School & District Management Opinion

A New Way to Recognize and Support New Learning

By Learning Forward — July 15, 2015 2 min read
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Karen Cator

Teachers earn credentials at the beginning of their careers and may go on to earn a master’s degree or National Board Certification, but these degrees don’t capture or articulate the full range of skills that teachers learn every day, week, and year. Digital Promise, a nonprofit organization that works to accelerate innovation in education through technology and research, is building a coalition of educators and partners to develop a microcredential system through which teachers can gain recognition for the skills they master throughout their careers.

For example, teachers may develop skills in coding or computational thinking, creative problem solving, or engaging students with designing and building by implementing makerspaces where people gather to create, invent, and learn. Teachers may develop new practices to support students with specific needs, such as working with a student on the autism spectrum, or with memory or executive function issues. And teachers often need to deepen their knowledge of topics that have expanded in importance since they completed their formal classwork, such as competence with developing noncognitive skills or skills associated with deeper learning.

At the same time, although formal learning opportunities such as professional learning or college classes support knowledge and skill development, opportunities to learn and develop skills through informal channels have expanded. Teachers are accessing experts online, joining online communities of practice, and engaging with mentors or classroom coaches. Technology and the expansion of Internet resources are constantly evolving and improving, creating powerful new ways to support personalized learning throughout the profession.

One key to recognizing these informal learning channels is to establish a system that awards credentials based on evidence of competence, rather than completed courses or modules. Teachers first submit evidence of a competency, which could be in forms such as a portfolio, a video, samples of student work, or classroom observations. Then trained assessors evaluate the evidence and award microcredentials to teachers who successfully demonstrate the skill. These microcredentials can then be displayed and shared as digital badges.

As an emerging professional learning strategy, educator microcredentials can enable our public education system to identify, capture, recognize, and share the best practices of America’s educators continuously, regardless of how they were learned, so all teachers can hone their existing skills and have support as they learn new ones.

If you are interested in learning more or joining, contact microcredentials@digitalpromise.org.

Karen Cator is CEO of Digital Promise and a partner in the PD Brain Trust.

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The opinions expressed in Learning Forward’s PD Watch are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.