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As technology and computers have become a ubiquitous presence in our daily lives, so too have computational thinking (CT) and computer science (CS) become an increasingly important part of more and more career paths across a variety of industries. As such, the need for educators to be qualified to teach these skills to future members of the workforce has also risen in recent years.

When Wyoming’s legislature voted in 2018 to require CS and CT standards be taught in all schools, grades K–12, by the 2022/23 school year, only eight out of 48 school districts in the state had an educator on staff qualified to teach the material. While by the fall of 2020, the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) and partners have made significant progress toward CS being taught in all schools, a lack of certified teachers is still a lingering concern.

Though there are multiple pathways to CS teacher certification in Wyoming, all of the approved approaches require significant time spent earning postsecondary credits. That is an issue that Wyoming teachers have indicated as a barrier to learning due to difficulties in accessing available programs and a reluctance to commit to high-level CS content classes that are not aligned with K–12 CS course-level needs. As a result, WDE, in collaboration with the Wyoming Professional Teaching Standards Board, University of Wyoming, and various district stakeholders, has partnered with REL Central to develop a micro-credentialing system that could provide teachers the opportunity to become credentialed to teach CS through flexible, job-aligned experiences.

The stacked micro-credential currently under development will address at least a few of the challenges teachers have identified to earning a CS endorsement. Educators participating in the micro-credentials would learn content knowledge and teaching approaches they need in their classroom, develop a personalized pathway to endorsement by recognizing their past CS experience, and have the opportunity to earn an endorsement as CS instructors. Initial feedback on this system has been positive, but before the micro-credentialing option launches, stakeholders first need to solidify the system structure and evaluative methods to ensure teachers using the micro-credential process can effectively teach CS education after completing the course.

The WDE and its partners have been working with REL Central to lay a foundation they hope will lead to long-term success and stability for the statewide CS system. So far, that foundation has included defining high-quality micro-credentials, adopting Wyoming CS teacher competencies, and identifying essential structures and roles needed to support the development and sustainability of the CS micro-credential system.

In defining a high-quality micro-credential system, the team looked first to determine what the components of that system were. Team members proposed adopting the Council of Chief State School Officers’ principles along with two principles of their own: that high-quality micro-credentials are developed by a range of stakeholders and focus on prioritizing the application of specific content knowledge.

With the principles of a high-quality micro-credentialing system identified, the team then focused on identifying the competencies or standards for each CS credential. These standards make clear what teachers need to know before they are qualified to effectively teach computer science to students. For this step, the group turned to Computer Science Teacher Association (CSTA) Standards for Teachers. The CSTA CS Knowledge and Skill standards delineate six of the seven micro-credentials that can be stacked to possibly earn a CS teaching endorsement. The team decided to include computational thinking as an additional foundational micro-credential, to emphasize the importance of understanding and integrating CT across the curriculum.

The group also worked to define the essential roles and structure that are required to develop, implement, and sustain a micro-credential system. The roles included developers who determine the essential skills and knowledge (WDE team, partners, and stakeholders), issuers (postsecondary organizations, professional associations), earners (primarily teachers), recognizers (PTSB and school districts), and system coordinators (WDE and program champions) adapted from the Digital Promise. The identification and collaboration between these roles are essential to developing a sustainable micro-credentialing system.

Next, the team will be developing scales for each of the CT standards to measure the proficiency of participants attempting to earn CS micro-credentials, a process that will ultimately allow those in charge of credentialing to determine progress to earning the credential.

While the work is not yet complete, Wyoming stakeholders are continuing to carefully construct a CS micro-credential that they hope will lay the foundation for a statewide micro-credential system designed to meet the needs of Wyoming teachers and students.

For more information on developing micro-credentials, please feel free to contact us.