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[PL Summit Series] Activating Professional Learning through Personalization

By: Odelia Younge on September 13th, 2016

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[PL Summit Series] Activating Professional Learning through Personalization

Personalized Learning  |  EE Summit

Earlier this year, Digital Promise and the Center for Teaching Quality co-authored a paper on how micro-credentials help drive teacher learning and leadership. In it, we discuss the challenges teachers face in the classroom to ensure that all students’ learning needs are met. To do so, educators must engage in ongoing professional growth. However, evidence suggests that current professional development does not meet educators’ needs.

Enter micro-credentials. There is considerable traction being made across the country that points to the promise of micro-credentials -- competency-based, research-based professional learning tools -- that recognize effective teacher practice that personalizes student learning.

The Education Elements Personalized Learning Summit 2016 was a tremendous opportunity to engage educators in conversation about professional learning. We were especially excited by the high turnout for the session, and that educators remained engaged throughout. We began our summit session by polling the participants on types of professional learning that has been most beneficial and rewarding to them throughout their career. We used the responses to reflect on how educators naturally pursue career-long professional learning, yet are rarely, if ever, recognized and rewarded in the pursuit of those skills. Moreover, while research has shed light on the skills and competencies that are important for an educator to learn, there have not been systems set up to capture the multitude of ways that learning can take place and what evidence of that learning looks like in the classroom. But micro-credentials can do all of this.

Before we explored Digital Promise’s educator micro-credentials ecosystem, and what that network of partners means to the educators who earn micro-credentials, we showed a short, introductory video about micro-credentials. About half of participants had heard of micro-credentials and badging, but mostly only in the context of student badging. Session participants were interested in how earned micro-credentials also result in digital badges -- meaning they articulate a specific competency, include information about the earner, can be stacked with other micro-credentials to demonstrate greater competence in a skill area, and are portable and shareable wherever an educator goes in their career.

After we explained the ‘what’ of micro-credentials, we discussed the roles in the ecosystem, which include Digital Promise’s role as the platform provider, our issuers who create the micro-credentials in their areas of content expertise, the educators as earners who engage with the micro-credentials, and recognizers, the states and school districts who create meaning behind the micro-credentials through incentives and recognition.

Educators were able to explore the micro-credentials platform during the second half of the session. We asked participants for their initial read of the platform and its ease of navigation. Many participants noted that the content on the landing page for each individual micro-credential was clear. From there we discussed the components of a micro-credential. Every micro-credential on the platform has a clear competency, key method, and method components. It also includes the research that supports that competency, as well as resources that provide a starting point for learning more about the competency’s power in the classroom.

Since each micro-credential is about demonstration of competence, the second half of the micro-credential describes submission requirements, which are the pieces of evidence an educator is required to submit for review to earn the micro-credential. These can include artifacts such as student work, lesson plans, videos of classroom interactions, observations, and assessments, to name a few. Micro-credentials also include the rubrics that each submission is assessed against. Once an educator is ready, they submit the required documents and a reviewer decides whether or not the micro-credential is granted. Constructive feedback is provided by the assessor to the educator regardless of the outcome.

There has been significant growth in the micro-credentials offering since the Personalized Learning Summit was held in May. The platform now hosts over 200 micro-credentials, with new interest areas such as effective coaching, targeted feedback from administrators, and the SAMR model. Other topics include:

As we explored these topic areas, we asked participants to discuss the following questions with a partner or in a small group:

  • What do you or your educators already know about this set of competencies?
  • How do/can you or your educators implement these skills in practice?
  • How could you or your educators learn more about this skill?
  • How could your school or district support the implementation of micro-credentials to recognize educators who have these skills?

After a great discussion, we ended the session with a challenge to participants to continue engaging in micro-credentials and imagine what it could do to transform their school or district and in spurring student-centered learning and educator professional growth.

Digital Promise is excited to find out the ways different districts are responding to this call-to-action through micro-credentials. After hosting this session and talking to educators outside the summit, we have found that many educators who strive to personalize learning for students also recognize the need to personalize professional learning for themselves. Because the simple truth is: educators are also learners, and when they are given the keys to the driver seat of their own learning, they are empowered to pursue professional growth that can equip their students to be ready for the challenges of today and become leaders for tomorrow.

More information on implementing micro-credentials can be found here.

About the author: Odelia is the Partnership Manager of Educator Micro-credentials at Digital Promise. Find her on twitter at @Odelia_DP.


Fill out the form to access Digital Promise's "Activating Professional Learning Through Personalization" presentation slides and other resources from the #PLSummit 2016 

About Odelia Younge

Odelia is the Partnership Manager of Educator Micro-credentials at Digital Promise.

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