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Teacher Worklife Research  

The following reports represent our selection of Canadian research into teachers’ worklives since 2001, and are intended to provide some context for the BCTF Research study, The Worklife of BC Teachers in 2009. 

Canadian research  

Kelloway, E.K., Thibault, T., & Francis, L. (2015). Teacher Time Use (Nova Scotia Teachers Union) . Halifax, NS: Saint Mary's University. [24 pages] PDF file; Acrobat Reader required.

Nova Scotia public school teachers were contacted by a research team from Saint Mary's University working on behalf of the NSTU and invited to complete a survey on time use. This report describes the results of the teacher survey. The survey assessed how teachers spend their time both at and outside work, how much discretion teachers have in scheduling their work-related tasks, how much tension teachers experienced during the time they were completing their work-related tasks, work experiences and teachers' feelings about their work in general, and teachers' psychological well-being.

R.A. Malatest & Associates Ltd. (2015). Alberta Teacher Workload Study. Alberta Education. [77 pages] PDF file; Acrobat Reader required.

The issues reviewed in this study included:

  • The tasks performed by teachers in their role as teachers.
  • The time spent completing these tasks.
  • The obstacles faced by teachers in completing their professional duties.
  • The fluctuations in workload that occur throughout the school year.
  • The relationships between workload and school characteristics.

Directions Evidence and Policy Research Group. (2014). The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) Teacher Workload and Professionalism Study. Submitted to the Ontario Ministry of Education. [160 pages] PDF file; Acrobat Reader required.

The main questions addressed by the overall study were:

  • What factors contribute to teacher workload?
  • What factors help or hinder the impact of workload on individual teachers?
  • What professional learning might help teachers to manage their workloads?
  • What changes in district practice might help teachers to manage their workloads?
  • What changes in ministry practice and expectations might help teachers to manage their workloads?

Froese-Germain, B. (2014). Work-Life Balance and the Canadian Teaching Profession. Canadian Teachers' Federation. [16 pages] PDF file; Acrobat Reader required.

In February and March 2014, the CTF conducted an online survey of elementary and secondary teachers on issues related to work-life balance. Over 8,000 responses from teachers across Canada revealed that the top stressor for teachers is not being able to devote as much time as they would like to each of their students. 79% of teachers believe their stress related to a work-life imbalance has increased over the past five years, and 85% report that work-life imbalance is affecting their ability to teach the way they would like to teach.

Johnston-Gibbens, A. (2014). Workload and Volunteerism of Educators (WAVE) - Research Study Report. Toronto: OSSTF. [76 pages] PDF file; Acrobat Reader required.

From the Executive Summary: "OSSTF/FEESO members voted at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the Provincial Assembly (AMPA) to conduct a research project with the objective of investigating the following:

  • the portion of time OSSTF/FEESO members spend taking part in Ministry or board directed activities that may, in turn, diminish an individual's professional discretion in their role?
  • the scope and amount of time spent by members taking part in voluntary and extracurricular activities?
  • the workload of educators, their job-related stress and its sources"

Duxbury, L., & Higgins, C. (2013). The 2011/12 National Study on Balancing Work, Life and Caregiving in Canada: The Situation for Alberta Teachers. [88 pages] PDF file; Acrobat Reader required. 

In 2011/12, 2,462 Alberta teachers participated in Duxbury and Higgins' third national study of work-life balance. In comparing the teacher sample with the national findings from 25,000 other employed Canadians, the authors found that teachers work more hours per week than most Canadians and are twice as likely as other Canadians to report high levels of overload in their work. Furthermore, only 40% of Alberta teachers report high job satisfaction, compared with 59% of the overall sample, and the dissatisfaction they report is primarily related to career development and opportunities to meet their career goals.

Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation. (2013). Teacher time: A study of the challenges of intensification of Saskatchewan teachers’ professional time. [48 pages] PDF file; Acrobat Reader required.

