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What do they do all day? Exploring the complexity of early childhood teachers’ work

Linda Mitchell, Jeanette Clarkin-Phillips, Simon Archard, Sonja Arndt, and Maretta Taylor

In this article, we discuss findings from a study of how 22 teachers in kindergartens and education and care centres in Aotearoa New Zealand spent their time at work. The teachers filled in time-use diaries, writing down details of what they did at different times over a whole working day. The diary entries were coded using a taxonomy developed by Charles Sturt University and Queensland University of Technology researchers in Australia, identifying the types of activities and length of time in which teachers were engaged in them. The teachers discussed the codings and recommended some new categories and some adaptations to fit the Aotearoa New Zealand context. The summary findings give a picture of the percent of time teachers spent in each domain; “hot spots” when a large number of activities were taking place; and times of day when different activities were likely to occur. The findings show that early childhood teachers’ work is complex and varied. In the conclusion we comment on the need to support this complexity through specific policy measures in the Strategic Plan for Early Learning and look forward to a large-scale and comparative study of teachers’ work.

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