The Why, What and How of Micro-credentials

by Christina Sprader, Associate Director

Many schools across the country are in the midst of shifting from an instructional centered paradigm to a learner centered paradigm. At the Institute, we often talk about developing “POWERful” learners, who are full of Purpose, Ownership, Wonder, Efficacy, and Responsibility. In order to make the shift however, we need to design a system that develops “POWERful” adult learners as well.

For too long educators have been attending professional development experiences that are not relevant to their learners, or are something they are already successfully implementing. Sometimes the impact on learners is not clear or they are required to attend just to “check the box.”

Now imagine a system designed to highlight the talents, skills, and practices educators work so hard to develop and implement to support learning. Imagine a system that empowers educators to identify the instructional practices they can learn more about to support their learners’ needs. Imagine a system that allows educators to display competency in identified instructional practices. Micro-credentials are about shifting focus to the development of adaptable, continuously developing adult learners.  

Micro-credentials can serve:

  • as a network among educators working toward similar skills
  • as a means to develop collective genius by bringing together the strengths and experiences of varying practitioners to make up a learning community
  • as a way to display evidence of school/district intended outcomes
  • as a way to support identified goals within individual practice (personal goals, educator effectiveness alignment, school/district expectations, etc.)

A micro-credential is a competency based professional learning experience that allows educators the opportunity to share evidence of implementation of a practice, receive feedback from skilled practitioners, and acquire a badge if/when evidence is deemed competent by a reviewer.

Schools and districts are also beginning to use micro-credentials as a part of their personalized professional learning. In some instances, educators are able to show proficiency in specific practices that the school/district has identified as a key focus. Other districts use micro-credentials to give educators choice in determining the skillsets that they know will grow their practice.

The Institute has created a set of personalized learning micro-credentials in partnership with Digital Promise that can be found at These micro-credentials are:

  • Online – educators can work on them anytime from anywhere
  • Personalized – educators can select from a range of topics depending on their professional learning needs
  • Portable – educators have the ability to share their earned micro-credentials as badges to show the skills and competencies they’ve achieved

The steps for achieving a micro-credential follow the same process each time.

  1. Identify what practice you are going to learn
    1. A practice you believe will support the learners in your experience
    2. A practice you believe you use and want to show proficiency to achieve the badge
    3. A practice you are particularly interested in learning more about and implementing in your learning community
    4. A practice your school/district is focusing on
  2. Determine a path for how to learn the practice
    1. Use your own resources
    2. Use resources provided through the micro-credential
    3. Use resources from other sources
  3. Apply the practice in context with your learners
  4. Submit evidence of learning and implementation artifacts
  5. Receive feedback from assessor and acquire badge when proficiency is demonstrated

micro-credential process

There are still a lot of great questions around the value placed on micro-credentials across a system, how a district might incorporate this into their professional development, and many other topics around implementation. Micro-credentials are a way to transform the learning experience for adults as we all work toward transforming the learning experience for youth. I cannot wait to see how this experience supports learning and grows “POWERful” learners of all ages.