Three States Tried Micro-Credentials for Teachers: What they Learned

As state education agencies acknowledge, promote, and support the importance of professional development, they continue to search for effective professional learning opportunities for teachers.

Micro-credentials—among the newer professional development methods—allow teachers to learn and demonstrate competency in bite-sized elements of instruction. Each micro-credential addresses a discrete set of educational practices. Educators can then weave these sets of practices together to demonstrate mastery over more complex skills.

Yet little research has been done to understand whether micro-credentials impact teacher knowledge and practice. Finding evidence that earning a micro-credential leads to changes in teacher practice could help ensure that this innovative model reaches its potential to support teacher learning.

In a new report from AIR, Micro-credentials for Teachers, three early adopter states—Arkansas, Delaware, and Tennessee—share what they’ve learned so far.

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.


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