Personalizing professional learning

Wake Co. Public School System spent years exploring micro-credentials as a way to personalize professional learning and leverage educators' expertise. But a range of other challenges - including COVID closures - made it hard to get a pilot planned and off the ground.

The Challenge

Micro-credentials had been on the minds of Wake County leaders for years as a strategy for competency-based and personalized professional learning. But while district staff had achieved consensus on the approach, they needed a way to turn ideas into action.

Let your learning follow your learners.

Wherever it happens, professional learning keeps every school’s and teacher’s goals on track. We can help your educators learn to lead the way.

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The strategy

The pilot leadership team identified several groups of educators that regularly faced challenges with accessing traditional, in-person professional learning and were primed to try something new. The design team made these instructional staff the focus of a pilot, identifying specific learning targets aligned with district goals and priorities.

Our team knew a lot about micro-credentials and what we wanted to accomplish. But CTQ’s facilitation and expertise was still helpful. Just having a partnership that structured our work made a difference.

Sonya Stephens, Senior Director of Data, Research, and Accountability, WCPSS

The process

CTQ facilitated a series of virtual design sessions that laid essential groundwork for the pilot: specifying a clear theory of action, naming meaningful metrics for learning and success, and framing clear language to communicate about the pilot. The design team met with a group of teachers and other district stakeholders at the midpoint of its process and incorporated feedback into the final action plan.


As a result of this work, Wake Co. had an actionable plan launch its first micro-credential pilot in fall 2020. That effort reached 75% of targeted educators, meeting long term district goals for personalized professional learning and educators’ immediate needs during remote and hybrid learning during COVID. CTQ will continue supporting the district to build literacy and equity micro-credentials in fall 2021.



The South Carolina Department of Education partnered with CTQ to develop a statewide Collective Leadership Initiative (CLI), intended to engage teams of leaders within schools to lead changes that help students meet the Profile of the SC Graduate.


2 Minutes

Micro-credentials and education policy in the United States:
Recognizing learning and leadership for our nation’s teachers

There’s no silver bullet for bringing the promise of micro-credentials to scale as a tool for personalized professional learning. But some keys to developing the right kind of policies are emerging from the growing micro-credential movement. A new policy brief from CTQ and Digital Promise captures insights and essential questions for districts and states to consider.

1 Minute

The Pomona story:
Teacher-led learning as a lever for equity

When faced with the “Significant Disproportionality” label, Pomona Unified School District (PUSD) chose to implement teacher-led learning as a strategy to address the inequity. District leadership understood that they needed to shift from pockets of excellence to a system of excellence. Making that shift required that their most effective teachers have the opportunity to share and spread their expertise with their colleagues. The infographic and below provides insight into their story.

The context

Teacher-led learning

PUSD is creating a system of teacher-led learning. Teachers who take on Teacher Specialist roles experience a balance of structure and autonomy. The structure originates from the shared goal of creating a more equitable learning environment that better serves all students. The autonomy allows Teacher Specialists to leverage their unique skills and talents.

Below are a few examples of the ways in which teacher-led learning is being implemented in PUSD.


See how co-teaching is transformative for teachers and students in this video. Co-teaching helps teacher leaders keep their practice grounded in classrooms while also providing the opportunity to lead.

Want to see how co-teaching impacts sixth grade students and their learning? Take a peek into Jamie and Paula’s classroom from the 2018 – 2019 school year by clicking on the image above.

This third grade class flourished when their teacher, Ms. Alvarez, had the opportunity to co-teach and lead without leaving the classroom. See the deep learning in which her student engaged by clicking the image above.

Co-teaching provides opportunities for teachers to lead without completely leaving the classroom. See how these roles came to be and what difference they are making for teachers and students.

Math and science

A diverse group of teachers collaborated to improve their teaching practice by learning about and implementing Mathematical Mindsets.

Based on the Pomona Unified School District: A National Leader in Math Modeling
 written by Kaitlyn Loop, Aria Beaupre, Athena Li, and Rachel Levy. Editiorial review by the 2018 PUSD IMMERSION cohort.Program funded by The National Science 2015-2018 (NSF-STEM-C NSF-1441024)

Implementing math modeling has dramatically shifted the way that mathematics is taught in PUSD. Click the image above to see math modeling in action in classrooms across the district.

To address the challenges of new science standards, a group of teachers for grades 4-6 engaged in a 3-year program to improve content knowledge and develop leadership. The program helped move participants from learners to leaders of professional learning.


