: Behaviour Management vs Teaching Learning Behaviours John Rodgers discusses a shift of focus from managing a child’s behaviour towards teaching a child learning behaviours.


Behaviour Management vs Teaching Learning Behaviours

John Rodgers discusses a shift of focus from managing a child’s behaviour towards teaching a child learning behaviours.

by Cornwall Research School
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John Rodgers

Director of Cornwall Research School

John has been a teacher for 24 years, the last 19 in Cornwall. He currently works as an Assistant Principal at Mounts Bay Academy, Penzance. He is also the Content Lead for Secondary Literacy for RS Network.

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“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”


Behaviour in schools and classrooms has been a focus of much media and research interest. Pupil behaviour remains a challenging issue for teachers and school leaders, and its management is often cited as one of the most difficult tasks that both experienced and new teachers must contend with in schools. Difficulties in classroom management often lead to stress, burnout and exit from the teaching profession, as well as being a deterrent for those considering teaching as a career. It is also cited as a challenge for headteachers across all school phases. Ineffective classroom management can lead to pupil disengagement, aggression, low attendance, and bullying. Understanding the factors that influence pupils’ behaviour is complex, even defining behaviour can prove difficult and contentious.

Improving Behaviour in Schools Evidence Review cites behaviour does not only refer to poor behaviour or misbehaviour (e.g. aggressive behaviour, physically disruptive behaviour, socially disruptive behaviour, authority-challenging behaviour, self-disruptive behaviour). They also include positive behaviour for learning (e.g. concentration, prosocial behaviour, and engagement).

Research evidence suggests that a shift of focus from managing a child’s behaviour towards teaching a child learning behaviours may be beneficial.

“While accepting that teachers will need to manage behaviour at times, promoting learning behaviours could be seen as not only in the interest of the child and their peers in class but also of the whole school, as well as the child throughout their education and adulthood. Moreover, a focus on teaching learning behaviours seems to fit well with the role of a teacher and be in their sphere of control, whereas managing a child’s misbehaviour may be complex and challenging. Furthermore, even if a teacher successfully manages a child’s behaviour this does not necessarily lead to that child learning.”

Darren Moore et al

Recommendation Two of the EEF Improving Behaviour in Schools Guidance Report states that schools should:

Teach Learning Behaviours Alongside Managing Misbehaviour

  • Teaching learning behaviours will reduce the need to manage misbehaviour.
  • Teachers can provide the conditions for learning behaviours to develop by ensuring pupils can access the curriculum, engage with lesson content and participate in their learning.
  • Teachers should encourage pupils to be self-reflective of their own behaviours.

A learning behaviour can be thought of as a behaviour that is necessary in order for a person to learn effectively in the group setting of the classroom (Ellis and Todd, 2018).

The term reflects the key principle that the priority of a teacher is to promote learning. The Evidence for Policy & Practice Information (EPPI) review (Powell and Tod 2004) identified a set of learning behaviours drawn from the Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) professional standards (DfES/​TTA 2002) in place at the time. These were: engagement, collaboration, participation, communication, motivation, independent activity, responsiveness, self-regard, self-esteem, responsibility.

Kirsten Mould helpfully proposes a classification of Emotional, Social and Cognitive learning behaviours (see her blog here).

In the Education Brief: Behaviour for Learning, Cambridge Assessment International Education suggest that there are important considerations to make when deciding to develop a specific learning behaviour. 

  • The learning behaviour should be positively expressed, rather than referring to the reduction or absence of an unwanted behaviour (e.g. uses class conventions to ask for help or make a contribution’ rather than doesn’t call out’). 

  • The learning behaviour should be assessable – the teacher should be able to identify specific indicators that would evidence progress in the development of the learning behaviour. 

  • If the learning behaviour identified represents a disposition (e.g. is more confident’) it should still be possible to identify some behaviours that would indicate its development. For example, an indicator of improving confidence might be initiates interactions with a familiar adult’.”

They use the following diagram to suggest some specific learning behaviours associated with collaboration:

Screenshot 2024 03 05 at 10 44 18

Schools and teachers should look to develop their pupils as learners, and explicit teaching of well specified learning behaviours may well play a pivotal role in this effort.

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