The intent of this study was to engage Saskatchewan teachers in a discussion of the complexities of teachers’ time. Teachers from across Saskatchewan participated in an online survey from which feedback was collected from a sample of 950 educators. In addition, 10 in-depth interviews were conducted to provide perspectives from the lived experience of teachers and their perceptions of their professional time.

Servage, L. (2013). Understanding Teacher Workloads: A Pan-Northern Teachers' Time Diary Study. Yellowknife, NT: Northwest Territories Teachers' Association. [29 pages] PDF file; Acrobat Reader required.

From the Executive Summary: "Northern Teachers' Associations believe that excessive work hours and excessively challenging working conditions contribute to poor outcomes for teachers and students alike. Based on concerns expressed by northern teachers, both in ongoing anecdotes and more formally in a recent study of teacher working conditions in the Northwest Territories (NWTTA, 2013), Canada's three northern teacher associations collaborated to produce this time diary study. Time diaries and surveys completed by 50 teachers over a one week period allowed for a detailed breakdown of how teachers are spending their workdays, evenings and weekends."

Alberta Teachers’ Association. (2012). The New Work of Teaching: A Case Study of the Worklife of Calgary Public Teachers. Edmonton: ATA. [28 pages] PDF file; Acrobat Reader required. 

In the spring of 2011, Calgary Public Teachers invited 20 teachers to partake in a pilot study that involved documenting in detail how they spent their time during a one-week period. This pilot work–time study, which is reported here, focused on three major issues: Work intensification—a perception, on the part of teachers, that they are working harder and putting in longer hours; the impact of technology on teachers’ work; and the impact of class composition—the increased complexity and diversity of student needs—on the workload of teachers..”

MacDonald, R. J., Wiebe, S., Goslin, K., Doiron, R., & MacDonald, C. (2010). The Workload and Worklife of Prince Edward Island Teachers. Report commissioned by the PEI Teachers’ Federation. University of Prince Edward Island. Centre for Education Research: Charlottetown, PE. [137 pages] PDF file; Acrobat Reader required. 

This 2010 study found that although PEI teachers are working a similar number of hours per week as in 2002 (48 hours), they are spending less of that time on instruction (2.3 hours less). New demands have shifted how their teaching days are spent, increasing stress on their worklife. This study gathered information through a survey, daily work logs, focus groups, and detailed narratives, and makes 11 recommendations for education stakeholders. These include identifying the number and kind of administrative tasks required of teachers, and prioritizing them based on how they support student learning. Embedding professional collaborative time for teachers was seen as a goal, as well as adopting long-term processes rather than short-term fixes for enhancing teachers’ capacity to meet the evolving challenges of teaching and learning. Researchers “anticipate the study will encourage discussion among the key educational stakeholders about the role and work of teachers, particularly in the light of the province’s interest in adopting the ‘21st Century Skills’ philosophy.”

Dyck-Hacault, G., & Alarie, R. (2010). Teacher Workload: MTS Task Force on Teacher Workload Final Report. Winnipeg: Manitoba Teachers' Society. [54 pages]   

The Manitoba Teachers’ Society Task Force on Teacher Workload was created in June 2008 and investigated the issue of teacher workload in Manitoba by consulting with MTS members through focus groups, a workload survey, presentations on workload to members, member polling, and the solicitation of member comments. According to the survey, 52% of teachers in Manitoba experienced an increase in workload in the 2008–2009 school year over the previous year. Furthermore, 70% of respondents reported negative health impacts as a result of teaching, and 73% found that stress affected their job performance. The top concerns of Manitoba teachers were found to be class size and composition, technology, prep time, provincial/divisional demands, and extra-curricular activities. 

Alberta Teachers’ Association. (2009). Looking Forward: Emerging trends and strategic possibilities for enhancing teaching and learning in Alberta schools 2009-2012 . Edmonton: ATA. [44 pages] PDF file; Acrobat Reader required.   

