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Breaking Down a Teachers’ Day: A Close Look At How The Hours Are Spent

Thursday, March 31, 2016 -- Darin Rasmussen

When we kicked off this series a couple weeks ago, we talked about how much time teachers actually work during an average week. We shared several research studies that put it close to 53 hours per week, including both instruction time and planning time. In this post, I will take a look at our best estimates of where exactly that time and effort is going across the year.  This is where a lot of the research and policy effort seems to stop. But for us, this is where the work begins.  More on that next week.

Pulling together research from 3 external studies, our internal research (and a little liberal rounding to make things simpler), we estimate that a typical U.S. teacher’s time in a year is allocated across these major categories:

Activity

Hours/Year

Instruction

1,000

Test Preparation

200

Lesson Planning

400

Professional Development

50

Communications & Coordination

200

Other

100

Total

1,950

So, what do these activities entail? We’ve defined them below: 

Activity

Definition

Instruction

Direct instructional contact time with students

Test Preparation

Time spent on preparing students for mandatory standardized state tests

Lesson Planning

Planning for classroom instruction or assessment

Professional Development

Professional training and talent development for the teacher herself or himself

Communications & Coordination

Communication with school specialists, guidance counselors, parents, and other stakeholders

Other

Includes building or district duties, staff meetings, field trips, etc.

To give a little color to these statistics, let’s think about how much time is available for each student or their parents. Assuming a class size of 25 (which can vary a lot) and whole class instruction that takes up 80% of the time (which can also vary a lot), a public school teacher could spend no more than about 4 hours per year fully focused on direct instruction for any single child in a traditional setting.  It’s no wonder blended learning and flipped learning models are popular; after all, they are techniques for increasing 1-to-1 personal attention and grouping students with similar needs and interests.

Let’s shift our attention to parents.  If we assume student’s parent(s) get half of the 200 hours of coordination/communication category above, the teacher-parent communication is short and rapid.  A student’s parent(s) would get about 2 ½ hours across the full year.  That includes the teacher’s time writing emails, making phone calls, preparing for parent-teacher conferences and so on. Simply put, it is not a lot of time, especially when parent involvement has been identified as such a key factor for academic success.

Of course, when all students, teachers, and school models are considered, there is considerable variability in how teachers’ time is divided across these categories. However, from an edtech point-of-view, the critical point is how can we use technology to make each of these categories more effective and improve student outcomes? Education technology should focus its effort on increasing teachers’ time available for students and their parents, and on increasing the quality and meaning in those interactions. Check back next week, when we’ll wrap up this series by sharing some examples of where Edmentum is looking to help teachers make the most of their hours through technology.

Interested in learning more about Edmentum’s online solutions to empower and support both teachers and students? Find out how we’re Moving Education Forward!

 

References:

Central Washington University. (2013). CWU Teacher Time Study: How Washington Public School Teachers Spend Their Work Days.

Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (2012). Primary Sources: 2012, America’s Teachers on the Teaching Profession.

OECD. (2014). Education at a Glance 2014: OECD Indicators.