This is the webpage for the Australian Research Council project Time Use, Time Poverty and Teachers’ Work (LP190101301). In partnership with the Queensland Teachers’ Union (QTU), the project is investigating workload and work intensification in Queensland schools. Education systems and teacher unions have long expressed concern regarding the intensification of the demands of teaching and school leadership. Challenges with retaining early career teachers and recruiting new teachers are often blamed on increasing teacher workload and associated burnout. The primary aim of this study is to investigate teachers’ and school leaders’ workload and work intensification. This will provide important information for systems, unions and schools and suggest areas for intervention at the school and system level. The secondary aim of this study is to examine how teachers manage the intensification of their work, with a particular emphasis on commercial digital tools marketed to them as time saving devices.

The project consists of five phases that will be rolled out from 2021.

Phase 1: Systematic Analysis of Research on Workload and Work Intensification

The preliminary phase fo the project is a systematic review of the published research on workload. This includes “grey literature” such as the  QTU’s 2018 workload survey, the NSWTF 2018 workload survey and TALIS 2013. This necessary step will assist the researchers in designing the dimensions for the app to record teachers’ and principals’ time use. This was published open-access in 2023 in Education Review and can be accessed here.

Phase 2A Pilot: Designing and Piloting the TimeTracker App

Using insights gathered from the literature, the project team will work with a commercial provider to develop an iPhone/Android app that acts as a digital diary of time-use. The app will be designed to collect data on both contact time, non-contact time and time spent on tasks outside of school hours. To capture information on intensification, the app will also collect data on how time is experienced, such as whether or not there is ‘enough’ time within the day. During this stage of the research the app will be piloted with a small group of participants to ensure it is fit for purpose.

Phase 2B Pilot: Statistical Pilot of TimeTracker App Codes Using a convenience sample of participants across different types of schools in different locations, 138 teachers/principals downloaded the app to record time use across multiple 30 minute time periods. This pilot sample was drawn from the membership of the QTU. This pilot was successful and generated 140 hours of evidence regarding how teachers are spending their time and the various pressures that they feel. As the stage that trialed the ‘proof of concept’ of the app, we are happy that the app gets inside the ‘heavy hours’ of teaching and school leadership in robust ways.

Phase 3: Roll Out of the TimeTracker App (In development)

This proposed phase will open the app up to wider use (depending upon securing the required approvals) within the system for better tracking of teachers’ and school leaders’ time use.

Phase 4: Case Study Research (In development)

We will undertake 4 case studies in QLD with a focus on understanding work intensification and the promise of commercial and digital tools. This will involve ethnographic research of digital tools in public schooling. It would be anticipated that researchers would spend at least 1 month in each school. As this is an iterative design, the specific cases will emerge from Phase 1a and 1b, however the following are possibilities given what is already known:

  • The impact of NAPLAN (both online and pencil and paper) on teachers work
  • The use of data entry systems such as OneSchool (Qld)
  • The use of commercial behaviour tracking/monitoring programs (e.g. Class Dojo)
  • The creation of online curriculum and pedagogy systems for all subjects in specific schools

Phase 5: Framework for Evaluating the Quality and Usefulness of Digital Tools in Schools (In development)

One final outcome will be to design a framework to assist school leadership and personnel in understanding how to evaluate the claims that digital tools make, particularly around their usefulness for ‘saving time’ through considering the unintended consequences of their use.