Education and Human Sciences, College of (CEHS)


First Advisor

Rachel E. Schachter

Date of this Version



Hamel, E. (2021). Exploring Non-Contact Time in Early Childhood Education


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Human Sciences (Child, Youth, and Family Studies), Under the Supervision of Professor Rachel E. Schachter. Lincoln, Nebraska: July, 2021

Copyright © 2021 Erin E. Hamel


Early childhood teachers have been the subject of many studies. Their qualifications, practices, and interactions with children have been widely researched as avenues for improving early childhood education. Yet little is known about the work supports early childhood teachers need to be successful. Non-contact time is one element of a supportive work environment that supports teachers’ ability to address their professional expectations. However, information and guidance on non-contact time is lacking or absent from the literature. This study addresses this gap by exploring non-contact time from the perspectives of directors and teachers.

An embedded mixed methods design was used to investigate non-contact time in high-quality early childhood programs. This study had three aims. First, to identify the term or phrase directors and teachers use to refer to non-contact time. Second, to identify the amount of non-contact time teachers’ have and describe how they use it. And third, to identify the factors that directors consider when allotting non-contact time to teachers. A total of 210 participants (104 directors and 106 teachers) completed an online survey.

Directors and teachers identified “planning time” as the most common way to refer to non-contact time in their programs. Results indicated that directors’ expectations for and teachers’ use of non-contact time included many activities outside of planning. The amounts of time teachers were allotted and received varied widely, although one thing was consistent, most directors and teachers acknowledged that teachers rarely have enough non-contact time. Teachers reported addressing this lack of time with strategies that have the potential to impact job satisfaction and the quality of the classroom experience. Even though directors recognized that teachers needed more time, programmatic considerations were the most influential when making non-contact time decisions.

This research provides a description of non-contact time in early childhood education that can be used to inform policies and practices to support a profession that has been historically underpaid and underappreciated. Implications of these findings are discussed along with directions for future research.

Advisor: Rachel E. Schachter