Developing a micro-credential strategy: A framework

A few notes before getting started

Are you interested in exploring the power micro-credentials might have for your school or district?
Micro-credential Strategy Framework will guide you and your team through the decisions and tasks associated with planning, launching, and implementing a micro-credential pilot or initiative with a group of educators.

The framework’s structure
The framework is divided into three parts: Understanding why, Designing how, and Implementing the plan. Each part has two areas of focus: “Big questions” and “Important tasks.” Answering the “Big questions” will involve intense study and open discussion. We recommend that you or your team come to decision points on each big question before moving to “Important tasks.” You can download these resources by clicking on the button below each part of the strategy framework. Scroll further to access additional background resources and research to support your work.

Resources and guides
The “Big questions” and “Important tasks” include valuable resources or guides. We have annotated these resources and guides to save you time selecting the best information for your context. Remember, these resources are intended as a starting point. Part of the process will be adaptation to meet your local needs, context, and goals.

Readiness Checklists

1. Understanding your why


First things first. Do you know what you need to know to begin planning a micro-credential pilot or implementation in your school, district, or organization? The “Ready to Plan” resources will help you find out.


Goal: Establish a theory of action

What do you need to learn from this investigation, exploration, pilot, test, or initiative? In other words, what burning questions do you have about micro-credentials, and how will answers to those questions help you develop a strategy for micro-credentials in your context?


Big Questions

Do I (we) clearly understand the value proposition of micro-credentials?
Read this report (and this update) and check your understanding on micro-credential basics. Watch this short video on how to start earning micro-credentials today.

Have I (we) envisioned the possibilities for micro-credentials in my (our) unique context?
Listen to this podcast on teacher leadership and micro-credentials as well as these podcasts by educators who have earned micro-credentials. Also, check out this resource and this resource as possible frameworks for imagining a new ecosystem for results-oriented learning.

Can I (we) articulate our goals and objectives for piloting or implementing micro-credentials?
Read this report on micro-credentials and the transformation of professional learning in California schools.

Have I (we) determined my (our) theory of action for piloting or implementing micro-credentials?
What is the difference between a goal, a problem of practice, and a theory of action? Find out more here.


Important Tasks

Determine your capacity
Use the charts outlining the various Micro-credential support models to estimate the time, talent, and resources you will need to implement a micro-credential pilot. Identify pilot coordinator(s).

Secure support from key leaders by engaging others in the work
Two of CTQ’s micro-credentials, Cultivating a Shared Purpose and Ensuring Alignment to a Shared Purpose, provide guidance as you work to create a shared vision for micro-credentials.



Connect and collaborate
Designing and launching your micro-credential system is challenging – but you’re not alone! Join our private Facebook group to meet districts and other education agencies across the country who are doing similar work, access follow-up resources, and get live support from CTQ and its network.


2. Designing your how


Are you ready to recruit participants? How will you support them? When should you begin? The “Ready to Launch” resources will help you answer these questions.


Goal: Prepare to launch

Who will participate in the investigation, exploration, study, or pilot? What is the timeline? What support will be provided ?

Promote, recruit, and prepare to launch your initiative.


Big Questions

Which micro-credentials?
Study the micro-credentials available on the Digital Promise platform and the National Education Association platform. Are you thinking about focusing on a topic such as deeper learning?

Can I (we) articulate incentives for participation?
Read this report on the various incentives in place for educator participation in a micro-credential implementation.

What is the best timeline for the pilot or implementation?
Use this guide with various timeline considerations to determine the best timing for your pilot or implementation.

Which support model is ideal for my (our) context?
Use these examples for supporting educators pursuing micro-credentials to determine the optimal model for your school or district.


Important Tasks

Prepare promotional materials for recruitment
Recruitment resource, NASD flyer

Plan recruitment events and recruit participants
Recruitment resource, Information Sessions (SC), NASD Information Session.



