Research School Network: Focus Forward: Maximising Classroom Learning Through Strategic Attention Directives Rima Alam, Assistant Headteacher at Pegasus Academy, shares her school’s approach to improving learning behaviour.


Focus Forward: Maximising Classroom Learning Through Strategic Attention Directives

Rima Alam, Assistant Headteacher at Pegasus Academy, shares her school’s approach to improving learning behaviour.

The word behaviour’ in relation to teaching has often been associated with strategies employed to manage misbehaviour and can often be thought of separately to teaching and learning. 

With the profession rapidly evolving, there has been a rightful shift towards focusing on learning 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).

Learning behaviours

The term learning behaviours’ must not be thought of in isolation as it really consists of a number of interlinking ideas and strategies i.e. behaviour, metacognition, parental engagement, SEND and SEL. This connection of previously separately thought of concepts is crucial in allowing learning to occur and central to this is explicitly teaching learning behaviours (EEF, 2019).

Learning behaviours

As an academy, our Teaching and Learning Working Party meet regularly to triangulate findings and identify specific symptoms’ bespoke to our context to set our T&L priorities. 

We also utilized our links with external experts to compile a list of symptoms’ we have seen around the academy through lesson observations, learning walks and termly departmental deep dives, to identify our highest leverage action step. This kind of symptoms’ approach has led to sharper diagnosis of need in our academy, and with this, greater appropriateness, and effectiveness, of the chosen strategy. 

Staff are increasingly familiar with Willingham’s memory model to understand the science of learning, and, whilst this was widely embedded in the planning of our curriculum, the problem we had identified as key was attention’.

What we attend to is ultimately what we learn” (Peps McCrea, 2023), and we saw that, despite the experience and hard work of staff in terms of planning, without a focus on improving attention, we risk passive learning, thus ultimately limiting impact. Professor Daniel Muijs recogises: you cannot drive metacognition if engagement isn’t right’.

Cog science image attention

As a working party led by the VP T&L, we agreed that transition points in lessons, be it teacher exposition, modelling or AfL, would be our highest leverage action and with this in mind 3, 2, 1, STAR” was born.

3, 2, 1, STAR!

S – Sit Up Straight

to look interested and stay engaged, to show opting in to learning

T- Track the teacher/​speaker

to show them you are paying attention to the important information that is being shared

A- Active Listening, (pens/​equipment down)

to show engagement, that you are listening and concentrating

R- Respect and Respond (answer and ask questions)

to ensure the learning environment allows everyone to learn and to make sure you understand

Once this was agreed and finalized using a range of staff across different departments (ENGAGE from the new implementation guidance – page 9), the next stage was the implementation. 

Whole staff CPD was delivered to explain the WHY and to model good practice again using a range of classroom practitioners to show how a small tweak can have high impact in terms of classroom practice and teaching and learning. The action required no additional planning/​workload with staff and the focus on consistency was a key feature of the CPD.

Once staff were well versed in 3, 2, 1 STAR, the next stage was to roll this out with our learners. We had planned to start at the start of a new half term so the week prior, assemblies were delivered to all learners. The strategy was further explained and modelled in tutor time (UNITE from the new implementation guidance report – page 10) and PSHE in the same week to reinforce and model ahead of the whole school launch.

Our weekly SLT meetings have a standing item on the agenda, named Where we’ve been and what we’ve seen”, in addition to SLT modelling the good practice, this strategy had been a focus of daily learning walks. Staff feedback (REFLECT from the new implementation guidance report – page 11) was also collated once the strategy had been fully launched which allowed us to refine our practice, for example, praising the learners regularly getting it right with the introduction of a STAR’ merit.

Key points

-Learning behaviours are necessary to enable high quality teaching and learning.

-Key points in lessons (be it teacher exposition, modelling of AfL), require learners’ full attention in order to process and retain information.

-Whole school initiatives do not always have to be time consuming or costly, find the highest leverage action step that will have the biggest impact in your context.

Shaping student habits and attention leads to profound change in actions, cognition and learning”

Doug Lemov


Ellis, S. and Tod, J., 2018. Behaviour for learning: Promoting positive relationships in the classroom. Routledge.

Rhodes, I., Long, M., Moore, D., Benham-Clarke, S., Kenchington, R., Boyle, C., Ford, T., Hayes, R. and Rogers, M., 2019. Improving behaviour in schools: Guidance report. (

Muijs, D. and Reynolds, D., 2017. Effective teaching: Evidence and practice. Sage.

Lemov, D., Hernandez, J. and Kim, J., 2016. Teach like a champion field guide 2.0: A practical resource to make the 62 techniques your own. John Wiley & Sons.

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