New teacher induction in PUSD has shifted from being a one-size-fits-all experience to a more personalized learning experience by shifting the focus from content and “telling,” to honoring teachers’ capacities to build their own practice. Prioritizing relationships and trust over compliance has resulted in increased levels of teacher efficacy.


For additional information about PUSD, including a case study and videos, click here.

Want to know how CTQ can help your team tell their story? Contact us.

4 Minutes

Personalizing professional learning

Leaders in Nazareth Area School District (NASD) knew micro-credentials could accelerate professional learning and more effective practice. CTQ helped administrators and teachers work together, designing a plan to meet ambitious goals without overextending capacity in their small district.

The challenge

Micro-credentials offered a way for Nazareth ASD to personalize and show results of professional learning. But district leaders knew they had to get the plan right, right from the start – or risk wasting time, money, and educators’ willingness to engage with a new approach.

Start your own strategy.

NASD’s success relied on understanding their starting point, asking the right questions, and then designing a plan that fit their needs and capacity.

Take our short survey for tailored suggestions on your next steps.

Start the survey

The strategy

District leaders wanted to build capacity for sustaining virtual learning communities and support on three levels. Coaches needed to offer effective, engaging online professional learning for current educators and new hires. Principals needed to build community and efficacy among staff, parents, and students in challenging times. Other educators needed quick access to essentials for building equitable classroom cultures, even when classrooms weren’t physical spaces.

The CCI experience is front and center in how coaches and administrators are planning for next year: summer professional learning, new hire orientation, and back to school team-building and planning.

Emily Fenske, Director of Organizational Learning, D97

The process

A team of teachers, school administrators, and district officials convened for an initial design day. CTQ facilitated sessions to level-set their understandings about micro-credentials, clarify key goals and markers of success, and then map out where to use existing micro-credentials or develop their own. Five virtual follow-up sessions supported the team through planning and launching a pilot.

“The opportunity to participate in a decision-making process that can directly impact my future professional development brings great satisfaction.”

– NASD design team participant


The results

  1. Educator participation in the micro-credential pilot exceeded goals by more than 50 percent.
  2. NASD learned an effective process to take on big challenges as a small district, by drawing on educators in many roles.
  3. Wide engagement positioned NASD to “build up” a plan that every educator felt invested in, saving time and energy of getting “buy in” later.

2 Minutes

Developing a micro-credential strategy: A framework

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.

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.

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.


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
Ready to Plan, Value Proposition

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
Ready to Plan

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
Ready to Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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

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

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
Designing your why


20 Minutes

Micro-credentials: Driving educators' learning & leadership

Transforming how all students learn demands transforming how educators learn and lead.

Teachers must help all students become adept critical thinkers, collaborators, and communicators, but to do so effectively, teachers need to devote significant time and effort to their own professional growth.

A potential solution for strengthening professional development is at hand: micro-credentials for educators.

In several published reports, CTQ explores micro-credentials as a way for educators to document their formal and informal learning:

Learn more about micro-credentials for educators by checking out this short video produced by Digital Promise:

Learn more about the badges CTQ will is issuing in partnership with Digital Promise and Bloomboard: Going Public with Policy & Pedagogy, Collective LeadershipVirtual Community Organizing, and Leading Professional Learning. Two additional stacks in development include Performance Assessment for Learning with the Center for Collaborative Education (CCE) and Teachers as Leaders of Professional Learning with the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE).

Are you are interested in joining a cohort of professional educators tasked with piloting the CTQ-issued micro-credentials? Contact us to learn more!

1 Minutes

Micro-credentials 101 Webinar

Would you like to explore how micro-credentials can improve your school or district? We have you covered!

To join, please register here:

Join Jennifer Barnett, CTQ’s micro-credential expert, for a FREE one-hour webinar on Thursday, April 23 from 2:00 p.m. ET to 3:00 p.m. ET.

From developing, assessing, and leading micro-credential pilots to guiding hundreds of educators through the process, Jennifer is eager to welcome school, district, and state leaders to this event. The webinar topics will include:

  • Why and how micro-credentials are being used as a tool in personalized learning systems;
  • How micro-credentials have supported schools in making personalized professional learning a lever for school improvement; and
  • How to create a customized checklist of what your district or state must do to effectively implement a micro-credential strategy. 

1 Minutes

Readiness Survey

Let’s get started.
Tell us about where you are in your work to build a micro-credential system.

* indicate required fields for this survey



1 Minute