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Partner: Digital Promise

Category: Professional Development

Teacher Professional Development Gets Personal With Micro-Credentials

Digital Promise is a U.S.-based nonprofit created by Congress in 2008 as the National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies. An innovative researcher on a mission to improve learning opportunities for all, Digital Promise has developed the gold standard for teacher professional development via a micro-credential program accepted for continuing education credit in states and districts across the country.

Video: Digital Promise explains its micro-credential program and how it supports lifelong learning.

Traditionally, professional development for educators has involved attending multi-day classes and seminars, then having little or no opportunity to reflect on what was learned or to apply it in the classroom. Often, the new information simply gets lost. Today, institutions are recognizing the value of more personalized learning experiences that demonstrate specific competencies, backed by evidence that this leads to a deeper understanding of the subject matter and more impactful outcomes in the classroom.

To address this growing trend in the way that teachers learn, Digital Promise partnered with Concentric Sky to develop an online micro-credentialing platform that allows educators at any point in their careers to gain discrete skills that improve teaching and learning. Digital badges, or micro-credentials, are awarded upon completion of each unit and the submission of supporting evidence. Each badge proves the recipient has not only learned a skill, but demonstrated it successfully in practice.

Image: Digital Promise micro-credentials demonstrate that recipients have not only learned a skill, but successfully demonstrated it.

Growing Program

Digital Promise and a diverse group of more than 50 partner organizations develop the micro-credential content, review submissions, and award badges. Partners range from institutes of higher education to non-profit organizations and county offices of education.

The continuously updated program catalog comprises more than 400 competency-based micro-credentials for educators in early education through higher education. Offerings range from very specialized, such as Social and Emotional Learning & Trauma-Informed Approaches in Refugee Education (issued by the Carey Institute for Global Good) to universal topics such as Creative Problem Solving (one of nearly 100 micro-credentials issued directly by Digital Promise).

The Digital Promise Micro-credential Explorer tool helps users find micro-credentials to pursue based on job role, topics of interest, or nationwide standard, and they can search for micro-credentials to earn outside the classroom, while schools are closed.

Each micro-credential is grounded in research that illustrates how it recognizes and develops educator competence or supports learning outcomes. Rigorous assessment and feedback on each submission are core tenets of the program.

Why Digital Badges?

The Digital Promise platform is available on demand so educators can pursue micro-credentials wherever and whenever they wish. They bear no requirements to attend in-person training nor deadlines for completing the work. Most are free or have a reasonable and transparent fee to cover the cost of assessment.

Digital Promise incorporates the Badgr digital badging platform to award the micro-credentials and enable participants to collect them in their Badgr backpacks; email them; share them on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter; and embed them in web sites, learning management systems, and online resumés. Based on the Open Badges specification, every Badgr badge is unique to the recipient and contains metadata that verifies authenticity.

Real-World Results

After six years teaching high school biology, Nick Beerman had been ready to leave his job. Although his education and passion was research, his job provided little opportunity to practice it. But when he discovered the Milwaukee Master Teacher Partnership (MMTP), part of the Digital Promise micro-credentialing program, he knew it could be the key to the professional satisfaction he sought.

MMTP is a professional development program for math and science teachers to conduct research in the classroom that relates to the theory or practice of teaching. The program gave Beerman the motivation and framework to pursue a personalized goal, and he elected to research and develop a tool and process for his students to evaluate one anothers’ lab reports. With his students’ cooperation, he compared the outcomes of peer reviews with the outcomes of reviews he performed himself — and found they were equal.

Beerman says in a Digital Promise blog post, “Over the last two years and the eight micro-credentials I have completed, I have explored many facets of teaching. Each year has brought about changes in my teaching and progress in my students. As a science teacher, it is extremely satisfying to investigate, experiment, and evaluate using the literature and data. It has engaged me more in my career, and I hope it continues to keep a fire in my soul as I help students navigate their educational careers.”

Gaining Momentum

In January 2020, in response to the high volume of questions it was receiving about the adoption of micro-credentials in education, Digital Promise published an interactive Micro-credential Policy Map of policies and implementation across the United States. Produced in partnership with the National Education Association and the Center for Teaching Quality, it shows states where educators have earned micro-credentials (47, including Washington, D.C., at time of publication); states where policies have been instituted at the district level (12); states where policies have been instituted at the state level (29); and states where institutes of higher education have implemented micro-credentials (25).

Image: [An interactive map from Digital Promise](https://digitalpromise.org/initiative/educator-micro-credentials/micro-credential-policy-map/) conveys the adoption of micro-credentials in education across the United States.

Meaningful Pursuits

When learning is personal, it’s more meaningful — and the Digital Promise micro-credential program is driving home that point with personalized, research-based pursuits that are making a difference for teachers in classrooms nationwide. Digital badges allow these educators to show the world what they’ve accomplished, demonstrating and celebrating each step of their lifelong learning journeys.

Steps to Earn a Micro-Credential

Select

Select a skill you have developed or would like to develop.

Collect

Collect required evidence demonstrating competence in the selected area.

Submit

Upload and submit your collected evidence.

Share

Share your micro-credential as a digital badge once you have earned it.

Flexible Engagements Opportunities

Digital Promise understands the importance of addressing the accessibility challenges faced by educators seeking professional and personalized forms of digital recognition. Which is why in February of 2020, Digital Promise has leveraged a unique coupon code functionality within their platform to offer coupon codes on Amazon. This innovative distribution model allows educators to purchase coupon codes on Amazon (currently offered at a reduced price) and redeem those coupons conveniently within the digital promise platform.

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