How micro-credentials can encourage professional development among teachers

Commentary: Unlike more traditional tools, micro-credentials verify learning through teacher demonstrations and encourage continued development.
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All educators are lifelong learners, whether they’re figuring out how to incorporate the latest edtech device into their lessons or researching bios on NBA players to help a reluctant reader. But while schools expect teachers to continue their educations, most only get rewarded for getting an advanced degree like a master’s or a Ph.D. But now, organizations like Digital Promise have developed micro-credential programs, which recognize educators for acquiring new skills.

During a recent webinar hosted by, Odelia Younge, a senior project director at Digital Promise, explained the key elements of micro-credentials, how they work, and what differentiates them from other forms of professional development.

Educators are engaged in research every day to help their students — through videos, mentors, reading and so forth — and much of it is informal. The goal of micro-credentials, according to Younge, is to piggyback onto much of the work that educators are already doing to educate themselves and demonstrate their skills.

Micro-credentials have four main design traits:


1. Competency-based

The goal is not only the completion of a course, but the educator must also demonstrate understanding of how to apply the given skill.

2. On-demand

Educators can work on the skill when they need it and where it’s convenient.

3. Shareable


Educators can often share the micro-credential just like they would share other professional accomplishments. For example, Digital Promise provides digital badges users can share via social media.

4. Personalized

Because the courses focus on more specific skills than those found in long-term seminars, educators are able to choose courses that meet their precise needs.

Micro-credentials are different than traditional learning modules, but they have several characteristics in common. First, each unit is developed around a clear learning goal. The units are built on research-based methodologies and provide educators with a curated list of resources for both learning the skill and for further reading. There are also are criteria for how the user can demonstrate mastery of the skill and how to submit the evidence, as well as a rubric for assessment. In the Digital Promise ecosystem, evidence of mastery could include a project or lesson plan with evaluation guides or scoring rubrics, student work samples, or a record of a classroom interaction.

One way that micro-credentials differentiate themselves from other forms of informal learning is that the educator must demonstrate the skill. Many micro-credentials are also stackable, which means providers may offer several units on one topic that develop different skills.


And because teachers are required to demonstrate each skill, they are more likely to continue implementing it in the classroom. Thus, schools may look more favorably on this type of professional development, Younge said. Most micro-credential programs also offer feedback on the teacher submissions, promoting continued growth.

Some schools have even begun offering financial incentives for completing micro-credentials, Younge said. It’s a sign, she said, that micro-credentials provide educators with a more effective option for professional development.

About the presenter

Odelia Younge is the senior project director for educator micro-credentials at Digital Promise, leading work on personalized, competency-based professional learning through micro-credentials. Odelia is an equity champion and practitioner and dreams of new ways to bring about the promises of education.

About the host


At Digital Promise, Sierra Noakes leads collaborative, research-based projects driven by authentic needs. By co-designing systemic improvements to the edtech marketplace with key stakeholders, such as education leaders and educators, Sierra hopes to infuse research into edtech product design and help educators make edtech decisions based on classroom needs. Prior to joining Digital Promise, Sierra was an educator and curriculum coordinator for the Brooklyn Autism Center and received her M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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This edWeb webinar references above, sponsored by Digital Promise, can be found here.

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