Micro-credentials for Teachers: What Three Early Adopters Have Learned So Far

Jenny DeMonte

As they acknowledge, promote, and support the importance of professional development, state education agencies continue to search for professional learning opportunities for teachers that align with their educational standards and focus on instructional skills that will result in improved teaching and learning. But research on professional development has shown that its effects on teaching and learning are uneven.

Micro-credentials are an approach to professional learning that provides teachers with the opportunity to learn and demonstrate competency in new skills, while also getting feedback from an outside evaluator and earning recognition for mastery by earning the micro-credential. Commonly, each micro-credential addresses a fine-grained, discrete set of educational practices.

One reason micro-credentials are appealing is that they break down complex instructional skills into fundamental parts. Educators can develop and demonstrate competence in each bite-sized element of instruction, and then weave together these skills to demonstrate mastery in complex skills.

Currently, the research on micro-credentials for educators is thin. In this report, three early adopter states—Arkansas, Delaware, and Tennessee—share what they have learned so far, and a discussion of the future of micro-credentials for teachers follows.

The lessons learned fell into five broad categories:

  • Decide on your purpose. Having an articulated purpose for micro-credentials will help guide the program design.
  • Start small. Starting with a small number of educators can help uncover complexities or unintended outcomes while the program is still easily managed.
  • Provide choice (but not too much). Allow teachers to choose from a subset of pre-selected micro-credentials.
  • Keep an eye on the score. Scoring is a critical part of ensuring that micro-credentials document the skills that are meaningful to a given district.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. Communication is essential to early work in micro-credentialing, whether that means bringing the right people to the table to do the work or beefing up technology tools so teachers can connect with each other.