Based on actual experience with technology professional development for educators, staff members at NPEAT have developed a list of best practices in these programs.

The group recommends that professional development should focus as specifically as possible on the needs of the ultimate beneficiaries of the training—K-12 students. Courses are most effective if they begin by acknowledging that different students have different problems in learning new material and that reaching these students comes through the day-to-day interaction of teacher and student. Therefore, the content of professional development should deal directly with what students are expected to learn—and the instructional strategies that research and experience have shown to be effective.

Training must be an integral part of a teacher’s daily activities and should be based in the school, when possible. Similarly, teachers must be involved in determining what it is they need to learn, as they are the professionals closest to the students.

Sources outside the school can support professional development by providing resources unavailable in the school or training program or by providing new perspectives on meeting students’ needs. This will help make professional development an ongoing activity, which also is critical to deriving benefit from training. Collaborative approaches—whether in person or over the internet—will help provide these outside perspectives and create an avenue for ongoing discussion of teaching techniques.

Professional development also should give teachers an understanding of the theory behind the skills they are learning. When teachers have a good understanding of the theory behind particular practices and programs, they can adapt these strategies to their own circumstances more easily.

Finally, professional development is most effective when it is part of a large commitment to education reform that is focused on improving student learning.