How do teachers spend their time? Simplicity, a company that connects job seekers with employers and provides career preparation, identifies the main categories of responsibility for teachers as follows:
- Classroom Preparation
- Grading Student Work
- Classroom Instruction
- Administrative Tasks
- Personalized Instruction
- Coaching/Extracurricular Activities
- Parent Interaction
While it is assumed that teachers spend most of their time on Classroom Instruction, time spent varies greatly on the type of school the teacher works in. Simplicity reports that in public and private day schools, teachers spend most of their time on Classroom Preparation at 30% and 25%, which is greater than Classroom Instruction, at 25% and 20%, respectively. In private boarding schools and special needs schools, teachers spent an equal amount of time on Classroom Preparation and Classroom Instruction.
The New Teacher Project (TNTP), which sponsors the Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice, conducted a survey of five of the winners and identified other factors that influence how teachers spend their time. For example:
- Subject Taught: The music teacher coaches the school’s jazz ensemble after school. He spends 7% of his time on extracurricular activities, while the other teachers do not have any coaching obligations.
- Subject Level: The IB English teacher spends more time grading than her peers. So many essays!
- Seniority: One teacher had been teaching for 12 years and has a child at home. She spent less time at school than her counterparts, noting that if she was a younger teacher, she “wouldn’t have as much experience or confidence with lesson plans to feel comfortable enough to leave work at work at 3:30 p.m. and know that things would be ok.”
The Simplicity and TNTP reports show that teachers and their time allocation is not a one-size-fits-all approach. There are no guidelines, nor should there be, of how teachers should spend their time. With the availability of digital tools, teachers now have the means to rearrange their time. Tools promising to shave time off grading, for example, means teachers can now reallocate those grading hours to other activities.
However, there is one activity where it is difficult to reallocate time: Classroom Instruction. Most school days are only set to allow 45-55 minutes per class period. For many teachers, this is not sufficient to perform administrative tasks (such as taking attendance), thoroughly cover a concept, and help struggling students. Teachers want to spend more time instructing, in both classroom and personalized settings. As it is not possible to increase Classroom Instruction time without overhauling a school’s schedule, available time must be made more efficient instead.
What, then, characterizes an efficient use of Classroom Instruction time? Personalized instruction to help students at their level is hailed as the capstone of an efficient classroom. This is often achieved through student achievement data provided by and the adaptivity of many digital tools. However, in a Gates Foundation report, it was noted that “despite the proliferation of technology that enables student learning experiences to be tailored to meet individual skills, needs, and interests, most teachers still report working in classrooms where students generally learn the same content, working at the same pace together as a class.”
In addition to the data, practice, support, and adaptivity that digital tools can provide, the missing key is that they must also enable a high degree of teacher control. This blog has noted that many factors affect how teachers spend their time. When it comes to Classroom Instruction, maximizing time efficiency varies equally on classroom conditions.
The need a high degree of teacher control in a digital tool is reflected in the variety of ways teachers have implemented Knowre.
In a large class of 33, Danielle K. divides her students into two groups. While half her class is in the front of the room receiving direct instruction, the other half is in the back, working on Knowre lessons. Danielle notes that “Any time you have 15 students instead of 33, that makes it that much better.”
Rosaline W., who works with honors math students, uses the program for enrichment on top of the core curriculum. These advanced students work independently for 15-20 minutes on the program every day. On the other side of the skills spectrum, Alan S., who teaches many remedial students, has the students working the entire period on Knowre as he goes around the room working one-on-one with each student.
Meanwhile, at Los Angeles River School, Paul P. uses Knowre as a supplement to reinforce key math skills. However, his colleague, who teaches a double-block Algebra 1 class, uses Knowre as a standalone curriculum.
Can your Classroom Instruction time be made more efficient by a digital tool? Some things to think about:
- Do you already use a digital tool? How much flexibility are you afforded?
- What are your goals for your classes as a whole? How about each individual student?
- What are your time sinks? Or, what are you spending too much time on? If you could reallocate this time, where would you spend it?
- What are the biggest hurdles in your classroom?
As established, there are no set guidelines for how teacher should be allocating their time. Tell us what matters most to you, and we’ll show you how Knowre’s content, pacing, and features can be adjusted to fit your needs.