- When lining up opportunities for certifications, badges and other credentials in teacher professional development, it's critical to be discerning in regard to the skills and strategies educators can expand their toolboxes with rather than simply engaging in "credential collecting," Douglas Konopelko, an education strategist who has served in roles at all levels of urban and suburban school districts, writes for Edutopia.
- Many credentialing opportunities, like the Google Certified Trainer and Adobe Creative Educator program, also have learning communities built around them, enabling educators to build relationships with peers who possess the same skillsets and exchange best practices they can use in their own schools and districts.
- Specific credentials can also help educators fill specific teacher leadership needs in their school or district, allowing them to serve as a resource to lean on or to help troubleshoot problems in their area of expertise, Konopelko writes.
Microcredentials — short-form, competency based certifications like badges that allow more personalized focus in a more narrowly focused area of expertise — give teachers more personalized professional development choices and allow educators the opportunity to show their skills and expertise. Once those credentials are earned, teachers can also then share their expertise through teacher-led PD. This approach can carve a path for teacher leadership opportunities.
In some districts, microcredentials have already been tied to leadership opportunities, pay increases and promotions. Mineola Union Free Schools in Long Island, New York, for example, offered a permanent $500-a-year pay increase for teachers who completed 18 microcredentials during a pilot year. Two teachers earned the money, though based on the experiences Konopelko wrote about for Edutopia, a narrower focus with more intention may produce better results.
The credentialing process allows teachers to customize their choices so they can master specific topics, such as classroom management or analyzing student data. The approach also lets teachers select options more relevant to their individual teaching goals. Microcredentials often align with educators’ daily work, since real-time examples are frequently used to demonstrate their skills.
Microcredentials can also be more convenient to acquire than traditional PD since they can be accomplished in smaller chunks of time. Online options eliminate the need to travel, which is especially important for teachers living in rural districts. These teacher-driven opportunities are also in line with how districts are trending away from top-down decisions and traditional "sit-and-get" professional learning approaches, seeking to engage educators with a wider variety of personalization.