Feb 2017

Competency-Based Learning for Teachers

Can micro-credentials reboot professional development?

By and

Remember merit badges? The reward for kids who master new skills has been rebooted—for their teachers.

So-called “micro-credentials” work a lot like scouting badges. Teachers complete a specific activity to develop a critical competency for their role, and earn a micro-credential based on showing mastery of the skill. They can collect micro-credentials to document growing expertise and share their accomplishments in the classroom.

This targeted training is in stark contrast to traditional, strikingly ineffective teacher professional development (PD). With its focus on seat time—awarding credit for showing up to workshops, conferences, or classes—formal PD has ignored whether teachers actually learn new skills, apply them, and improve student outcomes. And with its reliance on generalized, off-the-shelf programs, most formal PD does not target the specific skills or expertise an individual teacher may need to improve her practice.

Proponents of teacher micro-credentials hope to move beyond this model.



I love learning! I love badges! I eagerly signed up to pilot a micro-credentials platform. Sadly, I had no dedicated time to complete it. I don’t think they will be successful unless the job carved out time during the school day to get it done.


Time is seems to be always the factor that short changes sustained professional development efforts and quickly diminishes teacher motivation and investment in learning or incorporating new opportunities for teaching and learning. Connects to Michael Fullan quote,”sustained change depends on what teachers do and think;it’s as simple and complex as that”. For any initiative, including microcredentialing to integrate into the mainstream of school culture, time for learning and integrating into practice will need to be factored in. Technology provides some flexibility for workin with time issue, but it is not the default for not allowing for the professional development time to learn, process, reflect and integrate.

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