, how hard are they really to implement?

As further detailed in “Action-Oriented PD: Micro-Credentials Empower Teachers to Earn Credit Using Evidence,” below are three ways that micro-credentials enhance – and further acknowledge – the professional learning already happening in districts.

Micro-credentials recognize professional growth

A micro-credential provides digital documentation recognizing the mastery of a small subset of professional skills. While the subset might be small in comparison to a full teaching credential, it doesn’t mean the skills are insignificant – quite the contrary, actually.

Skills can range from incorporating academic language into content-area lessons to utilizing innovative checks for understanding  to using restorative justice practices to create classroom culture, you name it. Earning a micro-credential affirms the educator has achieved a certain level of proficiency for putting a specific theory or learned skill into practice.

Micro-credentials are especially valuable because they represent the efforts made – and professional growth demonstrated – to obtain the credential. This is unlike a certificate of participation which serves to certify physical presence at a traditional sit-and-get PD workshop.

Micro-credentials embody personalized professional learning

Micro-credentials embody personalized professional learning and provide a true affirmation of educators’ ability to put teaching theory into practice. And, while a relatively newer approach to professional learning, they certainly have staying power.

When districts implement micro-credential options, teachers often have wide latitude for selecting areas of their own professional interests. The learning can take place at their own pace and on a flexible schedule.

So, what – and who – exactly is needed for micro-credentials? At a basic level, districts must have:

  • A specific learner – often the teacher – to whom the credential will be issued
  • Defined competencies the learner will demonstrate through video evidence and/or non-video artifacts
  • An issuer – often an administrator or instructional coach in the district – who will attest to the validity of these competencies
  • A clear definition how the micro-credential is valued in terms like PD clock hours or career advancement

Once these components are in place, districts can start to have educators demonstrate their proficiency while engaging in active – and targeted – professional learning.

Micro-credentials are an easy addition to existing PD

One of the main reasons many districts are hesitant to use micro-credentials is because they think it’ll be too complex to get started. That’s not the case, however.

Once districts decide to implement micro-credentials, they can start issuing digital badges within minutes. For example, using the free Badgr platform, districts can register their organization, define their badge, and issue it via email to their learners.

Edthena has also made it easy for districts to get started with micro-credentials. District leaders can now use the platform to define competencies, gather video evidence and non-video artifacts of those skills from teachers, and then issue a micro-credential – and an accompanying badge – to the teacher.

With platforms and tools such as these and others, technical complexities are no longer a barrier for districts looking to add micro-credentials into the PD already taking place in their buildings.

Overall, micro-credentials provide an effective way for educators – whether teachers, principals, or administrators – to further their professional learning and show their skill mastery. It is with these skills, after all, that they will continue to make a measurable impact on the students they serve.

Adam Geller is the founder of Edthena, a video analysis and online collaboration platform for educators, and author of “Evidence of Practice: Playbook for Video-Powered Professional Learning.” He started his career in education as a science teacher in St. Louis, Missouri. Since 2011, Adam has overseen the evolution of Edthena from a paper-based prototype into a research-informed and patented platform used by schools, districts, teacher training programs, and professional development providers.


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