Connect and collaborate
Designing and launching your micro-credential system is challenging – but you’re not alone! Join our private Facebook group to meet districts and other education agencies across the country who are doing similar work, access follow-up resources, and get live support from CTQ and its network.


3. Implementing your plan


Are educators ready to get started earning micro-credentials? Have you developed a support system for participants? Do you have a plan for gathering data? The “Ready to Implement” checklist is here to help.


Goal: Launch your initiative, implement your support plan, gather data, and study the results

Once the initiative is underway, implement your support plan. Gather the data needed to answer your burning questions. Analyze the data and results of your initiative. Develop your micro-credential strategy.


Big Question

Based on our theory of action, what feedback is needed from participants?
Before designing a strategy for testing your theory of action, see what the research says about micro-credentials. Consider these sample survey questions used to gather data.  


Important Tasks

Hold a launch event
Here are some ideas for planning a launch event. At your event, you might share this step-by-step infographic for earning a micro-credential and this walk-through guide for navigating the Digital Promise micro-credential platform.  

Provide support based on your model
Provide a facilitation guide to those who will be supporting educators in your micro-credential pilot or implementation. See a sample here.

Gather data
Use survey tools, interviews, and focus sessions with participants to gather data. Check out these case studies of micro-credential programs across the nation from the Friday Institute and the Center for Collaborative Education.



Connect and collaborate
Designing and launching your micro-credential system is challenging – but you’re not alone! Join our private Facebook group to meet districts and other education agencies across the country who are doing similar work, access follow-up resources, and get live support from CTQ and its network.


Annotated micro-credential resources

CTQ’s Six Readiness Guides 


Podcasts and Videos

Start earning micro-credentials today!
This quick one-minute introduction to micro-credential provides a basic overview of what a micro-credential is and how one can be earned.

Type: Video – 1 minute
Phase:
Ready to Plan, Value Proposition
Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1hSHEriM1w


Ask an educator podcast series
Season 1: Episode 2 “Teacher Leadership and Micro-credentials”

Barnett Berry
This episode from the Digital Promise Ask an Educator podcast series features Barnett Berry, CEO and founder of Center for Teaching Quality. Take a listen to learn about the link between teacher leadership and micro-credentials and the value they can provide students and educators.

Type: Podcast – 14 minutes
Phase: 
Ready to Plan
Link: https://soundcloud.com/digital-promise/ask-an-educator-s1e2-teacher-leadership-and-micro-credentials


Ask an educator podcast series
Ask an Educator shines a spotlight on educators across the country who are engaging in micro-credentials. This series will share stories of teachers from different schools, grades, and subject areas to learn about their unique classrooms, challenges, and professional learning goals and how micro-credentials play a role in helping accomplish those goals.

Type: Podcast Season 1, 8 episodes; Season 2, 8 episodes
Phase: 
Ready to Plan
Link: https://digitalpromise.org/ask-educator-podcast-series/


Micro-credentials Symposium 2017”
The “Symposium on the Currency of Micro-credentials” brought together educators, state and district leaders, content experts, and other stakeholders to design solutions to formally recognizing micro-credentials for educator professional growth and support of student learning.

Type: Video – 2 minutes
Link: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HQzmp0oxSQ

CTQ white papers

Micro-credentials: Driving teacher learning & leadership,
Barnett Berry and Karen Cator, 2016
This paper explores the potential of micro-credentialing to support educator development. It begins with a quick look at the current state of professional development, then defines micro-credentialing, outlines its benefit, and surveys the policy landscape to identify next steps for moving districts and states toward micro-credentialing.

Type: Paper
Phase: Ready to plan
Link: https://www.teachingquality.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Microcredentials_driving_teacher_learning.pdf


Teacher micro-credentialing movement continues
An update from the Center for Teaching Quality and Digital Promise, October 2017
This report presents a brief update on the micro-credentialing movement in K-12 education, how and where micro-credentials are being piloted, and challenges that need to be addressed if micro-credentials are going to fulfil their promise.

