Instructional time

NSTA Executive Director Francis Eberle

NSTA Executive Director Francis Eberle


Now that the school year is into full swing and students are settling into the routines of the school day, I was thinking about the concept of time. During a recent meeting about exemplary schools this question was asked: Are the models of exemplary schools where educators are willing to put in 60–80 hours a week really achievable or scalable models that can be accomplished in a normal work week?
A “normal” work week is different for most people. I know I don’t put in a normal work day and I suspect many teachers do not either. Should we count the contracted hours or the actual hours we put in during the day, evening and weekends?
As a benchmark of comparison on instructional time I looked at the data in the 2009 PISA report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The international mean total learning hours and allocation of learning time for science per week is 2.99 hours. The United States mean is 3.51 hours per week. Countries that had more time include the United Kingdom (at 4.25 hours per week) New Zealand (at 4.06 hours per week), Canada (at 4.00 hours per week), and Korea (at 3.58 hours per week. The other 25 countries were either the same or less than U.S.  A couple of countries that surprised me were Germany (at 3.06 hours per week), Japan (at 2 .27 hours per week) and the Netherlands(at 2.17 hours per week).
The U.S. seems to be at near the higher end for instructional time. What about you? Do you have enough instructional time? Is the instructional time more or less than previous years?  How does it compare to these other countries? Is the idea of an extended school day or an extended school year one that would give you more time to teach and think?
One last question, which is just as important—do you have time to think about your work or are you just running? Let me know how it is going this year.

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3 Responses to Instructional time

  1. Julie McGough says:

    I have worked in schools that offered a longer school day for students and teachers as well schools with the traditional time span. The time itself is not as important as what is accomplished in that time. Instructional time can mean many things in different schools.
    My current situation is frustrating because time that I value with my students often gets interrupted or rescheduled to offer a fundraising activity, new program, sporting event, rally, etc. Instruction becomes rushed and content may only be covered rather than learned. Children need opportunities to learn content, apply it, and reflect on the process. Teachers need time to do the same.
    In my current position there is not adequate planning/thinking time available. I do work long hours and weekends to provide quality opportunities for my students. Without additional time involvement I would only be able to provide dry, textbook/workbook driven curriculum. Instead I value rich discussion, hands-on learning experiences, family involvement, valuable communication, inquiry experiences, student reflection and sharing, questioning, and authentic assessment and application of knowledge and skills. I cannot do all of that in a typical school day.
    The elements of planning and collaboration with colleagues takes even more time. Many teachers will not engage the lengthy planning and preparation needed to provide quality learning experiences and those that do risk burn out and leave the profession.
    If instructional time and planning time was valued, teachers and students would benefit. The instructional part of a school day should be focused and engaging for students and teachers. The planning part of the school day should be focused and engaging for teachers. The tasks of learning curriculum, planning curriculum, engaging all learners, differentiating instruction, assessing, reflecting, guiding, responding to learners, building relationships, establishing community, participating in professional development, and providing quality educational opportunities are challenging on any time schedule. When educational systems and educators value the same level of commitment to excellence and acknowledge the time needed to accomplish that goal, time will be better spent.

  2. Francis Eberle says:

    Hello Julie,
    Bravo on the clarity of your reasoning for feeling that you do no0t have enough time for: “The tasks of learning curriculum, planning curriculum, engaging all learners, differentiating instruction, assessing, reflecting, guiding, responding to learners, building relationships, establishing community, participating in professional development, and providing quality educational opportunities are challenging on any time schedule.”
    The paradox here is there needs to be more time in the day, but longer days or years don’t seem to provide that for many. The same issues seem to arise no matter how much is provided. We all have those days of showing up at school with the students coming in the room trying to get ourselves organized and ready for the day. In contrast to those days when you are at school early and have time to prepare, think and then welcome students. That fast pace is what causes burn out.
    To be prepared to be an effective teacher, you have to have time to yourself. This means time away from students to think. We all need reflective time to consider and plan. With the fast pace of the activities of life and the always being connected through our cell phones, we do not get much “thinking” time. And our society seems to think if we are sitting at a desk thinking, we are not doing work. The culture of being busy seems to have overshadowed the need to slow down and have time to think. Many CEOs and other professionals find they have to have time to think. Without it they are ineffective. Part of the school culture you mentioned needs to accept that for a teacher to have a full day does not mean being with students all day.
    Francis

  3. Peter Jeff says:

    Here’s an idea to help teachers feel less stressed and help their students more quickly get engaged..
    I am a retired educator on mission to promote science education at the elementary level — 400 words at a time.
    Would you please evaluate my “TV News Setup script” idea. See the details on my Leadership blog at Leadership Mints (http://leadershipmints.com). Search “scientist.”
    Or you can click directly here: http://wp.me/p1LagS-JM
    My hope is that you will help me recruit STEM professionals who might want to contribute a 400-word “TV News Script” on the science topic of their choice. I look forward to your feedback and guidance, particulary on the idea of donating the 400-word “Science is Cool” scripts to the NSTA.
    Sincerely
    Peter Jeff,
    Promoting Science Education 400 Words at a Time
    616.291.8140
    peterjeff@charter.net

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