By guest blogger Leo Doran
Digital badges are being widely adopted for students, but could the same principles be applied to improve professional development for teachers?
A study commissioned by the non-profit Digital Promise analyzed the reasons teachers might adopt micro-credentials in lieu of, or in conjunction to, more formal professional development.
To earn micro-credentials, teachers must follow online coursework, lead classroom activities and prepare artifacts from these activities to demonstrate mastery in a given skill. The process aims to supplant traditional lecture based professional development with hands-on classroom skill development.
Because the concept is so new, only 15 percent of teachers reported being at least ‘somewhat aware’ of such opportunities. Once they became more familiar with the concept of micro-credentials, however, nearly two-thirds reported being at least ‘somewhat likely’ to try to earn one, according to the survey conducted for Digital Promise.
Karen Cator, the group’s CEO, is leading the effort to create a platform that would house the initiative, which she says will utilize the Open Badges standard, Mozilla’s open source technical framework for digital badges, but will be designed and adapted “specifically for teachers.”
Cator projects that the platform to launch in the “next four to six weeks.”
Once the program goes public, examples of micro-credentials that teachers will be able to earn include “Idea Generating and Brainstorming,” “Using Wait Time Effectively,” and “Your Own Anatomical STEM Library.”
In an interview, Peter Grunwald, the founder and president of Grunwald Associates who authored the study, outlined multiple potential advantages to the micro-credential approach. Because teachers earn mini certifications based on mastery, rather than time spent in lectures, he argues the method is more efficient. The self-directed nature of the learning might also ensure that teachers are more engaged and more attuned to developing skills they think would better serve their students.
Finally, Grunwald notes that the micro-credentials would likely be conferred as digital badges, making them easily shared on social media or displayed on online CVs such as Linkedin.
Grunwald also cautioned that career advancement might not be an educator’s primary motivation for pursuing a digital badge. Instead, he said, the data shows primarily that “teachers are interested in becoming better teachers” and in finding the best ways to serve the interests of their students.
According to Grunwald, it is too early to tell if companies will choose to market more aggressively towards individual teachers, or entire school districts. Nontheless, Grunwald remains optimistic that the study reveals significant opportunities for businesses in the education and professional development sectors.
In addition to the public summary of the report, his company is licensing a more detailed version for companies interested in creating micro-credentials and marketing them to teachers and schools.
Cator also expects a major influx of micro-credential-related content from current and future partners, saying she anticipates the future involvement of “all the various entities that are experts in areas of professional learning” in both badge creation and evaluations of teacher submissions.
Chart: Grunwald Associates LLC
A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.