Digitalisation in the school system – Challenges for working time and workload of teachers in Germany

Author(s) Dr. Frank Mußmann, Dr. Thomas Hardwig
Institution(s) Cooperation Office Universities and Trade Unions of the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

Kooperationsstelle Hochschulen und Gewerkschaften

Weender Landstraße 3, D-37073 Göttingen, Germany

phon. +49–551–39–27468; mail: / /

Maybe further partner(s)

Surveying institute:
Polling Centre Bonn – Prof. Rudinger GmbH (uzbonn GmbH)
Gesellschaft für empirische Sozialforschung und Evaluation

Theoretical framework/approach A survey on the state of digitalisation at public schools in upper secondary level (general programmes), ISCED Level 2/Level 3 or ISCED 24/ISCED Level 34, during which the teaching staff assess the current use of potentials for digitalisation in their schools, their own digital competences as well as their working situation. In doing so, they compare the current state of digitalisation in their schools with the situation prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. This takes place on the basis of an integrated concept of digitalisation. The focus lies on the embedded use of technology as pertains to the organisation of school as well as social, content-related and pedagogical aspects. Furthermore, the teachers are questioned in regards to the strain imposed on them during the special situation of the pandemic. The inquiry into the working situation follows the tradition of occupational and ergonomic teaching research on the basis of a multidimensional model of job strains and resources.
Research questions

The survey enquires into the requirements and conditions for successful digitalisation in the school system from the perspective of teachers. Thus, it focuses not only on the general challenges in regard to labour policies posed by digitalisation, but also on the specific additional load of distance teaching, alternating teaching etc. as applied during the pandemic. Central questions are: To which extent have the schools been unlocking the potentials for digitalisation in teaching and in the school administration and which factors are these potentials connected to? Which significance do institutionally created conditions have? How important is the disposability of certain technological applications, digitalisation strategies in schools, pedagogical concepts with regard to those strategies, or the implementation of measures aimed at developing competences for teachers? On the other hand, which values do individual expectations of teachers have as pertains to digitalisation, their developing digital competences or their individual situation of strain and resources as well as digitally induced stress?

The aim of the study is the identification of urgent, labour policy-related fields where action is required for successful digitalisation and to deliberately relieve teachers caught in the process of transformation from the additional strain imposed on them.

Themes / topics
  • The state, framework conditions and potentials of digitalisation in the German school system
  • Self-evaluation of competences, degree of maturity, (new) requirements and stress caused by the unusually intense use of digital media and technologies
  • Presence and significance of digital school strategies
  • Accessibility and use of digital media and technologies
  • Outline of the digital infrastructure and the application of digital media and technologies in teaching, staff collaboration and school organisation
  • Integration of technological, pedagogical and content knowledge in the application of digital media and technologies
  • Integration of students into the process of digitalisation
  • Basic and advanced training activities for the educational benefits of digital technologies
  • Teachers’ working time (working time estimator)
  • Teachers’ workload and resources
  • New/additional requirements imposed by increased pedagogical application of digital media and technologies, digital stress
  • COVID-19-related challenges and stress caused by increased use of digital media and technologies
  • Delimitation, presenteeism, psychological fatigue
  • Work-life-balance, fitness for work, job satisfaction
Main findings of study / highlights

Study in progress/fieldwork phase in January until February 2021. Therefore, there are no findings as of January 2021. Results are expected by June/July 2021.

Methods Quantitative Study of empirical social research
Analytic Appraoch The aims of analysis are mainly explorative-descriptive. The emphasis of the survey lies on the experiences and expectations of the teaching staff involved in the digitalisation of the school system. This is meant to balance out a potentially one-sided discussion, for the foreground of the public discussion of the design of digitalisation in the education sector is filled with the (dis-) advantages and requirements of digitalisation with regard to the students. In view of analysis, the focus is on taking inventory of the state, perspectives and requirements of digitalisation as experienced by teachers. Based on standardised instruments and comparative figures, correlation analyses will also be conducted and recommended actions compiled.
Desig of data collection

Standardised online questionnaire (CAWI)

Access to the online questionnaire is only open to registered teaching staff

Instruments applied:

SELFIE (excerpt), TPACK (excerpt), ICILS (excerpt), DGB Index Gute Arbeit [DGB Good Work Index GWI] (excerpt), CBI (Personal Burnout), Lower-saxonian Model of working time documentation, further instruments for the estimation of technostress, of COVID-19-related challenges created by the application of digital media and technologies as well as tools for taking inventory of digital tools and features in the school sector

Time(s) of data collection Fieldwork phase in January/February 2021
Kind of sampling, kind and number of sample
Regionally specific quota sampling with open field access via regional and local contacts of the Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft (Trade Union of education and science) as well as multiplicators in schools with the aim of activating a teaching staff sample with representative structural features. Quality-assuring registration procedures and minimum staff participation quotas. Teaching staff at grammar schools, comprehensive schools and comparable school types (schools with an approach not solely focused on Abitur) in secondary level I and II (SCED 24/ISCED Level 34). Open acquisition with target quotas ideally above 2% of all teaching staff groupings per state (target: 3,000 – 5,000 teachers).
Geographical area Federal Republic of Germany/16 federal states
  • Frank Mußmann, Martin Riethmüller, Thomas Hardwig (2016): Niedersächsische Arbeitszeitstudie Lehrkräfte an öffentlichen Schulen 2015 / 2016, Göttingen, [Working time study 2016]
  • Frank Mußmann, Thomas Hardwig, Martin Riethmüller (2017): Niedersächsische Arbeitsbelastungsstudie 2016, Lehrkräfte an öffentlichen Schulen, Göttingen, [Stress study 2017]
  • Thomas Hardwig, Frank Mußmann (2018): Zeiterfassungsstudien zur Arbeitszeit von Lehrkräften in Deutschland. Konzepte, Methoden und Ergebnisse von Studien zu Arbeitszeiten und Arbeitsverteilung im historischen Vergleich, Göttingen, [Methodical comparative and literature study on teachers working time 2018]
  • Expertengremium Arbeitszeitanalyse (2018): Empfehlungen zur Entwicklung arbeitszeitrechtlicher Normen für Lehrerinnen und Lehrer sowie Schulleitungen an niedersächsischen Schulen. Bericht des Expertengremiums Arbeitszeitanalyse. Hg. v. Niedersächsisches Kultusministerium (Hg.). Hannover,[Recommendations of a ministerial commission for working time regulations 2018]
  • Frank Mußmann, Thomas Hardwig, Martin Riethmüller, Stefan Klötzer, Stefan Peters (2020): Arbeitszeit und Arbeitsbelastung von Lehrkräften an Frankfurter Schulen 2020, Göttingen, [Working time and stress study 2020]
Project website

Further information
Repository Factsheet