The Research Network on
New Approaches to Lifelong Learning


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 October 10, 2001
New Approaches to Lifelong Learning
252 Bloor St West, Room 12-254
Toronto, ON M5S 1V6



Most Ontario Teachers Already Constantly Upgrading Knowledge

A new in-depth study of Ontario secondary school teachers finds that they are generally spending over 50 hours a week in teaching work and employment-related learning activities. Teachers in the study were constantly engaged in activities to upgrade their knowledge. The findings suggest that recent Ontario legislation to impose mandatory re-certification on teachers may be unnecessary.

A time diary and follow-up interview study of Ontario secondary teachers during the 1999-2000 school year confirms the findings of an earlier province-wide survey that the vast majority of teachers have taken at least one further education course or workshop in the past year and devote on average more than 7 hours each week to informal learning directly related to their profession. The study finds that much of Ontario teachers' informal learning concerns using their professional judgement to keep up with knowledge in their fields and to teach themselves how to implement provincial educational reforms. In addition to subject knowledge and other teaching skills, about 90 percent have been actively learning about computers informally.

These continual learning activities are above and beyond the average of over 47 hours a week that secondary teachers devote to their teaching duties. Besides an average of 28 hours a week on formal teaching and other assigned tasks, teachers spend another 19 hours on course preparation, marking assignments, and school meetings with students, parents and others. These findings on working hours are consistent with the results of prior Ontario and national surveys, but earlier studies have not considered teachers' informal learning activities.

"The findings suggest that teachers are devoting more time to both their jobs and related learning activities than either they or government policy makers generally realize,' says Harry Smaller, the York University faculty of education professor who headed the study.

The time diaries indicate that most teachers' daily lives are heavily devoted to their work and to closely related learning activities. A common complaint is the lack of in-service training to aid teachers' efforts to learn how to deal with the many recent changes in their teaching duties.

"The notions that teachers have a lot of free time or that they generally resist educational change are far from the realities of their daily lives," notes David Livingstone, a co-investigator in this study and leader of the NALL research network at OISE/UT which supported the study.

These time diary and follow-up in-depth interview studies were conducted just prior to the passage in June, 2000 of Bill 74 which imposed an extra half course workload on each secondary school teacher. The original sample included 85 secondary teachers selected at random across Ontario as part of a larger national survey. Detailed time diaries were completed in November 1999 and February 2000 by a diverse group of 13 teachers drawn from this larger sample.

The study was conducted by researchers associated with the SSHRC-funded research network on New Approaches to Lifelong Learning (NALL) centred at OISE/UT. The full report, entitled Informal/Formal Learning and Workload among Ontario Secondary School Teachers, as well as the earlier national survey report, are available at the NALL or in hard copy version from the NALL project office: phone 416 923-6641 x2392;

For further information, please contact the following authors of the report:

Harry Smaller, Faculty of Education, York University; phone (office: 416 736-2100 x88807; home 416 536-0414);


David Livingstone, Centre for the Study of Education and Work, OISE/UT; phone (office: 416-923-6641 x2703; (home 905 271-2755); email:

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The Research Network on New Approaches to Lifelong Learning
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)
252 Bloor Street W, #12-246, Toronto, ON, M5S 1V6, Canada
Tel (416) 923-6641 ext./poste 2392, Fax (416) 926-4751

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