Understanding the work of Australian early childhood educators using time-use diary methodology

Linda J. Harrison, Sandie Wong*, Frances Press, Megan Gibson, Sharon Ryan

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    16 Citations (Scopus)


    Studies of early childhood educators’ perceptions of work intensity and complexity have shown that ensuring a good balance between workload and the time needed to complete the work is critical for work quality, work satisfaction, and staff retention. This article explores the possibilities of time-use data for making visible the diversity and complex patterns of early childhood work. Pen-and-paper time-use diaries were completed for one full day by 21 educators working in preschool and child care centers, generating a total of 168 hours of data. Diary entries were coded using the Taxonomy of Early Childhood Work to identify the types of activities performed, the time spent in each activity, and changes in work activities across the day. On average, educators worked an 8-hour day, of which 60% was spent in direct contact with children in intentional teaching, routine care and transition, “being with” children during play, and providing emotional support. Other activities included organizing the indoor/outdoor play areas, administration, planning/evaluation, professional learning, and staff breaks. The findings demonstrate the benefits of time-use methodology as a means of objectively identifying and quantifying the diversity, complexity, and intensity of early childhood educators’ work.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)521-537
    Number of pages17
    JournalJournal of Research in Childhood Education
    Issue number4
    Early online date20 Aug 2019
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


    • early childhood educator
    • early childhood teacher
    • task analysis
    • time-use diary
    • workload


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