“Teachers should be teaching”: Teachers’ describe and evaluate the current dimensions of their work and workload

Year: 2018

Author: Wilson, Rachel, Stacey, Meghan, McGrath-Champ, Susan, Fitzgerald, Scott

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This presentation draws on data out of a state-wide questionnaire survey of 18,234 teachers, designed by the authors for, and distributed by the NSW Teachers’ Federation in early 2018. Through a series of closed questions developed from extensive qualitative interviews, and open response items for comments, the self-report, mixed-methods survey sought to comprehensively map the detailed activities of teachers’ work and the frequency (daily, weekly, other) with which they engage in those activities. Crucially, teachers were also asked to evaluate the importance, necessity, and suitability of the time and resources needed for these activities, as well as whether the way the work was managed was too time consuming/cumbersome, and whether the work was focused on compliance rather than teaching and learning. Through mapping both frequency and evaluation of activities, interesting patterns were able to emerge. Activities encompassed categories of: planning and programming; assessing and reporting; relationships, welfare and communication; collegial interactions and professional learning; and policies, procedures and administration. Our findings indicate that while teachers’ daily work is primarily focused on matters directly related to teaching and learning, and this forms the bulk of and most highly valued work that they do, numerous other tasks related to administration and accountability are also currently being undertaken which are not highly valued, reported to be on the rise and evaluated as time consuming, cumbersome and primarily for accountability and compliance purposes.  Both quantitative and qualitative data reflect teachers’ concerns that tasks which are not perceived to be directly relevant to their roles are encroaching upon those that are and many struggle to prioritise teaching and learning within their intensifying work. Implications of such findings for the future of public education are discussed.