Information and communication technology, meant to enhance student learning outcomes, is creating major challenges for teachers.
As a teacher at a typical Catholic primary school, St Brigid’s Marrickville, I have seen how technology is escalating teachers’ workloads.
Through my own experiences and my interaction with colleagues as an IEU Executive member, I have seen a steady increase in extra tasks being handed down from management to teachers.
The implementation of data collection is a major example. In some primary schools one to one testing of reading or ‘running records’ of a whole class of students without release time is common.
This means the teacher is absent from instructing the class. Another task primary teachers may be familiar with is the replication of data for a ‘data wall’.
Appropriately synthesised data can inform teaching strategies. But, are teachers given time to analyse it effectively to inform their teaching?
My colleague Barbara Leiton is an elearning coordinator and oversees operation of a range of devices including Chromebooks, PCs, Macbooks and tablets. She says the Google network is not reliable enough for efficient use in the classroom.
“Teachers are experiencing loss of connectivity, student network access problems and a myriad of other disruptive issues that really hinder the teaching and learning environment,” she said.
“Teachers are planning to use ICT in the classroom and their lessons are being disrupted by matters that are really out of their control”.
Secondary teachers are also finding themselves under pressure. Teaching multiple classes of various year levels takes planning and preparation.
Marking and feedback to students are also tasks that require appropriate time allocation to be completed effectively. Are teachers being allocated the time necessary to complete these tasks?
Members need to discuss issues of workload in their school, and talk to their IEU reps about it.
Members must be ready to ask themselves and their school leadership ‘How will this task directly improve student learning’?
While classroom devices and school networks cause torment for teachers and students during lesson time, teachers are finding that computer networks and systems are magnifying workloads surrounding ‘data’.
“Teachers are being expected to duplicate the entry of data because of inefficiencies in the system. It is a waste of teacher skills to have them doing data entry at all, let alone entering the same data twice,” Barbara said.
“It seems that the move to ‘the cloud’ is resulting in teachers being taken away from their core task of producing effective, engaging lessons.”
The current workload agreements for teachers have been part of Catholic systemic agreements since 2009. Such agreements have been an essential instrument for protecting teacher conditions.
Regulated Relief from Face to Face teaching (RFF), limits to meetings and cocurricular activities, school attendance hours, class size limits, large class support, and even the requirement for five professional development days per annum are some of the conditions that have been won by the IEU and are included in the current work practices agreements of various dioceses.
Conditions such as these assist teachers to focus on their core responsibility of student learning. Without such agreements, teachers would be inundated with any number of extra duties that take them away from their core job and passion of actually teaching students.
Non members are likely to be unaware that beneficial workplace conditions such as these were earned by IEU members over the years, and were not simply offered by employer groups.
It is only through Union advocacy that we can keep workload agreements up to date with the changing school environment, so that teachers can be allowed to teach.
James Jenkins-Flint work loads
: Everything is about data! We have every second staff meeting about data and sharing our data. Yet no release for planning or reports. Such a waste of time!!
: I agree. It seems to be that the focus on data has ignored the actual definition of ‘data’ which is ‘meaningless facts’. Data by itself is pointless and once organised into more importantly ‘information’ can, often, glaring state the obvious eg ‘this student has a learning difficulty’.......and so becomes a distraction dressed up as cutting edge PD.
: Between excessive programing requirements and the collection of time consuming and irrelevant data, I'm ready to throw in the towel!
: Data data data data