Data from three surveys inform much of the data in this hard-copy publication (a 2008 version of this—Shaping Our Future—can be found on the ATA web site). They are the Member Opinion survey, Professional Development survey and the Beginning Teachers’ survey. Class size and composition issues were reported. Some improvements in access to both technology and print/text resources were described by Alberta teachers. Teachers in Alberta reported working 53 hours a week, and while over 80% considered teaching satisfying, only one-third would recommend teaching as a career. 40% of teachers said they had difficulty balancing personal and work life, and about 14% reported bouts of depression. The report includes a significant section on new teachers, an under-reported group in Canada.  

Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (2009). Voices From the Classroom: Experiences and Perspectives of Elementary Public School Teachers in Toronto . Toronto: ETFO. [45 pages] PDF file; Acrobat Reader required.   

In undertaking this project, the ETFO sought to speak directly to elementary school teachers in Toronto to hear their “unvarnished point of view” on the issues, trends, stresses, and challenges they face in their work. While elementary school teachers seemed to be generally positive about their work and driven by a strong sense of vocational purpose, they also reported a number of areas of frustration. The negative factors undermining teachers’ abilities to create and maintain rich learning environments include ever-increasing paperwork, large classes, inadequate resources to serve increasing numbers of special needs students, and unrealistic curriculum requirements. For some teachers, this has resulted in reduced morale and job satisfaction as they feel increased frustration and loss of control. Focus group participants came up with a number of solutions, including reduced workloads, reduced class sizes, and more specialized staff support and resources across the system. 

Pickering, C. (2008). Challenges in the Classroom and Teacher Stress . Health and Learning Magazine (6), 22-27. PDF file; Acrobat Reader required.   

This article summarizes the findings of various studies on teacher stress and working conditions, with a particular focus on the research of Dr. Lynda Younghusband on high school teachers in Newfoundland. The author finds that teacher organizations worldwide agree that stress has a harmful and negative effect on their members. In general, the causes of this stress are well understood; but effective, well-funded solutions to the problem are more difficult to come by. 

Kamanzi, P.C., Riopel, M-C, and Lessard, C. (2007). School Teachers in Canada: Context, profile and work . Highlights of a Pan-Canadian survey. University of Montreal. [50 pages] PDF file; Acrobat Reader required.   

Kamanzi, Riopel, and Lessard (2007), in a wide-ranging study of Canadian teachers’ work, explored professional induction and development, social relations in school, work satisfaction, perception of changes on teachers’ work, and perception of the profession of educator. They found that teachers’ work was impacted by decisions made at the provincial level, whether by government or a Ministry of Education. Of teachers who responded to Kamanzi et al.’s survey, 88.6% stated that their workload had increased in recent years. The authors also found that BC and Quebec teachers were more pessimistic about educational change than teachers in other provinces. They reported that most respondents loved teaching, but that barely half of BC teachers felt able to meet the needs of students with special needs. 

Manitoba Teachers' Society. (2007). Manitoba Teachers’ Society Workload Study . Winnipeg: MTS. [Full document not available online].  

3,000 Manitoba teachers were surveyed. 50% reported an increase in workload relative to the previous year, with results closely matching the 2005 CTF study. Close to 55% of respondents were working 51 or more hours per week. 92% indicated that they felt ‘overworked’ while 68% said stress affected their job performance. Class size was identified as a major issue for Manitoba teachers, with 51% reporting an increase in class size. 

Leithwood, K. (2006). Teacher working conditions that matter: Evidence for change . A report prepared for the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario. Toronto: ETFO. [125 pages] PDF file; Acrobat Reader required.   

This study reviews an extensive range of Canadian and international literature which linked to eight internal states pertaining to teachers, with the claim that by considering the eight states, analysis of teachers’ work and workload could be considered and proposals for change could be identified. The eight states were:  

  • sense of individual professional efficacy,  
  • sense of collective professional efficacy,  
  • job satisfaction,  
  • organizational commitment,  
  • level of stress and burnout,  
  • morale,  
  • engagement in the school or profession, and  
  • pedagogical content knowledge.  

