By Megan Simpson, eighth grade teacher in Bradley County Schools
If you’re like me, you have a million things on your never-ending to-do list. Between planning engaging lessons, teaching over sixty middle school students, and coaching eighteen enthusiastic cheerleaders, I never really find myself with much free time during the week. If I did, I certainly wouldn’t want to spend it on professional development that is catered to someone else’s needs. However, I recently found a way to fit my professional development into what I am already doing in class. Micro-credentials allow me to teach the same content I had planned to teach while earning professional development points for strategies such as strategic grouping, feedback for deeper learning, and aligning learning objectives with assessments.
When I was first asked to complete two micro-credentials, I was admittedly a little hesitant after looking over the requirements: gathering multiple work samples, filming myself teaching, and submitting reflections from both myself and the students. At first, it does sound like a lot of work. However, this professional development opportunity has been incredibly productive and has had a lasting impact on my instruction and my students’ learning.
With typical professional development opportunities, you listen to a speaker on a topic you may or may not be interested in, you might pick up a few good ideas, and then you are left to try them out with no more help from the presenter. With micro-credentials, however, we had plenty of resources and guidance from many different people along the way. Additionally, we had choice in what we wanted to learn about in order to improve, and we were grouped with like-minded educators. Having that choice really gave me ownership over what I was learning, and the grouping gave me a community of teacher across the state to collaborate with.
I completed two micro-credentials last semester. The first one was in growth mindset, where I taught my students what growth mindset was and I gathered data to show that their growth mindset scores had improved by the end of our unit. My students were really excited to learn about growth mindset and the importance of learning from our mistakes– so much so that other teachers mentioned the students were talking about it in their classes as well. By the end of our unit, many of my students’ growth mindset scores improved by at least 10 points.
My second micro-credential was called “Feedback for Deeper Learning.” This work involved learning how to improve the verbal and written feedback I gave students on work we had done in class. I really had refine my practice to make my feedback not only timely but actionable and worded in a way that got the students thinking about their learning with specific steps on how they could improve. The students really enjoyed reading the feedback I was giving them, and it taught them how to give appropriate feedback while they reviewed each other’s work.
My favorite piece of each part of the submission process was gathering student reflections on what they learned or how I had helped them. Their reflections were eye-opening, and this really felt like the key piece of professional development I had been missing. The strategies I have learned during this process are ones I will continue to use to improve my teaching.
By the time I was ready to submit my micro-credential, I felt extremely confident that the work I had put into it had made a difference in my class, because I was uploading proof that it had. Furthermore, the submission process was smooth and self-explanatory. I never felt lost or confused, and if I had, I always had at least three people to contact to help me through the process.
After only a week, I received an email telling me that my micro-credential had been granted and explaining in detail what the scorer had thought of each piece of my submission. The timely feedback made me feel both accomplished and relieved. If given the opportunity, I would definitely continue working on micro-credentials in the future.
Micro-credentials have given me the opportunity to complete professional development that is completely focused on what I need as a teacher. The best part, of course, is that I complete the work right where it impacts me the most – in my classroom! We can all find new ways to make our teaching more productive and innovative, and micro-credentials have made that easier than ever.
If you’re interested in learning more about micro-credentials, be sure to submit a request for information here.
Megan Simpson teaches eighth grade language arts at Lake Forest Middle School in Bradley County.