Type: Paper
Phase: Ready to plan
Link: https://www.teachingquality.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Microcredential_movement_continues.pdf


Micro-credentials & the transformation of professional learning in California schools,
Kristoffer Kohl, Barnett Berry, Jon Eckert, 2018
This paper outlines a micro-credential pilot in Long Beach, California. This case study provides an example of what it might look like for districts to establish clear professional learning goals while remaining flexible on how teachers can demonstrate their achievement. Based on 18 months of work with California teachers, SCOPE, union leaders, and accomplished school systems, the paper highlights recommendations for moving forward with micro-credentialing.

Type: Paper
Phase: Ready to plan
Link: https://www.teachingquality.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Microcredentials_and_the_transformation_of_CA_schools.pdf


Teacher leadership for 21st century teaching & learning,
Kristoffer Kohl, Kim Farris-Berg, Barnett Berry, 2016
This report profiles the work of organizations advancing teacher leadership in California, documenting their contributions by highlighting the perspectives and accomplishments of teacher leaders they have engaged. Examples of career pathways and professional learning models for teachers are examined — including micro-credentialing as a means to accelerate teacher-led learning and California’s progress toward the state’s blueprint for K-12 improvement.

Type: Paper
Phase: Ready to plan
Link: https://www.teachingquality.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Teacher_leadership_for_21st_century_teaching.pdf

Other reports, research, and case studies

Developing a system of micro-credentials: Supporting deeper learning in the classroom,
September, 2017
This paper provides answers to the following questions: What are micro-credentials? What is deeper learning? What are deeper learning micro-credentials? What is next?

Type: Paper
Phase: Ready to launch
Link: https://digitalpromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/mc_deeperlearning.pdf


Micro-credentials for impact: Holding professional learning to high standards
Learning Forward and Digital Promise. (2017).
This paper provides a crosswalk of how the missions of two organizations complement each other. When Digital Promise’s mission to develop an ecosystem of educator micro-credentials and Learning Forward’s mission to support applications of their Standards for Professional Learning are applied together, a course is set for educator professional learning that is personalized, relevant, and results oriented.

Type: Paper
Phase: Ready to plan
Link: https://digitalpromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/micro-credentialsforimpact.pdf


Micro-credentials Spurring Educator Engagement.
Digital Promise (2017).
This report provides a starting point for a conversation about how micro-credentials will be officially recognized as a benefit to the professional trajectory of an educator.

Type: Paper
Phase: Ready to launch
Link: https://digitalpromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/dp-microcredentials-spurring-engagement.pdf


Making Professional Learning Count Recognizing Educators’ Skills with Micro-credentials,
Digital Promise and Grunwald Associates LLC Grunwald Associates LLC and Digital Promise. (2015).
This study provides an in-depth exploration of teachers’ attitudes toward professional development and competency-based microcredentials. The results of this study, along with reader feedback, are useful for those developing a comprehensive and effective educator micro-credential system that supports the advancement of teachers as well as the teaching profession.

Type: Research
Phase: Ready to implement
Link: https://digitalpromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/making_professional_learning_count.pdf


Micro-credentials: Igniting Impact in the Ecosystem,
Digital Promise Friday Institute for Education Innovation, Baltimore County Public Schools, The Mobile Technology Learning Center, Kettle Moraine School District
This report is one example of the effort to extend and strengthen the micro-credential ecosystem’s impact. Capturing the stories of two micro-credential issuers and two school districts, this case study emphasizes why the ecosystem is critical to intervening in the professional development gap.

Type: Case study
Phase: Ready to implement
Link: https://digitalpromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/dp-microcredentials-igniting-impact.pdf


A Movement Toward Personalized Professional Learning:
An Exploration of Six Educator Micro-credential Programs  
Christina Kuriacose and Allida Warn, Center for Collaborative Education, April 2018
This paper is based upon interviews with Juab School District (Utah), Kettle Moraine School District (Wisconsin), Arkansas State Department of Education, Lake County School District (Florida), Seminole County School District (Florida), and Baltimore County Public Schools (Maryland). The paper begins with a comparative overview of motivations, processes, and outcomes of the work, followed by individual summative case memos.

