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Teacher Workload and Second Step

Teacher workload is gaining increasing significance as education systems around the world struggle to recruit and retain adequate numbers of classroom teachers. The difficulties teachers face in maintaining a work-life balance are well documented, rendering the profession a far less attractive option now. A recent Grattan Institute report Ending the Lesson Lottery: How to Improve Curriculum Planning in Schools advocates for the development of a more centralised, consistent approach to curriculum for all schools – government, non-government, primary and secondary – as one important way to address this issue. This report based on a survey of 2,243 Australian teachers and leaders makes some compelling arguments for the provision of carefully sequenced, high quality curriculum materials to all teachers in all learning areas.

According to the Grattan Institute research, the typical full-time teacher spends at least 6 hours per week sourcing and creating curriculum materials alone. Furthermore, this time commitment does not decrease as teachers progress in their career and become more experienced. This can mean that at least 500 hours of teacher work is required to develop a year’s worth of curriculum material for one subject area in one year level alone. That figure is particularly sobering when one considers that a primary classroom teacher is responsible for instruction in at least 5 key learning areas.

A whole school approach to planning and preparing lessons and resources is considered to be a more efficient option for teachers with less time being spent on what to teach and more on how to teach. The report also purports that a whole school curriculum would benefit students by ensuring learning is not left to chance and avoiding major gaps in what is taught. Research appears to support this with student learning boosted by 1-2 months each year when teachers use carefully sequenced, high quality curriculum materials.

“To learn effectively, students need a highly sequenced curriculum that presents new material incrementally, connects new content to what’s come before and gives students ample opportunities to practice.” (Ending the Lesson Lottery: How to Improve Curriculum Planning in Schools, Grattan Institute Report)

The curriculum materials that are recommended in the Grattan report to be developed and used by all teachers include:

  1. A whole school curriculum map – an overview for each year level and subject area

  2. Unit plans – detailed lesson by lesson plan

  3. Classroom resources for all teachers to use e.g. worksheets, PowerPoint slides, formative assessments, exemplar responses.

Interestingly, one of the most commonly heard objections to the introduction of a whole school universal (tier 1) social-emotional learning program is the lack of time to prepare and teach another curriculum area. The Grattan report and other research sources confirm that this objection is definitely not a baseless one. Teachers often feel conflicted in this regard, as while they recognise the importance of teaching social-emotional skills to children they struggle to feel they are able to do so with the required fidelity due to time constraints. However, it is worth highlighting that the evidence-based SEL program, Second Step, provides a comprehensive curriculum that requires minimal preparation by teachers.

Specifically, the Second Step program provides:

  • A whole school SEL curriculum with high quality, sequenced, age-appropriate content for each level. This content comprehensively covers the five core SEL competency areas identified by CASEL: self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, relationship skills and responsible decision making. Second Step also includes a scope and sequence chart that maps out the program across every year level.

  • A curriculum that organises individual lessons into 4 units for all year levels from prep/ kindergarten through to year 5: Skills for Learning, Empathy, Emotion Management and Problem Solving. The Year 6 curriculum is consistent with previous year levels but organised differently to reflect the change in content to suit this developmental stage. Each lesson across the entire Second Step curriculum is highly detailed and scripted, leaving nothing to chance and ensuring no gaps in learning if taught with fidelity. Importantly, the lessons also provide opportunities for students to practise new skills and receive feedback.

  • Classroom resources at your fingertips. Most teaching resources are readily available online including lessons, videos, visuals, songs and printable handouts. There are also other physical resources included in the program such as puppets used in the younger year levels, posters for classroom display and teaching manuals.

Second Step offers a curriculum that is comprehensive, sequenced, high quality, evidence-based and requires minimal teacher preparation. Contact Positive Pieces Education today and begin making an even bigger difference in your students’ lives.

Positive Pieces Education is the Australian and New Zealand publisher of the Second Step social-emotional learning program. Learn more


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