Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Time for Teacher Learning, Planning Critical for School Reform: Students Aren't the Only Ones Who Need More Time to Learn; Teachers Also Need More and Better Time for Learning and for Planning

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Time for Teacher Learning, Planning Critical for School Reform: Students Aren't the Only Ones Who Need More Time to Learn; Teachers Also Need More and Better Time for Learning and for Planning

Article excerpt

Teachers accomplish so many important things with such little time. They teach several subjects or courses each day, review student work, plan differentiated lessons to meet the needs of diverse learners in their classroom, and strategize with parents and specialists about how to support individual students.

Teaching is a full immersion experience. When teachers are at school, most of their time is spent face-to-face with students, simultaneously playing the roles of instructor, counselor, coach and nurse. As a group, they have big hearts and are selfless in their efforts to teach and care for their students. But a productive day of teaching requires substantial planning time to choose effective strategies, design lessons, prepare materials and collaborate with others. Any good teacher will tell you this, and they do, whenever they are asked.

Teachers from Wisconsin were asked, "When all is said and done, which of the following do you believe would have the greatest positive impact on your ability to help your students learn and realize their potential?" They listed more planning time as their top choice, above more money or fewer disruptive students (Wood Communications Group, 2014, p. 19). Another group of teachers ranked more planning time during the school day as the most important factor that would help them with their teaching (Rentner, Kober, & Frizzell, 2016). Teachers also have listed lack of planning time as a reason for leaving the profession and as a barrier to successful implementation of curricular reforms or evidence-based practices (McGoey et al., 2014; Provasnik & Dorman, 2005).

Teaching is more complex in this decade than ever before as educators adapt to new curricular reforms and assessments, implement social and emotional learning programs, and plan learning for an increasingly diverse student population. Teachers also have access to so much information about effective teaching strategies and interventions. They need time to process and integrate new information from professional development, review student data from multiple sources for decision making, and provide timely, constructive feedback for students on their learning.

From my own teaching experience, I know that the time that I had each day for planning in my elementary classroom had a direct effect on the quality of my teaching. Most days I had 40 minutes of individual planning time, which would seem a luxury in some districts today. There were days when I had no planning time due to scheduled parent conferences, caring for students who were ill or upset, meetings with specialists about students, or special events/ assemblies at school. On these days, I had to take shortcuts to get through the rest of my day. I didn't have time to:

* Locate the math manipulatives that would have made my math lesson more engaging and concrete;

* Carefully read and provide meaningful feedback on student journal responses or word study work from the morning;

* Review notes about a new curriculum I was trying to implement;

* Find a colleague to address a concern I had about one of my students; or

* Reflect on how my reading lesson went and how I should adjust instruction for the next day.

These missed or afforded opportunities accumulate over time, undoubtedly affecting student learning.

How much planning time

Typical elementary teachers in the United States spend about 32 hours a week with students and are paid to work 38 hours weekly on average (NCES, 2012). Middle and high school teachers spend about 30 hours weekly with students and are paid to work 38 hours weekly (NCES, 2012). This leaves very little time to accomplish all of the tasks that influence what they do when they are with students. One study found that most teachers have about 45 minutes of planning time per day within their contract hours, with a range from 12 to 80 minutes for elementary teachers and 30 to 96 minutes for secondary teachers (NCTQ, 2012). …

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