New Teaching Matters report, case studies show promise of competency-based micro-credentials for educators and schools systems

by Editorial Team

Fri, 14 Oct 2016:

October 19, 2016

Contacts: Mary Strain,, cell

New Teaching Matters report, case studies show promise of competency-based micro-credentials for educators and schools systems

New York, NY – October 14, 2016

A new report from Teaching Matters details the promise of competency-based professional development, coupled with ‘micro-credentials,” by examining three recent experiences with this growing way to meet school systems’ needs. It also shows ways to spur greater expansion of this important approach.

Two years ago, while some professional development was being assailed as ineffective or superficial, Teaching Matters made an investment in teacher leadership and competency-based education. Micro-credentialing, or awarding “digital badges”, became the strategy to incentivize and recognize competency attainment.  This structure was paired with supports that included job-embedded coaching and feedback designed to develop teachers for leadership roles. 

“We’ve changed our practices to support teachers and teacher leaders differently,” said Lynette Guastaferro, Teaching Matters’ Executive Director. “Competency-based professional development is all about engaging learners and having them demonstrate their knowledge – it’s not passive, and it’s not about seat time. It’s about outcomes, not inputs.”

The new report – Competency-based Learning and Micro-Credentials: Powerful Lessons from Two Years in the Field – reflects upon three major Teaching Matters implementations.   

Teaching Matters initiatives were with the New York CIty school system (NYC DOE), the largest in the country, and a suburban district.  Preliminary findings show micro-credentials and competency-based professional learning are valuable for both educators and systems. Evidence of teachercompetency is important for systems seeking to create career ladders and strategically staff schools.  Micro-credentials allow teachers to select the particular competencies they wish to develop in a way that fits their own needs. Said New York City teacher Vicky Dedaj, “(This process) really empowers the teacher to drive the learning.”

Teaching Matters found there were important ways to promote micro-credentials. 

Teachers need sufficient time to complete a rigorous micro-credentialing process, and they are most willing to invest in micro-credentials when there are inducements in the form of pay or newly available roles. 

One of the implementations examined in the report, the Emerging Teacher Leaders Programshowsthe benefits of clear incentives, or “currency.”  Developed in collaboration with the NYC DOE the project provided an alternative pathway to teacher leader roles.  Candidates had to demonstrate competencies related to the role before being accepted into the pool. Sixty percent of all who began the project successfully completed the program, and 95% of those who completed the program were accepted into the teacher leader pool and given the opportunity for additional salary.  

Dr. Michael Nagler, superintendent of the Mineola Public Schools in suburban New York, finds the customizable and very specific knowledge that is imparted and assessed an attractive element: “Teachers need to be constantly updating their pedagogical practices and skills. Often this is smaller snippets of learning – not a whole course.  Micro-credentials really focus on the right “bite size” of skills that people need.  They are very efficient.”

There is another benefit to this new way of proceeding, said Guastaferro. “Micro-credentialing provides the teacher more agency because it makes the expectations very transparent. It puts the onus on the teacher to apply what he or she has learned, and demonstrate impact.This results in deeper, context-based learning and the greater likelihood the practice will stick.”

Anne Williams, Director of NYC DOE’s office of Teacher Recruitment and Quality, observed: “We did see strong potential for this  as an alternative process – one that requires evidence that educators have demonstrated competencies in critical skills and as an important strategy for supporting qualified candidates into new roles and re-qualification for existing roles.” During the 2016-17 school year, the Emerging Teacher Leaders Program that Teaching Matters conducts with the NYC DOE will grow from 191 to 300 participants.

The full report about Teaching Matters’ competency-based professional development and micro-credentialing can be downloaded here

Teaching Matters will be releasing the report at The Council of Great City Schools in Miami, where we will be discussing its findings on October 20th.


Teaching Matters is dedicated to increasing teacher effectiveness, one of the most critical factors in student success. TeachingMatters’ services transform how educators work together at urban public schools, helping the most effective teachers develop the skills they need to lead their peers and drive school-wide improvement. They also partner with school leadership to create a work environment that equips teachers to succeed in the classroom.