What is Planning Time? Can we improve current models?

Planning time is important for teachers. Teachers require time each day where they can have some personal autonomy to grade, organize, plan, build, create, and meet with others. Teacher-Librarians, as leaders in the school, who have a pulse on everything that is going on within a school, and a plethora of resources, can give very valuable planning time.

Planning time is also essential for professional autonomy. When you work with students all day, with essentially no real breaks, it is very important to have autonomy at some point.

But what if the way that planning time is structured now, it does not support student learning in meaningful ways? I have the following questions:

Is planning time set up to facilitate innovation and cross-curricular learning?

Does it provide opportunities for meaningful pedagogy and assessment opportunities?

Does it benefit students having another teacher stop in for a 30-50 minute period once a week?

I had a very meaningful conversation on Twitter on Oct. 4 with several people including @mzMollyTL and @avivaloca. Two amazing instructional and assessment leaders in Ontario. I have linked our storify here:

Planning Time Storify

I think that, especially in light of key initiatives including the New Pedagogies for Deep Learning opportunity with Michael Fullan, we need to re-think the systems that prevent deeper learning opportunities for students. I think that planning time, while important, needs to be changed in how it is administered, to be more meaningful for teachers and to provide deeper learning opportunities for students.

How does planning time work:

As a Junior or Intermediate teacher, most planning time comes each day in the form of learning French. This is not an area of learning that is easily integrated into the rest of the curriculum due to lack of French speaking educators.

However, in primary divisions, planning time can come in a variety of forms, but mostly in the form of 1 to 3 teachers required to cover subjects including music, drama and dance, health, social studies, phys.ed, art and science –often in 30 – 50 minute blocks. This is often in less time than what could realistically be taught. There are challenges with this system for several reasons:

  1. It perpetuates a mindset that all subjects can be taught in isolated 50 minute blocks; This really puts innovation and new pedagogies on hold when ‘grades’ are expected for teaching 1 subject once a week.
  2. It assumes that students can learn the expectations of a whole subject in 50 minute blocks delivered by one teacher, once a week.
  3. It assumes that meaningful assessment can occur, and
  4. It doesn’t provide enough time for teachers to have real time for moderation and collaboration with colleagues.

I also have real questions about the quality of student learning. If you are the regular classroom teacher, if you don’t finish something, you can integrate it into another subject and finish it in a reasonable time frame. But learning takes time, and meaningful learning opportunities need flexible time frames to support inquiry, deep learning, critical thinking, and all of the 6 C’s. This is impossible if a planning time teacher has meaningful learning opportunities that need to be stopped.

I think that if we care about students and student learning, we need to re-think the role of the planning time teacher. I am not so sure that the current situation is best for students. I think we need to find a way to make the teaching and learning more meaningful for students and teachers alike. This could include combining classes for innovative exploration of makerspaces etc. But also to enable for teacher moderation and purposeful planning together. If teachers had planning time each day, I think that this role could be changed to become one that is holistic, integrative, meaningful for students and important for collaborative leadership skills with the other teachers we work with.

Sound familiar? I would love to try something new, that allows for planning time teachers to be school leaders in terms of instruction and assessment – much like a Teacher-Librarian. In this way, the planning time could occur each day, with opportunities to integrate tasks that foster inquiry, fit in with STEAM, and new pedagogies. Being instructional and assessment leaders, planning time teachers would be experts at assessing, following lines of inquiry, and providing key data and feedback to support a new holistic report card for students.

How can Planning Time be harnessed to support deep learning?

Do we need to make changes?

Deborah McCallum

c 2015



4 responses to “What is Planning Time? Can we improve current models?”

  1. adunsiger Avatar

    Deborah, I’m so glad that you wrote this post. I’ve been thinking a lot about planning time since we had the conversation. I actually spoke to one of my prep coverage teachers, and she’s started extending our classroom learning during the planning time. She comes into our regular learning time, and she brings with her, some provocations and activities to also align with some subject areas that she’s focusing on. It’s worked really well. I think that the students are less stressed, as they now know what to expect from this coverage time, and they don’t need to make one more transition.

    Maybe this is easier to do in Kindergarten, but I wonder what could be done in other grades. Even if prep coverage teachers came to the classroom and slowly transitioned students to a new area, it may make some children less anxious. As homeroom teachers, we could also share with our planning time teachers some current topics of interest or study, allowing for the opportunity to extend learning in this new area and with this new teacher.

    I’m curious to hear what others have done (or would like to do) in regards to planning time. Thanks for starting the conversation!


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Diana Maliszewski Avatar

    Deborah, thanks for not letting that October 4 conversation die! Naturally, I’m rather delighted with the path your reflections seem to be taking, a.k.a. with respect and value to the teacher-librarian. A planning time teacher / prep fairy / specialist teacher might be seen as “less than” a regular classroom teacher, but your meditations suggest otherwise. I also like how you recognize the teacher’s autonomy but balance it with student learning needs. I know I was planning this year not to write long range plans because I wanted them to align more with the classroom teachers’ goals; this hasn’t progressed as smoothly as I would like (but then again, the students seem to be the ones setting the pace in my classes with their requests and questions). On a side note – this would make a fascinating Treasure Mountain Canada research paper; I hope you consider submitting something, if not this particular topic. — Diana

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Steph Donovan Avatar
    Steph Donovan

    Interesting blog!


  4. This Week in Ontario Edublogs | doug --- off the record Avatar

    […] What is Planning Time? Can we improve current models? […]


Please Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: