Cover: Designing and Implementing Micro-Credentials to Support STEM Teaching

Designing and Implementing Micro-Credentials to Support STEM Teaching

Lessons from Louisiana's Project to Improve Pre-Engineering and Computer Science Education Through Micro-Credentialing

Published Sep 26, 2023

by Julia H. Kaufman, Karen Christianson, Rebecca L. Wolfe, Miray Tekkumru-Kisa, Christopher Joseph Doss

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Research Questions

  1. How were the micro-credentials for this project developed, and what lessons learned about the development process can be shared for replication?
  2. How have micro-credentials been implemented among participating teachers in the first year of the project, and have they been implemented as intended?

In this report, the authors provide a preliminary look at the Improving Pre-Engineering and Computer Science Education Through Micro-Credentialing project to develop and implement micro-credentials as a means of providing scalable, competency-based certification of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) teaching skills in Louisiana. For this project, the RAND Corporation partnered with the Louisiana Department of Education, Louisiana State University (LSU), and BloomBoard, Inc. (BBI), to develop 18 micro-credentials giving teachers the opportunity to demonstrate competency in STEM instructional topics related to pre-engineering, digital design and emergent media, and computer science. The ultimate goal of this project is to improve teaching and learning of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses and to expand this micro-credential model across Louisiana.

The authors provide a comprehensive overview of the development of these micro-credentials (beginning in fall 2019) and the first year of the implementation of the micro-credentials with participating teachers in the 2021–2022 school year, as well as lessons learned to support those who are developing or implementing micro-credentials in other settings.

Key Findings

  • Partners faced numerous challenges in the development and implementation of micro-credentials, including considerable disruptions related to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, Hurricane Ida, and a change in state leadership, as well as difficulties in recruiting teachers to participate in the study.
  • Partners faced a learning curve to establishing a shared understanding of what the individual micro-credentials for this project should look like, and it also took them time to identify the most-productive processes and practices for developing the micro-credentials.
  • Despite these challenges in their work, the partners developed 18 micro-credentials, nearly all of which were pilot tested and are ready for teachers' use.
  • Teachers saw value in the micro-credentials to their teaching, even when they had not completed them. Furthermore, teachers noted the usefulness of feedback that they received from assessors and the helpfulness of supports provided by LSU and BBI.
  • Few participating teachers completed more than one micro-credential, although the study goal was for teachers to complete six to eight micro-credentials per year.
  • Teachers suggest that they might have been able to make more progress if they had been able to collaborate with and receive some support from their peers in completing the micro-credentials.

Recommendations

  • Allocate ample time at the beginning of the development process to reflect on aspects of existing micro-credentials that might be used productively for the development project and outline a set of processes that can facilitate their development.
  • Identify incentives that might best compel teachers to participate in micro-credential development and testing.
  • Involve and collaborate closely with expert teachers who can support piloting and potentially also support their fellow teachers.
  • Align the content of micro-credentials with kindergarten through grade 12 academic standards that are applicable to areas on which micro-credentials are focused.
  • Understand competing demands on teachers' time and how micro-credentials could fit into the time teachers have.

Research conducted by

This study was sponsored by the Louisiana Department of Education and undertaken by RAND Education and Labor.

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