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Teachers' working time and work load

1.  Introduction

How much teachers work on a day, a week, a semester, a school year is heavily debated on by a number of groups within society: teachers, labor unions, government but also scientist and parents, … . To figure out how much ‘much’ actually is 9.596 teachers in primary and secondary schools in Flanders kept a time diary using the MOTUS application. The study started on the 25th of January and ended the 15th of May (center part 1st of February to 30th of April). This period comprises lesson weeks and vacation weeks.

In total about 70.000 diary days were collected, and about 1 million activities describing minute-to-minute how the participating teachers lived their (professional) lives.

The goal of the study was not only to know about the average time a teacher works, but also

  1. which kind of tasks they undertake
  2. how their work is divided over time (week, month, semester)
  3. which working conditions they are confronted with
  4. how work and family life is combined, and
  5. how differences are interrelated to various socio-demographic and work-related background characteristics.

To receive a detailed overview, participating teachers were asked to keep a diary of their daily practices. Their input was structured via a pre-coded activity list of 81 working tasks and 21 activities related to personal and free time (private life). For every activity they specified the (exact) beginning and ending time, where they were, with whom they were, and in the occasion of a transport activity which transport mode they used. When it was a working activity, extra questions were asked: if they used technical tools, what type of teaching platform and if they were satisfied about the working activity itself (scale 1 to 7). Attached to the time diary two questionnaires (before and after) were completed by the teachers, and an administrative dataset was merged with information both on the individual and school level.

2.  Research flow for the respondents

For the teachers’ study the goal was to reach out to as many teachers as possible. E-mails were sent, a video was created imbedded in a dedicated website, advertisement via social media was in place and directors were informed to communicate the study in person to their team. The dedicated website was also the place to volunteer to the study (www.hetgrotetijdsonderzoek.be). Teachers submitted their e-mail address in order to receive an invitation to participate. Once this has been done, the teachers go/went through the following stages:

  • Receive an invitation e-mail
  • Complete a profile questionnaire
  • Receive a start day (moment the MOTUS-system let them continue with the actual
    study) based on a dispersion algorithm
  • Fill in a pre-questionnaire : socio-demographic questions, work-related questions
  • Keep a 7-day online diary

Fill in a post-questionnaire : remarks to the previous week, subjective scales, leave intention, …

3.  Databases

Three different datasets are in place:

  • Activity database: includes all activities of the teachers, activity per activity over a period of 168 hours, or 7 days. Every line in the database is an activity, which is comprised of:
    • Beginning time
    • Ending time
    • Primary activity
    • Secondary activity
    • Context questions
  • Aggregate database
  • Survey database with socio-demographic info and work-related information

See MOTUS-package in R for further information which also includes a codebook. For comparability reasons we include all 8.571 teachers that passed all quality criteria.

4.  Levels of information

The dataset(s) are available for any type of research question and corresponding visualization. There are 4 levels in the trajectory of visualizing results:

-1- research question or theme

-2- context, or combination of contexts, both on the activity level as on the person level (questionnaire) as on the school level (administrative data)

-3- detail of time frame/time composition

-4- profile of teachers

-1- A number of themes are into today’s public debate:

  • workload of teachers: aggregated time doing work activities; how long is a work day?, a working week?, are there differences between days, or weeks?, …
  • work package of teachers: subtasks under the umbrella of work; what tasks perform teachers?, how many tasks?, how do they vary?, what is the importance of administrative work?, …
  • temporality of working time: when do teachers work?, what do they do after school hours? how does a Sunday evening looks like? how broad is the span of their working day (start of their first working activity – end of the last)?, …
  • work conditions of teachers: with whom do they work?, do they make use of technical support?, how satisfied are they but also the level of time pressure?, how is work related to their intention to leave job,? feelings about work atmosphere?, …
  • difference between subgroups of teachers; primary vs. secondary school; general vs. vocational education; early stage teachers vs. experienced teachers; differences between cycles of education, changes over family composition, differences in time pressure; differences according to poverty, inclusive education, …
  • combination work-and-family of teachers: how does work intervene (with) private life (and vice versa) (sequence of states – sequence analysis)?, how much time to care have they available? how does time for children relate to the moment they pick-up work again in the evening? , conflict work and family, family composition (x age), …

