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By Amanda Dodge • May 20, 2022

What are Microdentials and How Can They Support Teacher Professional Development?

The word microdentials is a combination of the words micro and credentials. They refer to small competency exams and tests that prove how much you know. Conversely, macro credentials include college degrees, teaching certifications, and various other formal assessments you have passed. Microdentials are less formal but can be meaningful for educator development.

Get the know some of the benefits of micro-credentials and where you can find these specific professional development tools. 

Microdentials Break Down Complex Development Concepts

One of the main benefits of microdentials is that educators can break up the learning process over a few weeks or a few months. Teachers are exceptionally busy and very few have the physical energy and time left each day to continue learning and studying. During a busy school year, they can’t neglect your grading, lesson planning, and communication needs to focus entirely on training modules introduce by the admin team. 

Microdentials break down learning into small, manageable pieces. This isn’t different from how teachers educate students. A math teacher wouldn’t spend six straight hours in one day bringing students from basic multiplication concepts to advance algebra – so why would you want your teachers to learn in the same style? Each microdential introduces a small concept and reinforces it. The next training segment builds on the concept the teacher learned earlier and allows them to apply the new and old material together. 

Through this process, microdentials are appealing from a time-saving standpoint and they also follow best practices in education.

Microdentials Are Based on Competency

Different organizations offer microdentials, so you may come across different certification types. However, one key factor to look for in the credential search is a certification based on competency. Quality microdentials are based on proving what you know – not how long you spend with the material. 

There could be some concepts that your teachers are already familiar with and they can prove how easily they have mastered them. There may be other concepts that take longer for your teachers to work through – and that’s okay. 

Students learn at different rates, it doesn’t matter if you are training seasoned educators or introducing new words to a fourth-grader. Wherever you seek microdentials, make sure you unlock different modules and concepts by proving competency. This is more effective than finding certifications based on time. Yes, a teacher can spend five hours in a training session – but does that really prove that they learned new concepts during that time? 

Microdentials are Data-Driven

As an administrator, you can only benefit from knowing what your educators know and where their weaknesses are. Effective microdentials provide big-picture insights on what teachers completing the programs struggle with. 

Think about this from the student classroom perspective. If a teacher needs to review materials ahead of a test, it helps them to know which concepts the students struggled with the most. Otherwise, they are wasting time reviewing ideas the class is already familiar with.

With microdentials, you can use high-level data insights to identify concepts that educators could spend more time on. You could develop a lunch-and-learn series or digital presentations based on these ideas to benefit all teachers – regardless of whether they are taking steps toward professional development.   

Microdentials Show Commitment to Professional Development 

Microdentials can help educators take the next steps to advance their career goals. Some people want to obtain certifications that allow them to teach more advanced classes or earn higher pay. Other educators want to enter specialized fields where they can follow their passions. Microdentials can help qualified educators stand out. 

Throughout the application and interview process, hiring teams want to know that teachers are committed to education and advancing their skills. Microdentials prove that they continue to learn and challenge themselves even when they aren’t currently enrolled in a degree program. 

Microdentials are particularly useful for administrators because they will know exactly which concepts their educators are familiar with. While most university degree programs are reputable, some people might have been introduced to different concepts when they sought their degrees and certifications. Microdentials create a standard of knowledge across your school or district. 

Microdentials Can Help With Teacher Retention

The national teacher shortage was a concern before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the past two years have significantly worsened the situation. Schools in St. Louis (which has Missouri’s largest school district) need to hire more than 114 teachers and 164 support staff. Competition for teachers is fierce in some areas as schools and districts fight to hire and retain educators. 

While microdentials won’t solve your hiring problems, they can help you retain your teachers and put them on a path to advancement. These miniature certifications provide action items to educators for how they can prove their value as they look for more advanced positions within the school. In some cases, your microdential program can help attract teachers who trust that you are investing in their futures – making them want to invest in you.  

Where Can You Find Microdentials? 

There are multiple professional development resources where you can find microdentials to help educators prove their knowledge of various concepts in their field. One of the first places to look is within your state’s teacher resources. Some states develop microdential portals or use specific companies to provide teacher training. These microdentials are a good place to start. 

The next place to look is for certification on a national scale. For example, the National Education Association offers more than 175 micro-credentials that cover a variety of topics. These will likely be recognized if some of your educators move to teaching jobs in different states or are working in private or charter schools.

Finally, look for microdentials within the tools you use – or want to use. Your teachers could become Google Certified Educators in various levels of specialties. If you are interested in using eSpark in the classroom, we provide on-demand training resources and self-service modules along with access to our live support team. Your teachers can prove that they have a mastery of our games and quests before they bring them to the classroom. 

Find the Right Microdentials for Your Needs

Microdentials allow teachers to prove what they know without taking up unnecessary chunks of time. These professional development efforts are spent identifying and improving weaknesses so they can be more effective in the classroom. Explore different microdential opportunities for your school and district to see which ones are right for you. You can also learn how eSpark can empower your teachers through training and better student engagement. Sign up for free today.

About the Author

Amanda Dodge is a copywriter for eSpark with a decade of content marketing experience. She has been writing and researching in the EdTech niche since 2018 and marvels at how teachers continue to do more with less in order to help their students. Amanda lives in St. Petersburg, Florida where she sits on the board of the local literary non-profit Wordier Than Thou.


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