Mastery-Based Learning Design via Microcredentials

Promote personalized learning by defining mastery through scaffolded standard levels articulated through microcredentials.

Photo of Matthew Drewette-Card
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A major issue with personalized learning comes from our existing structure design. Courses established by time constraints (quarters; trimesters; semesters; year-long) all have one thing in common: time is more important than the learning. In personalized learning environments,nets, the learning is what must be constant, and time is what must be variable. Courses must be designed and based in standards, but #whatif we could design a system where passing the class wasn't important, but earning a badge/certification was?

That's where microcredentials come in.

#whatif we scaffolded our academic standards and expectations into smaller and more "digestible bites," and through a preponderance of earned badges certify that the student has achieved a level of performance and is ready to advance to the next level? What if our content areas were scaffolded this way, and students could meet these expectations across the curriculum in various ways/means? For instance, having a class on "Pandemics," students could be working to achieve microcredentials in English, Science, Health, and Social Studies. And over time, the student's preponderance of evidence could show what S/he has learned, is able to do, and has been "certified" in.

Think about it like a video game. On level one, players work to master basic skills and competencies for the game, and then have to use those competencies in an integrated and summative way to beat "The Boss." On level two, those skills are deepened and new skills emerge to create a wider swath of game knowledge and ability. At each level "The Boss" is more complex than the last, requiring complicated problem-solving, integrated skill use, and high level critical-thinking. This design is the exact model that can be replicated by using a mastery-based system along with microcredentials based on performance standards. Our learning systems can be designed to be based on mastery and allow the students to have the voice and choice to demonstrate that mastery in ways we never could have imagined.

Designing mastery-based structures around microcredentials can support multiple pathways, exceptionalities, and individualized needs.

Examples and Resources of Microcredentials & More

AOS #94 High School Standards Breakdown for Microcredential Design

Microcredential Development Best Practices (via Digital Promise)

AOS #94 Professional Learning: Microcredentials Page

Five Key Questions for Identifying and Testing Microcredential Competencies (via MLTI)

Leveled Micro-Credentials based on Maine Education Standards (Common Core, Next Generation Science, ACTFL, & Maine Learning Results)

MSAD #46 & SAD #4 Innovative Regional Comprehensive High School Project Application: Program Integration (Part 1 & 2) - this is a DRAFT of part of our application for a new high school program design in Maine. For more information on this project, contact me directly or go to our High School Project website.

MSAD #46 & SAD #4 Innovative Regional Comprehensive High School Project Application: Program Integration (Part 3 &4) - this is a DRAFT of part of our application for a new high school program design in Maine. For more information on this project, contact me directly or go to our High School Project website.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Summer Drum

What an amazing idea, Matthew! This is super inspiring for me. As an elementary educator, I envision using this on a smaller scale (for example, the steps to mastering a particular unit). These individualized mastery plans could inform center and small group activities, and to help me with differentiation. Students could cover each spot with a sticker once they demonstrated mastery.

Photo of Matthew Drewette-Card

Sure! Or they could design their own picture/badge to glue onto an overall "competency chart" to show their progress and what they've learned. Getting students to creatively depict the critical aspects of knowledge in a pictorial or symbolic form is a great measure for deep comprehension!

Photo of Christopher Start

I love this approach.
What sort of safety nets would be needed to catch students, early on, who struggle academically but may not qualify for a 504 or IEP? One thing a private high school does (Maur Hill-Mount Academy) is to have Independent Learning Time (ILT). For sophomores-seniors, this time is relatively unstructured, so long as their grades are high enough. For freshman students and those with lower grades, it is more structured. A key component for ILT is that the teachers are available to meet with students in the teachers' common offices.
A key difference with micro-credential system would seem to be establishing at what point does a teacher or staff-member intervene.

Photo of Matthew Drewette-Card

In terms of intervention, I think it comes down to what type of intervention is needed. Is the intervention academic, behavioral, or based on an exceptionality? In my mind, the purpose of this structure is not to lock students into a traditional system of credits or seat-time, but that rather the learning is what is most important. It expects students to meet proficiency/competency requirements without a given timeframe, while also giving them flexibility in learning timeframes, honoring the needs of the individual over the collective managerial desires.

Photo of John Faig

I love this type of personalization because it provides some autonomy and shows students their strengths and areas of improvement. It could also help them find a mentor for help.