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11 Ways to Get Teacher Buy-in to Micro-credentials

Professional Growth


Micro-credentials have been making waves in schools around the country for several years now. Maybe you’ve had the opportunity to earn them, or see them implemented into professional learning programs.

Maybe you’re thinking about taking the leap, offering competency-based learning for the teachers you serve.

Our world moves fast, and teachers can get inundated with new things to do: Chromebooks, and one-to-one initiatives, and iPads, and every other strategy or philosophy or piece of technology that promises to transform the classroom. How can school leaders who believe in the value of micro-credentials gain buy-in from teachers and see that the promise of competency-based learning is realized?

The Weilenmann School of Discovery, a charter school in Utah, has seen tremendous success with micro-credentials. When we spoke with several of their administrators and teachers, they offered some suggestions for getting teachers on board.

1. Prioritize new plans based on research. This helps to prevent Shiny Object Syndrome. “If you don’t make good research-based decisions, you’re bound to be kicked around by every fad,” said Cindy Phillips, Weilenmann’s Executive Director. “You look at the research on the efficiency to time of this kind of professional development, and you just can’t beat it.”

Welcome to weilenmann school of discovery sig

2. Set goals collaboratively with teachers. “We ask our teachers to set very specific goals that are aligned to our state standards of professionalism. And we identify the micro-credential that goes with that goal.”

3. Offer choice. “Instead of assigning a micro-credential, we asked them to choose,” said Kat Mitchell, Lower School Director. “And when we asked them to choose, we had far better success in them wanting to do it.”

4. Incentive. Perhaps this isn’t appropriate for every organization, but Weilenmann offers teachers a small monetary incentive for every micro-credential completed, up to three. Incentives don’t need to be financial, however — recognition and career pathing can be motivating as well.

5. Connect people together for support. Perhaps multiple teachers are pursuing the same micro-credential at the same time. If so, grease the wheels for collaboration.

6. Take strategic advantage of the school’s schedule. Is winter break coming up? That might be a great time to encourage teachers to pursue a micro-credential. Or perhaps include them as part of summer PD.

7. Ask administrators to complete micro-credentials, too. At Weilenmann, administrators are teachers as well, and they take part in the same professional learning that the rest of the certified staff does. Cindy said this helps keep them aware of what teachers need on an ongoing basis.

Outside photo of weilenmann school of discovery

8. Have fun. “Students will always do something that they perceive as fun, and that they see that there’s something meaningful about it,” said Cindy. “One of the best ways to get buy-in before the first year even starts is to have a fantastically fun moment with your teachers, where you’ve previewed all kinds of great curriculum, assigned it out, and have the teachers demonstrate how they’re going to use it the very first day, so that your buy-in is almost immediate because it’s fun and meaningful. The same way you would hook your students in.”

9. Give teachers freedom to use what they’ve learned. “There is no point in developing qualities of great teaching, or leadership abilities or whatever it may be, and having it hidden away in some corner of the school. You need to not only allow your teachers the autonomy to innovate and to utilize new skills in new ways, even if it wasn’t exactly what you had planned, because they’ve now learned something — they’ve grown beyond what they were doing before and want to try it out. As an administrator, if you snuff that out, you have completely undermined the credibility of all the premises on which you say that your school is based.”

10. Ask teachers to share success stories. Micro-credentials provide a rich opportunity for conversations about teaching, said Steve Williams, Weilenmann’s Middle School Dean. “One thing I’ve seen is that teachers are talking about things they’ve learned. They would talk about things that they would improve… I have seen that among all of our teachers, and I think they want to do this. I think 90% of the teachers that I have talked with are interested in doing more micro-credentials.”

11. Be open to feedback. “I don’t think anyone appreciates a push-down initiative,” said Steve. Communicating early and being up front with faculty about the what, why and how of micro-credentials, and giving teachers a chance to discuss, ask questions and react to them is important. “That there’s opportunity to talk about it, and it’s not just something you have to put your head down and do. And I think that gives people strength and a sense that they’re a part of this, and that their feedback really does matter in the process.”

Photo of 2nd grade teacher from Weilenmann school Kacey

Like anything worth doing, enhancing professional development with micro-credentials takes work. But Kacey Warburton, a 2nd grade teacher at Weilenmann, says it’s worth it. “If you are thinking about introducing micro-credentials to your staff, I say you should definitely do it. The professional development is more collaborative, more relevant, and more effective for each specific teacher than ‘regular’ professional development.”

Weilenmann’s journey in competency-based learning is fascinating — we created an entire podcast episode about it. Here’s their story, and how they got started.

Ryan Estes

Ryan is part of the global award-winning content team at Frontline Education as recognized by Content Marketing World 2017. He spends his time writing, podcasting and creating content in the area of K-12 professional growth.