Friday, May 24, 2024

LSU joins Louisiana Department of Education for STEM Micro-Credentialing Project

by BIZ Magazine

BATON ROUGE – With STEM learning gaining speed, it’s more important than ever for Louisiana to provide its high school educators the opportunity to earn micro-credentials in order to teach STEM subjects to their students. The $4 million, five-year Education Innovation and Research grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Improving Pre-Engineering and Computer Science Education through Micro-Credentialing, is a collaboration among LSU, the Louisiana Department of Education, BloomBoard Inc., and RAND Corporation that involves the development, implementation, and testing of a set of micro-credentials designed to help teachers demonstrate proficiency in STEM competencies.

A micro-credential is a form of micro-certification earned by demonstrating competence in one specific skill at a time via a portfolio of evidence created through classroom practice. Micro-credentials are competency-based, job-embedded, self-paced, and self-directed.

Pre-Engineering High School Pathways Curriculum Developer Vanessa Begat, also an instructor in LSU’s College of Engineering and an associate director of the Gordon A. Cain Center for STEM Literacy, says micro-credentials in this program were designed by LSU, LDOE, and BloomBoard (an educational consultant based in Pittsburgh) and are aligned to the competencies needed to effectively teach STEM pathway courses. The LSU team includes Frank Neubrander, Jesse Allison, and Fernando Alegre.

“In order to become a math or English teacher, you must take the PRAXIS test, but there is no real equivalent in STEM because it’s so broad,” Begat said. “Schools are adding STEM classes, but right now, there’s no standard way to vet a teacher’s STEM knowledge. The goal of the grant is to see if we could develop a set of micro-credentials that would allow a teacher to demonstrate proficiency in general STEM competencies that are aligned with state standards and best practices related to STEM. We decided on three levels of competencies that would collectively demonstrate proficiency.”

Competencies captured in the Level 1 micro-credentials are applicable to all STEM teachers, regardless of the STEM content being taught. They ask the teacher to demonstrate proficiency in developing technical reading, writing and presentation skills, facilitating project-based learning, and discovering computational thinking. Level 2 micro-credentials relate to ethics and safety and exploring the design process, which are also applicable to all STEM teachers, but are not discipline specific. For the grant, the Level 2 micro-credentials were developed with a pre-engineering focus and a digital design and emergent media (DDEM) focus. Level 3s are intended for teachers to demonstrate proficiency in competencies that are not content specific.

After completing the Level 1 and 2 micro-credentials, teachers would be able to select one of the more content-specific micro-credential(s) that align with the STEM course(s) they are teaching. For example, the Level 3 micro-credentials developed for the Pre-Engineering option asks teachers to demonstrate proficiency in one or more of the following competencies—teaching the foundational concepts of robotics, teaching technical drafting in 2D and 3D, teaching electrical circuitry and programming, and teaching engineering economics and project management. For DDEM, the Level 3s are teaching the foundation of digital production and practice, teaching the development of a digital media portfolio, teaching media exhibition and the digital media industry, and teaching programming for digital media.

Each micro-credential is centered around one specific competency and follows the ADDIE cycle of inquiry: analyze, design, develop, implement, and evaluate. The artifacts teachers submit will depend on the micro-credential they choose and may include written reflections, student work, lesson plans, videos, audio recordings, and more. Their submission will be reviewed by a team of trained assessors from BloomBoard who will provide rubric-aligned feedback to help them strengthen their portfolio and further articulate their practice. When they earn a micro-credential, teachers receive a portable digital badge.

Over the past two years, the micro-credentials that were developed by the team were implemented with teachers around the state in a randomized control study in order to provide critical information to all project partners about the usefulness of micro-credentials for STEM Pathway teaching and learning. The ultimate goal is that the micro-credentials will show improvement in teaching practice and student outcomes. May marks the second year of teacher participation, so RAND will use the next six to eight months to analyze the results and draw conclusions.

“Micro-credentials aren’t a state requirement for teaching STEM courses at this time,” Begat said. “The grant is designed to help us determine if the micro-credentials improve teaching practice and student outcomes. Based on the results, LDOE will determine if this is something that could be adopted in the future.” 

For more information on the micro-credentialing project, email [email protected].

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