Research School Network: Looking at a new class through the learning behaviours lens Durrington ELE Deb Friis explains how learning behaviours have helped her think through her approach with a new class.

Looking at a new class through the learning behaviours lens

Durrington ELE Deb Friis explains how learning behaviours have helped her think through her approach with a new class.

by Durrington Research School
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At the start of the new year I moved school to become Lead Practitioner for Maths at an 11 – 18 secondary school. As always, moving school means meeting lots of new people, learning new policies and routines and not least establishing myself with new classes. As with all schools, there are similarities and differences of approach but my main aim has to be to try to instil a good set of learning behaviours in my new students.

Learning behaviours can be defined as the behaviours necessary for effective learning in a classroom setting. These of course include all of the usual expectations of listening and not being disruptive, but there are also other aspects which are important. The EEF puts these into three broad categories:


– Names emotions and expresses them with increasingly accurate vocabulary
– Manages impulses of personal behaviour
– Shows pride in successes


– Focuses on learning in class and can articulate this
– Attentive to directions, listening to the teacher
– Shows empathy and appreciates diversity


– Organises time and space for own learning
– Sets goals and monitors own progress
– Talks purposefully with peers, valuing other opinions

(from Kirsten Mould, EEF Blog, 28 Sept 2020)

One of my classes, my year 7, has been constructed from students previously in other classes and so they have not worked together before. My aim is for my classroom to be a safe and inclusive environment, where it is ok to make mistakes, and where successes are celebrated along with hard thinking and trying your best. As a teacher new to the school I also have to show the students that I understand and follow school procedures and they need to get used to the way things work in my classroom.

We always start lessons with a reconnect” activity, which is usually five questions based on previous learning. Students know that this will be on the board as they arrive, they need to enter and sit down in silence and then start working on the questions in their books. Whilst they are doing this, I do the register. Although there is a good argument for me doing this by eye and allowing them to work uninterrupted in silence, I like to use the register to say hello to every student by name and have eye contact. I explicitly ask students to answer politely with yes, Miss” or here, Miss” and I can use this time as a visual check of their seating and that they are getting on with the task. It also sets a calm and respectful tone for the lesson.

We use mini whiteboards a lot in lessons, and these provide a really good opportunity not only to get the whole class thinking, but also for me to check for understanding, and to show students how their work is valued. I often take a students’ board and show the rest of the class a particularly clear or interesting answer, but I also celebrate mistakes and the learning that comes from them: I’m really glad you made this error Katie as this allows us to consider…”. These help the class to appreciate answers from everyone, and creates a supportive atmosphere. I have very clear routines for mini whiteboard use: lids on pens whilst listening and no doodling, hold boards up just in front of your chest after 321…, and no rubbing out until I say. I narrate these every lesson, as well as explicitly reminding students why we use mini whiteboards (so that I can see everybody’s thinking in the quickest and most efficient way) and the slicker this routine becomes the easier it is for me to check everyone has understood and help where necessary.

Independent work is proving the hardest to crack with this class so far. Whilst having the aim of a classroom where the work is discussed and new ideas are bounced off each other, we are not there yet. At the moment we are concentrating on having a period of silent working, allowing everyone to concentrate and think through the problems without distractions. It is important that I use the school sanctions clearly and consistently at this point, and that the students understand exactly what I expect from them. Eventually I want all students to be thinking metacognitively whilst working by considering what prior learning might help them, or how best to approach a problem. At the moment we discuss these questions as a class and some students will need more scaffolding than others. It is a mixed prior-attaining class and it is important that all students get to think deeply and there is the right amount of challenge for everyone.

Finally I use the school rewards system to celebrate the successes of students in my class. As this system differs considerably from my previous school, I know I need to make it a habit to name my chosen students as we get ready to leave class rather than just remembering to log their reward points later on in the day.

Considering the learning behaviours” as opposed to just the behaviours” that I want in my classroom has made me think much more deeply about how I approach my lessons. There is still a lot to work on with my new class but by maintaining high expectations and explaining to them why these learning behaviours are so important I know we will get there.

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