A Bold Idea To Better Use Time

In my current role I support and challenge Principals and Leadership Teams to lead their communities to attain improvement through inquiry. I enjoy my visits to schools, discussions with principals and engagement with their learning community. Most particularly, I admire the energy and expertise that these leaders and their teachers dedicate towards the learning agenda of the students who come under their care. They do this despite increasing demands on their time.

For quite a while now, my Twitter PLN, most particularly my #INF537 #dbblearn and @materdeiwagga colleagues, know I have been interested in how schools can use time to accelerate change in their settings. Over the last six months, I have noted “TIME” as being an increasingly precious asset. Over the last three months I started to note more closely note various concerns about “TIME”. Here are some direct quotes……

“We have more teaching face to face hours in Australia than most other countries in the world.”

“We looked into a project but got held up by reports, exams and marking.”

“We need more time to share our experiences of practice with each other.”

“We just don’t get the time to meet and plan.”

“There are competing demands on time.”

“We want to provide more opportunities to share practice which are aligned to the goals of the school.”

The hard nosed people reading this blog will argue, “It’s all about priorities! Just re-organsie your time and do what’s important.” That may be a fair comment; however, others may argue that schools are asked to do more and more without being allowed to let things go.  The reality is that governments and education systems continue to ask more of our schools, placing increased stress on the resource of time.

We need to approach this concept and use of TIME with Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset by embracing the challenge to use time more wisely! In doing so, and with a solutions focused approach to the challenge, I share one idea with you…. 

School “A” is a secondary school in New South Wales (NSW), Australia. In NSW, the regulatory authority mandates the minimum delivery of 400 hours of English, Mathematics, Science and HSIE (History, Society and its Environment) to students across Years 7 to 10. However, at School “A”, they deliver 520 Hours of English, Maths, Science and HSIE across Years 7 to 10. This is a combine surplus of 480 hours (across the four subjects over four years); 120 hours per year. Just to give you an idea of what can be done with that time, Music/Visual Arts is allocated 240 hours, over two years, for Year 7 & 8. LOTE (Languages Other Than English) is allocated 120 hours in Year 8. As per its timetable, that is 3 x 1 hours lessons per week for four years. WOW! What if?????

What if….. the 120 hours per year could be better used to address our era of rapid change by developing skills of students to use information to co-create knowledge and (hopefully) solve real world problems?

What if….. the 120 hours was used as a three hour block every week? In that three hours students could work on their Genius Hour project that promote the skills of collaboration (teamwork), critical thinking, creativity, innovation & leadership. After that was finished, say after 90 minutes, students could go home early and then teachers could engage in regular weekly professional learning. Teachers could……

  • work together in teams to plan, prepare, review and evaluate learning. WOW!
  • engage in planned, structured action research inquiry on a weekly basis using collaborative technologies which support student learning. 
  • rework a unit of work applying the principles of challenged based learning, project based learning or inquiry learning.
  • produce videos for Flipped Learning approaches.
  • rewrite programs using Learning Design Principles – UBD.
  • develop an online learning course for one of their subjects – did some say “anywhere, any time learning”?
  • work in teams to develop a social and emotional skills continuum.
  • prepare rubrics which attempt to measure collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving in classrooms – what does that look like?
  • reflect on, and engage with, evidence and data sources (quantitative and qualitative) which is focused on student learning. Then the teachers could develop hunches and design rich questions which they interpret from the evidence and data.
  • create “reflection routines” allowing for time at the end of each lesson for students to articualte and synthesize the important points.

Yes, such an idea would require extensive consultation with staff, students and parents. And, I know there will be the inevitable person yell loudly, “We won’t get through the content.” But Puuuhhlllleeeezzzze, when did any student suffer from “not getting through the content” in Year 7, 8, 9 or 10? There will be also those who will say, “That won’t work because…..” However, I ask those who can, to make bold decisions about better use of time by ignoring the choir of

Yes, but

Let’s roll our sleeves up and produce the effort required to overcome obstacles which get in the way of finding time and make decisions which are in the best interests of student learning. I welcome comments from people who want to explore answers to these questions…..

  • How CAN we find the time?
  • How CAN we use it better?

I look forward to reading about your ideas.


5 thoughts on “A Bold Idea To Better Use Time

  1. From a primary school perspective I believe there are opportunities to find TIME using RFF more effectively, 2 hours a week = 20 hours a term when teams of teachers or even just grade partners could be meeting for professional dialogue, exploring project based learning, preparing for student/class online collaboration, analysing student data, developing assessment criteria sharing teaching methods, developing C21st skills and ideas to improve student outcomes.
    Another possibility in finding TIME in the Primary school setting could be, dare I suggest it, other afternoons of Professional Learning meetings. Yes I know teachers work hard…very hard but I actually think that many teachers would be re-energised as I am by attending conferences on topics that are engaging, forward thinking and provide a broader picture of education more than what is happening at the local, state or national level but international level.
    I am sure the Union would have comments regarding more hours for PL but let’s not put up barriers, but be cup half full educators who ask “What is possible?”

  2. As a Creative Arts teacher, the inequity that exists between the hours secured by ‘core’ subjects compared to that which is provided to the Arts has always amazed me.

    For the first 4 years of a child’s secondary education there is little equity. There are many subjects delivered on minimal allocation (to satisfy mandated hours) and then there are those who get the lion’s share of time allocations – often 20-25% over that which is mandated. In Stage 6 however, all Preliminary and H.S.C. courses are given equal time. Why is there no such equity in Stages 4 and 5? For years, the argument centred around the need to prepare students adequately for the School Certificate credential. However, that hasn’t been the case for many years now and we are still sticking to the same model!

    The other pressure on Arts faculties is the manner in which schools sustain and support co-curricular learning. Not only do Music, Dance and Drama teachers have to survive on minimum hours in the classroom, but we also have to beg for time to make co-curricular a reality. Time, staffing and embedding rehearsals in the timetable are traditional issues. It is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain ensembles when there are so many competing demands on time, when timetables are inflexible and when attitudes work against embedding them in the curriculum.

    Co-curricular learning (which so readily “promotes the skills of collaboration (teamwork), critical thinking, creativity, innovation & leadership”) needs a fair slice of the pie. Research also suggests that co-curricular involvement is a key player in reversing poor student attendance at school.

    It is enlightening to read this blog as it challenges the status quo which, for so many years, has inhibited quality, broad-based learning in our schools.

  3. As a Careers Advisor and VET Coordinator what excites me are my links with business and industry and the approach they take to on the job learning: mentoring, coaching, collaboration, flexibility, stand ups, scrum masters, the ‘agile’ approach – to name a few. In this global world where developments in technology and innovation mean things are moving at ‘lightning speed’ I question the whole structure of how we deliver learning for the 21st century learning in some schools. We are constrained by TIME and architectural practices such as our obsession with ‘indicative hours’, periods in the day and bells. Nothing inhibits creativity and innovation more than ending a lesson where students are truly engaged. The solution lies in leadership with vision, considered risk taking, collaboration and ultimately ACTION. “Lightning speed” is not constrained by time.

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