Research School Network: Learning Behaviours: Equipping Pupils And Staff With The Necessary Tools Teacher at Billesley Primary School, Zainab Altaf, draws on personal experience & EEF guidance to explore SEL fundamentals


Learning Behaviours: Equipping Pupils And Staff With The Necessary Tools

Teacher at Billesley Primary School, Zainab Altaf, draws on personal experience & EEF guidance to explore SEL fundamentals

What are learning behaviours? The challenge for educational practitioners is often how to effectively implement positive learning behaviours in the classroom and steering pupils away from so-called bad behaviours”. The icing on the cake” is finding out how effective learning behaviour strategies can transcend the classroom and help practitioners to train young minds to learn in any type of environment.

When we first think of learning behaviour”, we often build a picture in our minds of teachers using multiple different methods to help stop negative behaviour from recurring in the environment. This could be in the form of using something daily as table points” to something as drastic as behaviour charts or zone boards”. However learning behaviour” is much more complex and has many more factors influencing it. A simple definition of learning behaviour” would be the combination of two targeted areas: managing behaviour” and promoting learning” (Ellis and Todd, 2018). To deliver effective learning behaviour strategies, practitioners must be able to help children build upon 3 different types of relationships: the relationships they have with others around them so they can develop meaningful relationships; the relationships they have with themselves to build self-confidence; and the relationship with the curriculum they follow to help access, understand and respond effectively. It is important for practitioners to discover their chosen style of teaching, have an insightful understanding of their curriculum, and be aware of each child’s individual needs, in order to successfully promote strong learning behaviours in their environment (Powell and Todd, 2004).

To begin we must understand that learning is not exclusive to the domain of education and is something that starts in our lives long before we start school (Pritchard, 2013). Surprisingly, learning behaviour” has much more to do with neuropsychology and how we can strengthen our relationship with our brain activity and abilities such as memory, attention and reasoning (Fuchs, 2009). As the EEF guidance report on SEL points out Efforts to promote SEL skills may be especially important to children from disadvantaged backgrounds who on average have weaker SEL skills at all ages than their better off peers. This matters for a range of outcomes, as lower levels of SEL skills are associated with poorer mental health and academic attainment.” (EEF, 2021)

Early Years environments should aim to provide quick learning sessions which do not overload children with unnecessary information – this can be modelled from the day-to-day conversations practitioners have with their pupils. It is important to convey key vocabulary to help children learn new information in chunks, rather than all-at-once. This can prevent any confusion and misconceptions from occurring. Key principles for any adult working with young children should be:

What really needs to be communicated with the child? What is the simplest way you can get your message across? What key vocabulary do you want the children to take away from what you have said?”

This not only helps children with how they process information but also helps improve their metacognitive learning as they are only being exposed to certain words. Regular revisiting of taught content is also vital, to strengthen and deepen the connections in the brain so that children remember more over time. This promotes a sense of achievement and pride in their learning.

Moreover, it is important to remember that the tools you provide to help promote learning behaviours should be altered and scaffolded to target each child individually. Being aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the children in your classroom can help you set up targeted support strategies, such as interventions and challenges which can enable your children to be better equipped as learners overall. As an Early Years educator, the first step you can take to effectively put in place positive learning behaviours” is building on your one-to-one relationships with your pupils. These high quality interactions, such as the EEF ShREC approach (Share attention; Respond; Expand; Conversation), can help build trust between you and your pupils, which ultimately reduces any stress/​anxiety that your children may feel which could have interfered with how they processed new information around them. Additional strategies could include: setting/​modelling high expectations to help children understand what behaviour you desire from them; consistent and fair praise; daily routines to help build structure; specific targeted questioning to help assess learning; and using different communication methods such as pitched voices, rhymes and songs to ensure the children are always engaged.

Finally, the EEF recommends that SEL professional development should extend to teaching and non-teaching staff equally, with the desired focus on the following three goals: “[a] Readiness for change […] Specific skills-based training […] and Embedded Practices” (EEF, 2021),


EEF (2021) Improving Social and Emotional Learning in Primary Schools”, Education Endowment Foundation

Ellis, S. and Tod, J. (2018)​“Behaviour for Learning: Promoting Positive Relationships in the Classroom”, Routledge

Powell, S & Tod, J (2004) A systematic review of how theories explain learning behaviour in school contexts.”, EPPI-Centre

Pritchard, A. (2013) Ways of Learning: Learning Theories and Learning Styles in the Classroom”, Routledge

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