Professional Learning
Micro-Credentials – Personalized Learning for Teachers
June 7, 2018
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Jessica Childers

According to the Center for Teaching Quality, 84% of teachers report that they have participated in inservice days but only 20% are satisfied with their professional development. I believe we can do better than this. In the past few years, personalizing learning for students has become a focus for many educators. iNACOL defines PL as “tailoring learning for each student’s strengths, needs and interests…to provide flexibility and supports to ensure mastery…” We should apply these same ideas for professional learning for teachers as well. Through micro-credentials, I have found a way to personalize my learning in a way that directly influences student learning in my classroom.

Most PD for teachers by the school or district is for a whole group. For some teachers, that PD will be beneficial, and for some it will not. Teachers of different subject areas, grade levels, and years of experience have different needs. Two years ago I was invited to join the first year of the micro-credentials pilot in TN. I was unsure what a micro-credential was, but I am always interested in learning new things. I asked a new teacher to partner with me and joined the pilot program.

I struggled to find the time to earn a micro-credential during the school year because I did not yet see the benefit in pursuing this new type of learning. However, I was determined to try out this new type of professional learning. I chose to work on a questioning micro-credential, which directly ties to the TEAM Rubric. My students were able to take part in the practice and enjoyed being part of my learning. After submitting my evidence, which included a video and written reflections, I was eventually able to complete and earn a micro-credential during the first year of the pilot program.

During the next school year, my district began a push for personalized learning with the middle schools in the county. I was invited to join my school team working with Education Elements to move our classrooms and teaching from more a more traditional style. Our team has worked to help teachers in our school make personalized learning work for them and their students. For my classroom, I have focused on using digital resources, giving students choice in their assignments, working in small groups, and creating a flexible seating environment. The end goal in this process is, of course, to  increase growth and academic achievement, but also to meet students’ needs while they learn and grow.

After working towards personalizing learning for students at my school, I realized that this is what is missing from professional learning for teachers. It needs to be personalized too! When teachers can choose what micro-credential to work on based on their professional learning needs, they will feel more satisfied their professional learning. Also, I believe that teachers want to participate in professional learning that directly impacts their teaching and students. Earning micro-credentials is an opportunity to do just that.

Jessica has taught middle school math in Putnam County Schools for the past 9 years. She currently works at Upperman Middle School teaching 5th grade math. During this time, she has served as the 5th grade team leader, mentor teacher, 2015 school level Teacher of the Year, digital transition team member, testing and RTI coordinator, and mathematics instructional specialist. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Multidisciplinary Studies – Middle School and a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction, both from Tennessee Tech University. She also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging her colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.

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