New survey delves into how teachers would use micro-credentials and examines how widely-known the concept is

micro-credentialsMicro-credentials could have a hugely beneficial impact on teacher professional development, according to a new study — provided some big ifs swing in their favor.

The study, from nonprofit ed-tech advocacy group Digital Promise and consulting firm Grunwald Associates, takes a detailed look at how teachers say they feel about professional development and competency-based micro-credentials. According to the study, the impact micro-credentials could have is dependent on whether they can adapt to suit teachers’ professional values, and whether or not they are embraced by influential early adopters.

Just 15 percent of teachers in the survey said they are even somewhat familiar with the concept of micro-credentials, which the report defines as addressing “the need for competency-based learning for educators by allowing them to identify specific competencies they wish to develop, submit evidence of their competence and then receive recognition for that learning through digital badges.”

However, after reading a description of micro- credentials, more than 70 percent of teachers surveyed said they are at least somewhat interested in them, and 65 percent of those surveyed said they are at least somewhat likely to try to earn micro-credentials as part of their professional development.

Next page: Will teachers try them?

Roughly 31 percent of surveyed teachers said they are extremely or very likely to try micro-credentials when available. The report defines this group as the early adopters, and defines as mainstream adopters the 34 percent of surveyed teachers who said they are somewhat interested in trying micro-credentials.

A system of micro-credentials also could help to further engage teachers who are less than satisfied with certain forms of their professional development.

But some surveyed teachers said they’re wary administrators might use micro-credentials as another form of teacher assessment, or make them mandatory.

Though 84 percent of surveyed teachers participate in in-service days, only 20 percent of those teachers said they are satisfied with them.

In fact, surveyed teachers indicated they are more satisfied with their informal professional development than they are with formal professional development activities.

Highlighting teachers’ competencies and achievements as technology plays an increasingly larger role in education is of the utmost importance, the report notes.

“How can we clearly articulate existing and emerging competencies and support and recognize the accomplishments of educators as they develop throughout their careers?” wrote Karen Cator, president and CEO of Digital Promise, in the study’s introduction. “How can we better connect educators with peers so they can share and more quickly adopt best practices? And, what are ways teachers can be supported while driving their own learning? As an emerging professional learning strategy for educators, micro-credentials show great promise,”

The study could play an important role in designing and developing a micro-credential system for educators, Cator added.

Because micro-credentials are relatively new, there’s no reason for most teachers to be aware of the concept–but this report can change that, said Peter Grunwald, founder and president of Grunwald Associates.

“One of the reasons we took care in having a definition [in the report] is so we can respond to the concept,” he said.

The next step, Grunwald said, is to try and get a sense of administrators’ attitudes about micro-credentials. While not the only motivation for earning micro-credentials, Grunwald said part of teachers’ motivation is to be able to show their accomplishments to administrators, who make decisions about promotions and retention.

“There isn’t a very high level of satisfaction with a number of the different kinds of PD, particularly formal PD,” Grunwald said. “There’s some significant dissatisfaction with the traditional ways of delivering PD. The whole system of artifacts, to demonstrate competency and teachers’ skills, is something that’s promising.”

Making Professional Learning Count: Recognizing Educators’ Skills with Micro-credentials is available to download at

A more detailed market research report based on the survey, including industry-specific findings, is available commercially here.

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