Education Drivers

Personal Organization

Teaching is an executive function that requires organizing a multiplicity of duties. Historically, teachers were simply agents for conveying academic content. Today, teachers not only instruct but also are accountable for a growing list of duties. Teachers are expected to manage personnel; implement numerous federal, state, and local school improvement initiatives; comply with regulations such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; address standards; master new technologies; provide timely communication with parents; and remain abreast of the latest research. These duties are in addition to the customary responsibilities of maintaining student behavior, planning and executing lessons, and assessing students against objectives . Today, teachers spend upwards of 50 hours per week meeting all these responsibilities. To manage their demands, teachers must avoid unnecessary paperwork, establish routines that eliminate wasted time, and delegate tasks to volunteers and aides. When lunch and other breaks are accounted for, actual instruction time may be as little as 4 hours each day. Given these realities, it is imperative that teachers be trained in effective organization and time management so they can use the limited instruction time effectively.

Managing time to ensure important tasks are accomplished is one of the greatest challenges facing teachers in the 21st century. The job of teaching has changed dramatically over the past 50 years. In addition to the traditional role that emphasizes classroom instruction, teachers today are required to:

  • Provide diagnostic assessment
  • Administer remedial instruction
  • Enhance instruction for the gifted
  • Integrate special education students into the general education setting
  • Instruct bilingual students
  • Provide essential social services
  • Adapt lessons to address long-range goals and standards
  • Offer instruction toward standardized testing
  • Plan lessons
  • Execute effective classroom management
  • Acquire essential resources
  • Ensure compliance with federal, state, and local mandates
  • Participate in professional development
  • Engage in school-wide activities
  • Coordinate with other teachers in the school
  • Offer timely communication with parents and care providers

This list of responsibilities makes clear how expansive and complex the job of teaching has become. Research finds the average teacher spends between 50 and 55 hours per week doing the job. The notion teachers work short hours is simply a myth.

To accomplish all that is expected requires a high degree of discipline and effective time management. Becoming overwhelmed by this heavy workload is a constant challenge and dictates that teachers engage in a high degree of planning and judgment to manage the tasks.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, multitasking is not an option. Research finds that human beings are not actually capable of completing more than one task at a time. In reality, they jump back and forth between tasks, concentrating on only one activity at a time. Teachers need to take this into consideration and build adequate time into the schedule for completing their numerous tasks. This requires setting aside time with minimal opportunity for interruptions to review the previous week’s efforts to assess which tasks were met and plan for the coming week. Planning requires prioritizing actions in order of relevance, deadlines, consequences, and time required for completion. Not all activities are equally important and teachers need to make a conscious choice of which tasks to address and which to delay.

When the job does becomes overwhelming, it is important to remember a teacher is a team member who can ask peers and the principal for help in prioritizing critical duties and how best to keep the focus on accomplishing what is important: effective teaching.

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Improving Student Achievement by Extending School: Is It Just a Matter of Time?

This document explores ways in which time can be used as an education resource. It opens with an overview of studies that indicate that American students trail their counterparts in other leading industrialized nations in academic achievement. It discusses research on the relationship between time and learning.


Aronson, J., Zimmerman, J., & Carlos, L. (1999). Improving Student Achievement by Extending School: Is It Just a Matter of Time?.

Research on Improving Teacher Time Management

The purpose of this action research was to explore how a new teacher could manage time while teaching third grade students.

Borek, J., & Parsons, S. (2004). Research on improving teacher time management. Academic Exchange Quarterly, 8(3), 27-31.

A review of the time management literature

The purpose of this article is to provide an overview for those interested in the current state‐of‐the‐art in time management research.

Brigitte J.C. Claessens, Wendelien van Eerde, Christel G. Rutte, Robert A. Roe, (2007) "A review of the time management literature", Personnel Review, Vol. 36 Iss: 2, pp.255 – 276

Burnout: Testing for the validity, replication, and invariance of causal structure across elementary, intermediate, and secondary teachers

The study investigated the impact of organizational (role ambiguity, role conflict, work overload, classroom climate, decision making, superior support,’ peer support) and personality (self-esteem, external locus of control) factors on three facets of burnout—Emotional Exhaustion, Depersonalization, and reduced Personal Accomplishment within one conceptual framework. Participants were full-time elementary (= 1203), intermediate (= 410), and secondary teachers (= 1431). A hypothesized model of burnout was first tested and crossvalidated for each teaching panel; common causal paths were then tested for group-invariance. Results were consistent across groups in revealing the importance of (a) role conflict, work overload, classroom climate, decision making, and peer support as organizational determinants of teacher burnout, (b) self-esteem and external locus of control as important mediators of teacher burnout, and (c) the absence of role ambiguity and superior support in the causal process. Findings demonstrated that interpretations of burnout as a undimensional construct are not meaningful.

Byrne, B. M. (1994). Burnout: Testing for the validity, replication, and invariance of causal structure across elementary, intermediate, and secondary teachers. American Educational Research Journal31(3), 645–673.

Educational time factors

The findings presented in this book are based on an analysis of 57 research studies concerned with the relationship between one or more of the educational time factors cited above and the student outcomes of achievement and attitudes. Twenty-nine are primary sources (studies or evaluations) and 28 are secondary source (reviews, syntheses, and meta-analyses).

Cotton, K., & Wikelund, K. (1990). Educational time factors. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory.

Getting beneath the veil of effective schools: Evidence from New York City

This paper examines data on 39 charter schools and correlates these data with school effectiveness. We find that class size, per-pupil expenditure, teacher certification, and teacher training—are not correlated with school effectiveness. In stark contrast, we show that frequent teacher feedback, the use of data to guide instruction, high-dosage tutoring, increased instructional time, and high expectations—explains approximately 45 percent of the variation in school effectiveness.

Dobbie, W., & Fryer Jr, R. G. (2013). Getting beneath the veil of effective schools: Evidence from New York City. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 5(4), 28-60.

The National Center on Time and Learning

The National Center on Time & Learning has been dedicated to expanding and improving learning time in school to improve student achievement.

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