Activity and contextual codes – Implications for time-use coding schemes

Andrew Harvey, Jamie Spinney

Time use, context, data collection, for whom, teachers

Time-use studies are designed to picture human behaviour as it is played out day by day. That behaviour has many dimensions, with the main activity usually playing the starring role. However, activity context, where people are, whom they are with, “for whom” they are performing an activity, and how they feel about it can be equally, if not more, important. In reality the experience of living is the concurrent experience of all of these. Traditional activity definitions and grouping exhibit a mélange of “activity” codes developed a priory using the several dimensions based on preconceived activity expectations. Contextual dimensions are examined in a brief review of the origin and development of coding practices and major studies identifying problems at the data capture, coding, and analysis levels. A potential remedy is to be found in contextual coding, which could improve the outcome at all three stages. An alternative contextual approach, the incorporation of a “for whom” column in the diary, is recommended. Data collected from Nova Scotia teachers using two diary versions are presented to provide some insight into its use. Results differ both quantitatively and qualitatively. This approach added to both the number of work activities and the total amount of work time.