Leithwood offers recommendations targeted at teachers, administrators, policy makers, and teacher unions, most aimed at pro-active steps to create and maintain working conditions that matter. One key message is that teachers’ working conditions can be addressed systemically to create a manageable workload. 

COMPAS Inc. (2006). State of the teaching profession 2006 annual survey: A COMPAS report to the Ontario College of Teachers . Toronto: OCT. [47 pages] PDF file; Acrobat Reader required.   

This report found both high satisfaction and moderately high stress in Ontario’s teachers. Most satisfaction was found in working with students and colleagues while adding to their knowledge of teaching and subject focus. 81% would recommend going into teaching as a career. Stress levels appear consistent across age ranges and gender. Time constraints, parental blame, dealing with children from dysfunctional families, teacher performance appraisals, and school politics were identified (in descending order) as the most stressful aspects of teaching. Respondents were also asked to consider how education had changed over time, with both positive (textbooks, teaching, facilities) and negative (student/parent respect for teachers, student behavior, quality of family life) aspects reported. 

James Matsui Research Inc. (2006). OECTA Workload Study: Executive Summary . Toronto: Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association. [12 pages] PDF file; Acrobat Reader required.   

James Matsui’s report was based on phone interviews with 1,767 elementary teachers. Average working hours were 54.5 hours per week. Those with the least experience worked the greatest number of hours, and hours worked decreased as experience increased. Over a year, OECTA members worked on average 35 days on weekends, holidays, and vacation days. 88% reported feeling stressed from overwork, and 89% reported negative impacts on their personal lives from overworking, while 80% stated that their physical or mental health has been affected by the amount of time their work demands. 

Canadian Teachers' Federation. (2005). Canadian Teachers’ Federation National Teachers’ Poll. Ottawa: CTF. [Full document not available online].  

Key findings: 

  • 83% of Canadian teachers reported that they had a higher workload than in 2001, with 58% indicating a substantial increase in workload. In 2001, 63% of teachers reported an increase in their workload compared to the two years prior.  
  • Teachers report in 2005 that they work an average of 55.6 hours a week including assigned classroom instruction, course preparation, grading and reporting, individual help to students, meetings, parent interviews, and supervision of students. In the 2001 survey, teachers reported an average work week of 51.8 hours.  
  • 51% of teachers stated that their class sizes have grown between 2003 and 2005, with only 1 in 10 teachers reporting smaller class sizes.  
  • 74% of teachers surveyed reported an increase in the number of students with special needs in their class in the past two years.  

Matsui, J. (2005). The worklife attitudes of Ontario public elementary teachers. Toronto: Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario. [Full document not available online]. 

Written by James Matsui, this study explicitly links teachers’ feelings of being overworked with workload. Increased workload led to frustration as teachers felt it more difficult to meet their own personally-developed standards, and that pressures of work left little space to acquire new skills, to work with individual students and to collaborate with peers. 86% reported that work-related demands had negative effects on their personal and family lives. The main stressors identified by respondents were: numbers of students with special needs in classes, cutbacks in specialist teachers and support staff, and class size. In terms of priorities for action, teachers identified class size, prep time, special needs, and specialist support as the four top priorities to be addressed by their union. 

Nova Scotia Teachers Union. (2005). Marking and Preparation Time Study: An Examination of the Marking and Preparation Time Available to Teachers in the Public School System in Nova Scotia . Halifax: NSTU. [13 pages] PDF file; Acrobat Reader required.   

The NSTU carried out this study in response to a 1994 decision by the provincial government to reduce the amount of marking and preparation time allotted to teachers as a means of cutting costs. The Teachers’ Provincial Agreement compels boards to ensure that teachers are given an average of 10% of instructional time for preparation and marking, an amount that the union has consistently asserted to be inadequate. Although the results of the study show that classroom teachers in Manitoba have an average of 11.1% marking and preparation time, 6.8%, or approximately 650 teachers, have no marking and preparation time at all. An additional 24.6%, or nearly 2,400 teachers, have less than 10%. 47% of respondents indicated that they do not feel as though they have enough scheduled time for marking and preparation. The authors conclude that without adequate time for preparation and marking, teachers will be unable to develop optimum learning environments for their students and will suffer from unproductive levels of stress. 

