Competencies, today I am a believer.

Competency-based initiatives have been around a while now, and to be honest they were sort of something I treated like new math.  I’ve been waiting them out.  They require a design process change, the require policy change, they require change in the machine…

I was never really against them, but I wasn’t really for them either.  Until today.  I sort of had an epiphany really about the disservice we do kids when we focus on credits and course descriptions instead of learning targets and goals for competency.

Part of it is probably that I found I was giving some teachers too much credit, assuming they had the same end goals as I did, and so competency basis was happening anyway.  Instead today I learned that at least some teachers still think they are teaching subject matter that can and should only be assessed once on a specific day in a high stakes manner.  No opportunities for growth and redemption is a punitive system which sows the seeds of hopelessness and fruitless endeavour in our kids.

Competencies offer instead endless hope.  Teaching and reteaching opportunities, and a attitude that outcomes matter over methods.  They offer a way out of a nightmare for our kids who are most at risk.

So now that I get it, really get it, the question is, how can I help get others off the fence?

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Micro-credentialing – A way to identify and acknowledge teacher skill-sets

I came across a pilot recently which I find promising in a spirit of professional renewal.  The pilot is called “Educator Micro-credentials” (a revisit of the badging idea) and it’s being offered by Digital Promise.

Micro-credentials focus on mastery of a singular competency. To earn a micro-credential, teachers submit artifacts such as classroom videos, student work, or project plans that demonstrate their competence in a particular skill. Expert review ensures micro-credentials are relevant and rigorous, so schools, districts, peer networks, and other evaluators can be confident in recognizing them.

What’s interesting about the idea to me is seeing it as a way to revise and revitalize professional development.

Like anyone faced with a faculty, there are moments where you have to decide what the group needs and moments where you want to get more personal with your teachers.  I hate the idea that anyone after spending a day with me would feel like their time was not well spent.  So here is how, based on my understanding of the program I can see Micro-credentialing really improving a program:

  1. Identifying leaders and learners – As our staff grows I often find that I know the most about our squeaky wheels — those who either ask for help or speak up regularly about what they are doing.  This accounts for less than 25% of our faculty.  So I’m interested in looking at micro-credentials a ways to identify what I don’t know about the skills and struggles of the 75%.
  2. Practice what you preach – I’m a supporter of the concept of competency based learning for students.  This would be a way for educators to get the same courtesy.  Don’t waste time teaching a digital native how to IM, and Don’t waste time teaching a discussion pro how to elicit quality responses.  Instead leverage the time by focusing in on competencies not yet achieved for the maximum outcome of our time together.
  3. Recognition – I always want to pay homage to the educators who are the real pros in the room.  So often I am given the task of teaching something to people whose experiences far outshine my own.  By recognizing them I both provide myself with mentors and I acknowledge the value of what they have done to get where they are

Last summer we did a mini-badging pilot in our teacher resources course.  It was more of a gamification paradigm.  I’d really love to see this year take that idea to micro-credentialing and making the badges true badges of honor.