Microcredentials and professional development

Recently, a great group of Ed.D. students at VCU completed a statewide audit of professional development opportunities and experiences for school leaders across the Commonwealth. They used multiple forms of data collection to try to understand the landscape of professional development for educational leaders in Virginia. I look forward to sharing their report if and when I can.

One of many findings in the report is that there is demand for, or at least interest in, the use of micro-credentials as a signaling mechanism for completion of a professional development experience. Micro-credentials are all the rage in education, and are being used for a range of activities from professional development to parts of pathways to undergraduate and graduate degrees. The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) is all in on micro-credentials as well. That first link above goes to VASCD’s website where they announce their micro-credentialing efforts; there are some links to Google Docs that explain the what and why of micro-credentialing that may be helpful if you are new to the idea.

While I can see the value or utility of micro-credentials for some subsets of learners and in some subset of disciplines, I have long been and remain generally skeptical of the whole endeavor. I have been around the intersection of education, technology, and innovation for far too long not to be skeptical. Remember digital badges? Yeah, well…

In January of this year, the New America Foundation issued a report titled “Harnessing Microcredentials for Teacher Growth: A National Review of Early Best Practices.” Last week, the National Educational Policy Center issued a review of the report. Perhaps I’m guilty of confirmation bias, but I find the review more compelling than the initial report. 

I wonder what you think. Is a school principal more likely to engage in a professional development experience if there is a micro-credential attached to it? Are micro-credentials game changers for professional development in education? Are they better evidence of developed competency than, say, a line on a CV? Are they worth the time and effort for educators and educational institutions?

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  1. Charol Shakeshaft 13 Apr 2021 — 4:13 pm

    I’m wondering how much of the push is coming from potential users and how much from providers, looking for new ways to “sell” PD. I’m open to new ideas about professional development. I’m also guided by questions — in general — about how effective different professional development approaches are? I didn’t see the evidence in what I read that indicates this approach will increase learning. I’d like to know more.

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