Type: Case study
Phase: Ready to implement
Link: http://cce.org/files/CCE-Micro-credentials-White-Pape.pdf

Guides

Digital Promise micro-credential platform walkthrough
This guide provides educators with step-by-step instructions for navigating the digital platform as well as exploring and submitting a micro-credential.

Link: https://digitalpromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Digital-Promise-Micro-credential-Platform-Educator-Walkthrough-Version-2.0.pdf


Earn micro-credentials competency-based recognition for educators
(Step-by-step guide)
This infographic provides a broad summary of the process for earning a micro-credential.

Link: https://digitalpromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/MCEarnGraphic.pdf


Micro-credential timeline considerations
This resource is a helpful tool for schools or districts planning a micro-credential pilot for educators. The resource includes essential starter questions for planning a timeline as well as key activities before, during, and after a pilot.

Link: https://www.teachingquality.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Micro-Credential-Timeline-Consideration.pdf


Micro-credential support models
Because support is essential to the success of a micro-credential pilot or implementation, careful consideration should be made as to how this support will be provided. This tool provides examples of support models outlining a variety of activities recommended for supporting educators new to micro-credentials.

Link: https://www.teachingquality.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Micro-Credential-Support-Models.pdf


Micro-credential professional learning community facilitation guide
This facilitation guide provides virtual community PLC leaders with the information needed to effectively support educators through the micro-credential process. The guide includes information on the following topics: micro-credential basics, expectations of a PLC facilitator, support content for newsletters, online threads, webinars, and other support activities and strategies for effective facilitation.

Link: https://docs.google.com/document/d/16GGZxnlZeHiISbobasvB00VO0EYnLA0-UY6IaLIIpwk/edit


Developing a theory of action tool
This slide differentiates between a goal, a problem of practice, and a theory of action. To establish a shared vision and purpose among school or district staff for piloting and/or implementing micro-credentials, leaders may find this tool useful.

Link: https://www.teachingquality.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Getting-to-a-Theory-of-Action.pdf


Sample survey questions
To gather feedback and data on the impact of the micro-credential pilot or implementation, surveys may be used. This resource provides sample questions for developing an effective survey.
Type: Sample questions
Phase: Ready to implement

Link: https://www.teachingquality.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/MC-Survey-Questions-Lessons.pdf


Pilot recruitment guide
What tasks are involved with recruiting educators for a micro-credential pilot? Questions and task lists are provided to help leaders effectively recruit for a micro-credential pilot or implementation.

Link: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Jdy6MYzwbbTrP3fJT-NMh_BHR-KqIJTc7ETKGRgAySI/edit


Sample information session on micro-credentials
(Nazareth Area School District, PA)
This slide deck provides an example of the types of information shared in an introductory session. Nazareth Area School District in Pennsylvania shared this deck with the educators interested in piloting micro-credentials in 2018.

Type: NASD Information Session slide deck
Phase: Ready to launch
Link: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1pianNja0ujnhHm7XLu5HMrDjbhEOHFsVR-ihI-y58O8/edit#slide=id.p

Sample Resources

Sample survey questions
To gather feedback and data on the impact of the micro-credential pilot or implementation, surveys may be used. This resource provides sample questions for developing an effective survey.

Type: Sample questions
Phase: Implementing your plan
Link: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1NloONLWH5U2uf_aJnUO_WR7pso43NnACXr-pYXDgNiU/edit


Sample information session on micro-credentials
(Nazareth Area School District, PA)
This slide deck provides an example of the types of information shared in an introductory session. Nazareth Area School District in Pennsylvania shared this deck with the educators interested in piloting micro-credentials in 2018.

Type: NASD Information Session slide deck
Phase: 
Designing your why
Link: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1pianNja0ujnhHm7XLu5HMrDjbhEOHFsVR-ihI-y58O8/edit#slide=id.p