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Micro-Credentials: A Game-Changing Opportunity For Teachers’ Professional Growth

• Matthew Joseph

Professional learning programs are thought to help teachers and school administrators increase student learning. However, little or no change in classroom practice occurs after teachers participate in typical professional learning programs, including workshops, conferences and traditional courses.

So, if traditional professional learning programs don’t work, what does?

Enter micro-credentials. Micro-credentials are a potentially game-changing strategy for states to help experienced, hard-working and highly skilled teachers continuously improve their practice to meet the ever-increasing needs of their students in a global, 21st century economy. They are a competency-based, personalized validation that a teacher has mastered a specific classroom practice and can use it effectively in his or her classroom.

Currently, there are hundreds of micro-credentials offered through platforms like BloomBoard and Digital Promise. The best micro-credentials clearly identify a researched-based practice, like teaching phonics, and then require teachers to submit videos and other evidence showing they can consistently use that practice under real and varied circumstances.

States are using micro-credentials to target the skills teachers most need, achieve a higher return on state investment in professional learning, make teacher re-licensure more meaningful, address teacher shortages and create skills-based pathways for career advancement to retain strong teachers in the classroom.

ExcelinEd spoke with states exploring micro-credentials and identified in a new policy brief how other states can best seize the opportunity of micro-credentials to improve classroom practice and support teachers.

As states begin to scale micro-credentials, ExcelinEd recommends they take the necessary time to incorporate micro-credentials into a larger state strategy to improve classroom instruction and ensure teachers support micro-credentials. States can focus on micro-credentials with the strongest connection to student learning and that best meet the specific needs of teachers, schools and districts. They can also ensure teachers receive the time and support they need to reach the higher bar of teacher practice that micro-credentials can set.

And, as always, please let ExcelinEd know how we can help your state improve student learning for all students.

About the author

Matthew Joseph

Matthew is Policy Director for Education Funding Reform for the Foundation for Excellence in Education. Matthew previously worked as a Senior Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, spearheading a national initiative to improve strategic use of resources in public education. He also served as Executive Director of Advocates for Children and Youth, where he led successful efforts to improve education and other services in Maryland. He also worked as a Senior Associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Matthew received his Bachelor’s from Harvard University and a JD from the University of Maryland School of Law.