Feeding a Science Education Revolution: Micro-credentials for OpenSciEd Facilitators - Digital Promise

Feeding a Science Education Revolution: Micro-credentials for OpenSciEd Facilitators

Middle school history teachers discuss their lesson plans for teaching about the Great Depression.

January 14, 2021 | By

It seems simple. We just need two things: great instructional materials designed for the latest research in science education, and transformative professional learning to advance instructional practice and get the most out of the materials. Together these two things can unleash the potential of educators to create equitable science learning that, in turn, unleashes the power of their students.

If you’re in education deep enough to be reading a blog about a science education micro-credential, you likely know that it’s not so simple to make this happen. In fact, sometimes it seems like a far off and impossible dream.

In my own time in the classroom, I was able to find some of both, but it was quite a slog (the finding decent materials and professional learning part, not the teaching—that was fantastic and I miss it every day). Countless hours were spent figuring out how to turn encyclopedia texts into engaging learning experiences and sitting through professional learning that didn’t model best practices. When I left the classroom to take a job as the science lead for the Kansas State Department of Education, my hope was to do what I could to shift the system so that great materials and professional learning were the norm rather than the exception. Naiveté is what gets us to start trying, right?

That was 2010, and A Framework for K-12 Science Education was out for public review. I still remember reading that draft for the first time and, while there were plenty of details to provide feedback on, I was downright giddy at how well it matched up with my vision for science education and my experiences as a classroom teacher, but then went beyond to lay out a new path forward.

This was the beginning of a revolution.

But revolutions in education move more like glaciers than a spark on a dry fuse. There were standards to write, coalitions to build, awareness to establish, entire science education ecosystems to build, communications to craft… and somehow we still needed instructional materials and professional learning to really move us toward that vision.

After supporting Kansas’s work to develop, adopt, and begin the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), I transitioned to a position at Achieve, where we established the EQuIP Rubric for Science to better help the field understand what instructional materials designed for the NGSS really looked like. Achieve’s Science Peer Review Panel reviewed hundreds of units, but found very few that met the mark even more than five years after the NGSS were released. Learning from the impact of quality, openly licensed instructional materials of the EngageNY project in math and English/language arts, a coalition began to build to do something similar in science, and OpenSciEd was born.

Flash forward to the present and, after seeing the quality of materials and professional learning that were being developed at OpenSciEd, I was drawn to being a part of the solution that could really feed this science education revolution by getting great materials and transformative professional learning to as many teachers as possible. By making the materials Creative Commons (CC) BY 4.0-licensed, any teacher anywhere could access them for free and districts could repurpose their funds to bring transformative professional learning to their teachers.

Now we just have to figure out how to make sure there is professional learning support for everyone who needs it. We’ve built our OpenSciEd Facilitator Team to provide this for districts and are launching a process for certifying organizations, but even that won’t be enough to reach everyone. We’ll need an army of professional learning facilitators to make this a reality. They’ll need to be experts to help teachers navigate the paradigm shift to instruction that values and builds on the knowledge, experience, and wonder that students bring to the classroom, and harnesses curiosity about puzzling phenomena and problems to help students make sense of the world around them while still driving to intended learning goals.

The Anchoring Phenomenon Routine micro-credential is a little unique because it’s not designed to directly support or advance classroom practice; rather, it recognizes excellence in professional learning facilitators. It’s the first of what we hope will be several stacks of micro-credentials to support educators interested in becoming quality facilitators of OpenSciEd’s professional learning. Our professional learning materials are freely available, but making them come alive for participants takes precision, practice, and persistence. The stacks of micro-credentials we are building are intended to help facilitators check their own understanding, and they will help the field looking for quality professional learning to find facilitators who know what they are doing.

For many, including my 2010 self, implementation of standards based on the Framework has not gone nearly fast enough. While there is still much to do and every second counts, the glacial implementation has indeed produced some pretty amazing results. I’ve seen paradigm-shifting progress as teachers, researchers, and policymakers have collaborated to forge forward and develop, test, and refine the resources that unleash the power of educators. Hopefully these micro-credentials can help feed the revolution and keep it on the move as we work to figure out new ways to get these resources and supports into every classroom.

Start earning micro-credentials from OpenSciEd and other issuers by visiting the Digital Promise Micro-credential Platform.

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