Increasing Academic Learning Time

Huitt, W. (1997, December). Increasing academic learning time. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved [date], from

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Caldwell, Huitt, & Graeber (1982) collected data on time variables from a variety of sources. No single study had collected data on all of the time variables mentioned below. The arithmetic average was used for the "average" column. The standard deviation for each time measure was added to the average to create the "high average" column. Thus, the high average should be well within the range of most schools and classrooms.

Improving Components of Academic Learning Time
  Average High Average
Daily Annual Daily Annual
--- 180 days --- 180 days
--- 160 days --- 170 days
5 hrs 800 hrs 5 1/2 hrs 935 hrs
Allocated Time
(Basic Skills)
165 mins 440 hrs 210 mins 595 hrs
Rate (%)
60% 75%
99 mins 264 hrs 158 mins 448 hrs
Content Overlap
& Success Rate
50% 70%
Learning Time
50 mins 133 hrs 111 mins 314 hrs

The results of compiling the data for the average column suggests that the amount of Academic Learning Time (ALT) in the average elementary school classroom is less than one hour per day. This is approximately half of the amount of Engaged Time and represents considering both the quantity and quality of academic time spent in school. If school district personnel, school administration, and classroom teachers all make improvements in the time factors under their control, the amount of ALT more than doubles. Is there any doubt that if educators make more efficient use of the time available for schooling, with only a slight increase in the school day, that increases in academic achievement will result?

In addition, it is easy to see that wasted classroom time costs money. For example, if a teacher wastes just 5 minutes a day, every day for the 180 day school year, that amounts to a total of 900 minutes wasted or 15 hours. That is 3 full days of instruction in a school with 5 hour school days. If the average teacher's annual salary is approximately $25,000, that results in over $415 per year per teacher. Even though the average teacher works many more hours than the scheduled teaching day, students are generally not interacting with the teacher during those non-contact hours. And it is student classroom behavior that results in learning, not just spending time in school.

Taking this idea one step further, if the average teacher wastes 5 minutes per hour rather than per day, that amounts to 25 minutes of wasted time per day or 4500 minutes for the school year. That is 75 hours per year or 15 5-hour school days. Using the same average teacher salary of $25,000, that amounts to over $2000 per teacher for the school year. Certainly it is easy to see that educators need to be efficient in the use of the precious little time devoted to schooling if we are also going to be effective in guiding student learning.


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