Micro-Credentials / Badging

For the past year and a half I have been part of District 287’s Altnerative Pathways team. This team came out of last years negotatiations between 2209 and District 287 Administration. The charge was to figure out how to recognize and grow educators who go above and beyond. Long story short, through this time we have come up with the plan to try and incorporate micro-credentials into our 2209 contract and 287 professional development model.

I would appreciate any feedback that anyone has on their thoughts of this process or if they would like to get involved. So far we have presented to 2209’s Meet & Confer, Paul Bennett presented to 2209’s Executive Council, Paul and myself have presented to 287’s SIT team, and this Thursday we will be sharing it with our 287 School Board.****

What is a micro-crediential you ask? Think of it as a framework where an educator learns something applicable to their job, let’s say “growth mindset”. They take what they have learned (whether it through an edcamp, a PD seminar, a college course, or a book they read) and they apply it to their setting. They collect data and feedback on the impact it has had. They reflect on this and then submit it as well as other artifacts of their learning to a committee. The committee reviews this and then issues an increase in their base-pay for their yearly contract.

Here is a great article that get’s you started on the pathway of what Micro-Credentials are and how we might incorporate them. “Can Micro-credentials Create More Meaningful Professional Development For Teachers?


I really like this idea, Scott, so yeah, a big thumbs up from me.

The challenge might be in the execution of the project? My original background is in economics, and one of the things that holds true is that most people will optimize their effort for financial reward.

Executed well, Micro-Credentials could become exactly what they are intended to be and result in a lot of fantastic professional development in teachers’ areas of interest. If it’s not done well, it will devolve to “what’s the least I can do to qualify for the pay bump?” For example: Go to an ed camp, write a paragraph on how it changed my teaching, get more money. Find a summary of a book, write a paragraph about it, get more money.

I think the key part—that you mention—lies in the strong evidence of the application of the learning. If it’s a rubber stamp process that can be done in just a few minutes then the system won’t help much. If it’s a solid process that requires effort and growth then I think it could lead to improvement in how kids learn.


Scott - One quick additional thought for you…

We’re holding a District 287 “Help Us Innovate” event at NEC on the evening of April 20, and we’re looking for good topics for table discussions. The idea is that we’ll solicit community involvement from entrepreneurs, other educators, and the general public on some of our current innovation projects.

As I’ve been thinking about this this morning, I’m wondering if micro-credentialing might be a good topic for a table discussion, and that it might be a good way for you to get some input on the project?

Let me know what you think?

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I agree - especially as someone who is very motivated by a financial award and the “extra” learning that I like to do anyways, I see this being valuable to our district. Like Mike shared, the key will be to have a clear plan and expectation for how to apply the new learning to our setting and that the follow through is actually there.

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I really like the idea and share Mike’s thoughtful concerns. Another concern I would add is around equal opportunity. I know in my current role as a co-teacher in an ALC and being an Innovation Coach, I have a lot more time and opportunities to work on earning a micro-credential than I would have when I was in a self-contained special ed classroom. I’m glad to hear that this has been discussed with 2209 EC and Meet & Confer, as I would trust them to look-out for people from this standpoint.


Scott, I’m working on a Professional Development Committee at NEC, planning our work for next year. Do you have an update on this since you presented to the Board? I imagine this may be linked to Local 2209 contract negotiations that are underway? Thanks!

Last I heard is that it probably won’t be taking off. If it were to get some legs under it, then it definitely would be part of the 2209 contract negotiations.

I would be interested in this program even without financial incentives. I think as teachers we are always looking for ways to hone our craft, embrace new ideas, and in general try new things. This seems like something that we all do anyways although we may not share our results with anyone other than our colleagues at our immediate site.

To be honest, in all my years of teaching I have found that most professional development is a huge waste of time or doesn’t apply to my classes, site, student population, etc. Most of what I’ve walked away with from professional development meetings are the things that I have learned from the teachers in close proximity. Just discussing what they are trying in the classroom or how they organize a lesson inspires me to try something new or it gives me novel ideas for lessons.

In terms of the financial incentive, even teachers who cannot carve out the time to take part in these micro-credentials would surely benefit in other ways. Truly the only time I have felt that professional development has been worth it in my career has been during the Ed Camps and I think that these micro-credentials could lead to more innovation and even better Ed camp sessions. Maybe part of the financial incentive could be tied to an Ed camp or site presentation if the micro-credential focus is on some entirely new idea? This might give the participant more accountability and even if what they tried didn’t work, we can learn from it. Just a thought.

I like the idea of a badging system. That’s always been one of the best features about Khan Academy’s math program - the badges that you collect as you go. As a kid in Catholic school they made us do a variety of fundraisers. They always included some kind of badging element to motivate us to get out there and sell. One fundraiser involved selling magazine subscriptions. The more magazines you sold, the more Weepuls you collected. They were seriously motivating to 5th graders! For the same reason high school kids like to add chevrons to their letter jackets. A badging system in a school district used to reward personal professional development could be motivating but it could also provide useful data. In our professional development committee meeting this morning, someone mentioned how nice it would be to have a system for knowing which staff have had various experiences and which have not when it comes to planning professional learning opportunities.

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I know he was thinking it, so in the spirit of Mike Smart:

Sorry, I just had to.

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We’ve talked recently about “expertise” distinctions, to get at exactly this sort of thing. It’d be handy to know who someone could go to for guidance in a particular endeavor. Things like “PBL”, “Scrum”, “SEL”, for example.


Thanks for your feedback @BenDrewelow and @RobSchoch. I think there is a lot we could do still without the staff incentive side of things. I think our district is full of life-long learners who would take advantage regardless of compensation. I also really like how this can tie into PD and edcamps with identifying staff who have strengths in various areas to lead/support sessions.

So this is happening! The district email had a link to a video by Digital Promise. Is that a platform we’re formally working with? Is DP free if I’m interested in learning some stuff over the summer?

You got that right! We’ve been working hard and fast in the past few weeks to try to make this become a reality for the 2018-2019 school year. Right now we are taking applicants to write our first micro-credential.

Digital Promise is a platform that we hope someday we may be able to partner with. This could open up a huge range of what we could do with micro-credentials in our district. However, for the time being we will be focusing on making our first micro-credential successful and hopefully get language around micro-credentials set into the 2209/287 contract. That way it will become a permanent entity and not something that is a special project on the side.

If it’s anything your committee is interested in, our LMS is tied to the Mozilla Open Badge project. People could then export to their Open Badge Profile and carry them with them wherever.