The idea of student-centered learning is not new; teachers have long sought to design personalized, competency-based environments that are tailored to individuals and that empower students to drive their own learning. What is new is the emergence of an online learning ecosystem and, with it, the technical possibility of equipping all students with a student-centered model. Add to this mix COVID-19, which has provoked unprecedented demand for reinventing what teachers do, and it’s the perfect combination of catalysts for a rapid conversion to student-centered schooling.

But a barrier remains. Most K–12 educators today don’t have the skill sets necessary to run student-centered schools. This report helps dismantle that barrier by identifying specific student-centered competencies for educators in the field that can be stacked to create customized student-centered teaching micro-credentials.

Part 1 uses the Theory of Interdependence and Modularity as a framework for analyzing solutions for student-centered professional development (PD). One solution, micro-credentials, provides digital certifications that verify an individual’s accomplishment in a specific skill or set of skills. To the extent that micro-credentials are specifiable, verifiable, and predictable, then they are modular in nature and overcome many of the challenges inherent in PD solutions with interdependent architecture. They could be the solution for making student-centered PD adaptable to a variety of models, affordable, easy to set up, and customizable.

Part 2 proposes 66 educator micro-credentials for student-centered teaching. No educator will need all the competencies; rather, the intention is to name a starter set from which administrators can stack together the micro-credentials their model requires. Fourteen research-based frameworks and 25 education leaders informed this starter set.

Part 3 profiles 14 leaders who are at the vanguard of student-centered teaching and shares their personal lists of the most important educator competencies for specific roles.

Part 4 offers recommendations for how to move the micro-credentialing ecosystem forward. Pioneering educators, school leaders, micro-credential issuers, and state and district leaders can take actions that hasten the arrival of a fully modular student-centered PD solution. Much work remains, but micro-credentials for student-centered teaching could be the key to unlocking a personalized, competency-based education for all learners in all schools.

Allison Powell, EdD is the director of the Digital Learning Collaborative (DLC). She works to illuminate issues in digital learning by producing and disseminating data, news, and best practices. In the past, she assisted states and districts in re-thinking PD and licensing. Allison is the former VP for New Learning Models of iNACOL. She has taught in, created, and led K–12 online, blended, and face-to-face schools and programs in the Clark County School District.


  • Heather Staker
    Heather Staker

    Heather Staker is an adjunct fellow at the Christensen Institute, specializing in K–12 student-centered teaching and blended learning. She is the co-author of "Blended" and "The Blended Workbook." She is the founder and president of Ready to Blend, and has authored six BloomBoard micro-credentials for the “Foundations of Blended Learning” educator micro-endorsement.

  • Thomas Arnett
    Thomas Arnett

    Thomas Arnett is a senior research fellow for the Clayton Christensen Institute. His work focuses on using the Theory of Disruptive Innovation to study innovative instructional models and their potential to scale student-centered learning in K–12 education. He also studies demand for innovative resources and practices across the K–12 education system using the Jobs to Be Done Theory.

  • Allison Powell
    Allison Powell