Smaller, H., Tarc, P., Antonelli, F. Clark, R., Hart, D. & Livingstone, D. (2005). Canadian Teachers’ Learning Practices and Workload Issues: Results from a National Teacher Survey and Follow-Up Focus Groups . Paper presented at the annual conference of the Research Network on Work and Lifelong Learning (WALL), June. [37 pages]  PDF file; Acrobat Reader required.   

This SSHRC-funded project compared Canadian teachers’ work and learning with other Canadian workers. They reported that: 

  • Canadian teachers are older than the labour force in general, and more likely to be female and white.  
  • About 20% of teachers are employed part-time. Full-time teachers work at least 45 hours a week.  
  • Teachers have a very high rate (69%) of involvement in voluntary organizations and have a high rate of unpaid housework of more than 15 hours a week.  
  • Teachers reported a higher level of participation (90%) in courses and other learning.  
  • Teachers’ extensive unpaid overtime, their relatively high levels of job stress, and the extent of their volunteer work, should be better understood by the general public.  

Dibbon, D. (2004). It’s about time!: A report on the impact of workload on teachers and students . St. John's: Memorial University of Newfoundland. [48 pages] PDF file; Acrobat Reader required.   

Reporting a working week of over 52 hours for teachers in Newfoundland and Labrador, Dibbon reported high levels of ‘invisible’ work, much done in teachers’ own time. He states that teachers are “over worked, stressed and frustrated with various aspects of their jobs.” Arguing for increased preparation time, more manageable reporting, and reduced supervision as ways to reduce workload, Dibbon also addresses class size and composition and the rate of educational change in a wide-ranging argument for redesigning teaching to better meet students’ needs while making work manageable. 

Canadian Teachers’ Federation. (2003). A national survey of teacher workload and worklife. Ottawa: CTF. [Full document not available online].  

This report includes data from across Canada concerning: 

  • Class size/composition,  
  • Length of the school year and instructional time,  
  • Assigned non-instructional duties,  
  • Teachers’ professional development, and  
  • Provincial teacher unions’ reports on worklife.  

Alberta Teachers’ Association. (2002). Falling Through the Cracks: A Summary of What We Heard About Teaching and Learning Conditions in Alberta Schools . Edmonton: ATA. [76 pages] PDF file; Acrobat Reader required.   

In May and June 2002, the Alberta Teachers’ Association held over 40 hearings across the province to collect data about teaching and learning conditions in Alberta and received nearly 1,200 submissions from teachers, school staff members, subject specialist groups, school councils, and other education stakeholders. This report reflects the findings of those investigations and is built around six major topics: class size and composition; curriculum change, teaching resources, and professional development; funding issues, urban/rural inequities, and the physical environment; social contexts of teaching and learning; teachers and teaching; and provincial achievement testing. Teachers noted that they faced increasing demands to meet with colleagues and specialists in order to coordinate students’ programs, but at the same time had for a number of years seen a great reduction of preparation time within each school day. They also mentioned an enormous increase in the amount of paperwork that they were required to do, some of which they felt was pointless and which took time away from teaching, preparation and marking. 

Alberta Teachers’ Association. (2002). Cracks in the Foundations: Why We Heard What We Heard. An Outline of the Fiscal, Social, and Policy Origins of Critical Issues Affecting Teaching and Learning . Edmonton: ATA. [19 pages] PDF file; Acrobat Reader required.   

As a companion piece to the ATA’s Falling Through the Cracks report, this paper seeks to shed some light on the underlying causes of the concerns that the report outlines. 

Compiled by Charlie Naylor, Research Department, Emily O'Neill and Karen Rojem, BCTF Information Services.  

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