How to Use Micro-credentials to Advance Professional Learning

Using micro-credentials as the currency for career advancement

An increasing number of districts are adopting micro-credentialing as a competency-based method of educator training and certification—ensuring that educators are actually implementing new skills into their classroom practice and, for some districts, leading to defined pathways for career advancement.

In this web seminar, four district leaders discussed reasons for adopting micro-credentialing as a method of career advancement. From pre-service and induction programs to STEM designations and teacher mentoring initiatives, this discussion explored the various ways districts are using micro-credentials to reimagine educator development and improve K-12 organizations through competency-based professional learning.


Jason Lange
President and Co-founder

Heather Clayton Staker
Founder of Ready to Blend
Co-author of Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools

Alicia Sells
Manager and Founder of iLEAD Academy
Director of Innovation at Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative

Christy Mahaney
Professional Learning and School Improvement Specialist
Volusia County Schools (Fla.)

Burak Yilmaz
Project Director
Harmony Public Schools (Texas)

Jason Lange: Micro-credentials are focused on competency—not on seat time. We get lots of questions about how much time it will take. The amount of time is dependent on where you are as an educator and how long it will take you to build and demonstrate those skills.

The micro-credentialing structure is very personalized and self-directed, so often we’re creating sets of competencies for teachers to choose among specific things they’re working on—whether it’s personalized learning, whether it’s early literacy, whether it’s coaching skills. Letting teachers have an empowering choice in their development is a critical part of this.
Micro-credentials are a demonstration of expertise, and are not about consumption of knowledge. And they’re obviously available on demand at any time. Micro-credentialing is a learn-by-doing model, which is embedded in your job without having to travel off-site for PD.

Many of the states we work in are looking at micro-credentials as future building blocks for licensure, for certification and for career advancement. It’s a powerful mechanism.

Heather Clayton Staker: Imagine that I am a journalist for USA Today, and I’m writing a story about this new thing in education called micro-credentialing. Alicia, take two minutes to explain to me what micro-credentials are and how your organization is using them.

Alicia Sells: Micro-credentials are a great way for either adults or students to demonstrate what they’re competent at doing. We may use micro-credentialing to train teachers for specialized roles or to address the teacher shortages in rural schools. It gives us a chance to upskill current staff, if you will, without teachers having to go back to school. Teachers will be able to advance in their careers without the time and cost of earning a master’s degree. I hope that teachers engage with competency-based education and find it to be a gratifying way to learn, and they translate that into their classrooms and create opportunities for students as well.

Christy Mahaney: One of the reasons we started to engage in micro-credentialing in Volusia County was that it provides personalized learning opportunities for adults, and we found that our teachers were just starving for such opportunities. It allows them to have that sense of a teacher leadership role in the area of their expertise and of their choice. Micro-credentials follow the professional learning cycle. People are paying attention to what they’re implementing after learning something and then measuring for impact.

Heather Clayton Staker: Give me your very top reason for why micro-credentials are worthwhile. If you had to give me one selling point to push me over the edge, what would you say?

Burak Yilmaz: The reason is to transform the professional learning culture for adults in our organization. We wanted to see implementation of professional learning in the classroom and put PD into practice—not just in small pockets scattered across the organization. We wanted to see large numbers of educators changing their practices based on what they learn in PD. We wanted to align PD with evaluation and student outcomes, making it more job-embedded and personalized for teachers. And we wanted this integration of professional learning with career pathways to help retain our effective educators and keep them in the classroom for as long as possible.

Heather Clayton Staker: You’ve created some very specific workforce preparation micro-credentials, but other times you’ve been able to rely on off-the-shelf micro-credentials that are already researched and written.

Christy Mahaney: There are hundreds of micro-credentials out there. So for somebody just starting, it’s almost like going down the aisle at the grocery store and trying to pick out a cereal. There’s just so much out there. With BloomBoard’s help, we established our objectives, and then we selected a target group. They helped us narrow down the focus on a few micro-credentials that align with our goals. That was huge, and that was a great way to get us rolling, because we could have gotten bogged down just by searching and trying to figure out where we wanted to start.

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