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A systematic review of principal time use research

Craig Hochbein (College of Education, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA)
Abby Mahone (College of Education, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA)
Sara Vanderbeck (College of Education, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Article publication date: 19 February 2021

Issue publication date: 27 February 2021




To advance the study of principal time use (PTU), the purpose of this study is to report findings from a systematic review of PTU research. In addition to identifying common findings, this study also examined the supporting evidence and methodologies of PTU studies. From this dual approach, this study specified the evidence that supports claims about PTU, as well as identified areas requiring future examination.


A systematic reference review process considered 5,746 potential PTU manuscripts. The inclusion criteria identified 55 studies published between 1920 and 2015. This review synthesized data pertaining to the methodologies and findings of PTU research.


Findings from studies conducted across decades indicated that principals worked extensive hours. Moreover, the workdays of principals consisted of brief and unrelated activities, most often focused on noninstructional tasks. Contrary to common hypotheses, studies indicated that PTU dedicated to administrative tasks exhibited positive correlations with educational outcomes. However, claims about PTU have been derived from samples overrepresented by large urban school districts and limited periods of observation.

Practical implications

Future studies should implement diversified sampling strategies and extended observation periods. For principal preparation programs, the results indicated an opportunity for increased instruction on time management skills.


This systematic review identifies the overlooked history of the research and specifies the evidence that supports common claims about PTU, which provides empirically derived guidance for future PTU studies.



Hochbein, C., Mahone, A. and Vanderbeck, S. (2021), "A systematic review of principal time use research", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 59 No. 2, pp. 215-232.



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