-2- Context

  • context on the activity level; eg. moment of the day (morning, noon, afternoon, evening, night, weekday, Saturday, Sunday, vacation day), work place (school, at home), the use of technical support, satisfaction level …
  • context on the person level: eg. years of experience, type of teacher …
  • context on the school level: % inclusive children, % poor families, urbanization …

-3- Time frame

  • time points (minute, 10-minute, hour, …) within a day/week/month
  • day of the week within a week/month
  • number of the week (x/53) within the total observation period

-4- Profile of teachers

  • gender
  • age (groups)
  • primary/Secondary teacher
  • gender x age x teacher type

See MOTUS-package in R for the codebook.

5.  Goal(s) for this hackathon

We outline 3 goals that deliver insightful information on the lives of teachers, and this for multiple stakeholders:

Goal 1: insightful R-visual of research questions

Scientists/field work bureaus collect lots of data in order to present the results in articles and reports to stakeholders. The subsequent discussion of the results by this stakeholders is however mostly based on aggregated data presented in tables or one-dimensional graphs. In this dissemination process lots of insightful detail goes lost. The same is through for time diary data in which fine-grained behavioral data, ie. the activity within its context, is collected. Being the:

  • Spatial context: where
  • Social context: with whom
  • Psychological context: satisfaction
  • Material context: availability over a computer, tablet, teachers platform
  • Temporal context: subdivided in 4 dimensions
    • duration: time spent to an activity
    • timing: time point on which an activity is done
    • rhythm: the repetitive cycle of an activity
    • sequence: the order to which an activity follows/is followed by another activity

However, it is the context of an activity (or the interaction of contexts) that provides the tools to policy makers to understand why people perform an activity on a certain point in time, and so subsequently to understand what the objective motivations are of the problems that were put forward. It is only when policy makers understand the context of the problem that they can provide impactful solutions. And the visualization technique (within R), in contrast to tables and (low-resolution) graphs, has the capacity to unlock this information and present it to a larger audience in a comprehensible way.

Goal 2: fieldwork dashboard

While the previous goal has its focus on scientists, policy makers or the society in general, a second goal is the visualization of the fieldwork in process. The better a data collection can be managed, the better the quality of the data collection will be and the better policy makers can understand the situation at stake. For this purpose a dashboard is suitable, that is easy to understand, and configurable through built-in selection options. Key markers in the fieldwork process are:

  • Amount/number of respondents
  • Response rate
  • Dispersion over time

Extra selection; back-ground characteristics

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Employment status
  • Primary vs. Secondary school
  • Statutory status
  • Household composition (Living with parents, living alone, living with child(ren), living with partner and child(ren), living with partner)

Extra dependent variables

  • Working time (per day/per week)
  • Detailed tasks
  • Time with eg. Colleagues, students, …
  • Satisfaction level x tasks
  • Time pressure

Goal 3: feedback dashboard

Respondents take part to surveys because of various reasons: to share their views, to help society, to help a researcher, to contribute to a research topic, to earn an incentive, … .

Whatever is the reason the participation of respondents is essential to be able to present widely supported conclusions/results.

More and more scientist adapt to another strategy and that is to give data back to the respondent as a reward. And this feedback is more powerful when a comparison can be made with significant others.

Examples are:

  • How does my time allocation looks like, in comparison to others?
    • Cluster of 8 work activities + 8 private activities (in total 168 hours == one week)
    • Individual time of teacher vs. Average time teachers (group mean)
    • Average time teachers
      • All
      • Gender (2 cat)
      • Age (4 cat)
      • Primary/Secondary school (2 cat) (or 3 + 4 cat)
      • Gender x Age x … x Primary/Secondary school
      • Lessons week/Vacation week
  • How does my weekly rhythm looks like?
    • 0 (non-work) vs 1 (work) shown per 10 minutes (or 144 10-minute data points per day and 1080 10-minute per week)
    • Individual time of teacher vs. Average time teachers (group mean)
    • Average time teachers
      • All
      • Gender (2 cat)
      • Age (4 cat)
      • Primary/Secondary school (2 cat) (or 3 + 4 cat)
      • Gender x Age x … x Primary/Secondary school
      • Lessons week/Vacation week