Behaviour for Learning: A teacher's guide to building the academic skills of a life-long learner.
What are behaviours for Learning?
As a teacher, you're always looking for ways to improve student learning and classroom management. One key aspect to focus on is effective learning behaviours. These are the actions and habits that students engage in to optimize their learning and achieve success.
By promoting positive learning behaviours and minimizing negative behaviours, you can create an environment that is conducive to learning and student interaction.
In this article, we'll explore some effective strategies for encouraging positive learning behaviours and address common negative behaviours that can disrupt the classroom environment. With these insights, you can develop effective classroom management strategies and promote a positive learning culture.
Successful school systems are multi-dimensional and depend on a wide variety of variables including the quality of pedagogy and positive relationships. To succeed in a school community, learners need to develop a certain set of attributes or 'Learning Behaviours'. The good news is that these positive behaviours are indeed 'learnable'. At Structural Learning, we have created a taxonomy and progressional roadmap that documents how children can successfully develop these attributes.
Behavioural Theory to Classroom Practice
In understanding the relationship between behaviour and learning, there are several theoretical frameworks to consider. Beginning with B.F. Skinner's concept of Operant Conditioning, it's clear that reinforcement, either positive or negative, shapes behaviour, directly influencing classroom dynamics. To manifest positive learning behaviour, teachers could utilise Skinner's methods, rewarding desirable behaviour to encourage repetition.
Contrarily, unwanted behaviours may result from 'social loafing,' a tendency for individuals to perform less effectively in group situations. Stemming from the Attribution Theory, it's believed that learners often attribute their success or failure to external factors, breeding a passive learning behaviour. If a learner, for example, consistently attributes their failure to teacher bias, they might disengage, breeding unwanted behaviours. Effective instruction can help students attribute success or failure to their actions, fostering a growth mindset.
Delving deeper into the psychological perspective, Carl Jung’s archetype theories offer a nuanced understanding of neurodiversity in the classroom. Every learner is unique in their way of perceiving and responding to the world, which consequently influences their learning behaviour. For example, a student who aligns with Jung’s ‘Thinker’ archetype may prefer logical, structured learning environments and struggle with ambiguity.
Similarly, Kohlberg's Theory of moral development and Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Model emphasise the influence of external factors on behaviour. The behaviour of learners, especially disadvantaged learners, might reflect influences from wider society, home environment, or peer group, shaping their approach to learning.
Leveraging these theories, an understanding of theories of motivation can help teachers nurture positive learning behaviour. For instance, 'self-determination theory' suggests that autonomy, competence, and relatedness are key motivators. By creating an environment where learners feel autonomous, capable, and connected, teachers can foster behaviours that enhance learning.
As an expert once said, "Learning and behaviour are inextricably connected; one cannot exist without the other." Thus, understanding learners' motivations, influences, and unique perceptions is crucial in promoting positive learning behaviours, and in turn, driving learning success.
According to a study from the Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, classrooms with effective learning behaviour strategies saw a 20% increase in academic engagement. Consequently, understanding the theories behind learning behaviour isn't just academic introspection; it's a key element in unlocking learner potential.
Developing Behaviour for Learning
Successful learning behaviours include an overlap of cognitive and behavioural habits and skills. These attributes all have names and have been studied by developmental and educational psychologists for decades. Within our framework we refer to them as 'Learning Skills'. That is, they are both the mechanism of a successful learning outcome and the end product. To give you a concrete example of an effective learning outcome, let's look at Oracy. We want our learners to be confident speakers, this is an essential skill in life. But Oracy is also a classroom tool for building deep knowledge. It's possible for teaching strategies to address both the short-term and long-term goals of an education if we think of behaviour for learning this way.
Key Behaviours for Learning: What Successful Students Do
Successful students display certain key behaviours that foster effective learning, both inside and outside the classroom. These behaviours include engaging in independent activities, exhibiting positive behaviour and learning habits, and prioritizing individual learning.
In this list, we will explore in detail the specific behaviours that successful students utilize to enhance their learning experience and achieve their academic goals. By fostering these behaviors, your students can reach their full potential.
Learning to learn. Students must be able to identify their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of others. They need to know how they can improve themselves through self-assessment and reflection on what has been learned.
Self-regulation. Students have the ability to control their emotions and impulses when faced with challenging situations or difficult tasks. This includes being able to delay gratification so that more important goals may be achieved.
Motivation. Students should understand why it is worthwhile to study a subject and persist at times when motivation wanes.
Critical thinking skills. Students develop an understanding of different ways of knowing and apply this knowledge appropriately to solve problems.
Communication skills. Students use language effectively both orally and written. They also demonstrate empathy by listening carefully to other people’s views before responding.
Creativity. Students show originality and imagination in solving problems and developing new ideas.
Problem Solving Skills. Students recognise patterns and relationships between things and events. They then make connections between these concepts and draw conclusions about them.
Mathematical Thinking. Students become adept at using mathematics to model real world phenomena. For example, students might construct graphs showing trends over time, predict future outcomes based on current data, calculate probabilities, etc.
Behaviour for Learning in the Classroom
Creating an exceptionally positive climate for learning requires a behavioural expectation of all learners. Good quality teaching should have behaviour expectations embedded into its design from day one. Behaviour management skills includes managing student behaviours such as talking out loud during class; not taking notes; disrupting the lesson; refusing to follow instructions; arguing with teachers; bullying peers; and generally behaving badly.
The aim here is to ensure that everyone behaves respectfully towards each other and towards the teacher. Teachers who manage disruptive behaviour often find that they spend much less time actually teaching than they would like.
The following sections describe some of the most common types of behaviour expected within classrooms today:
Students listen attentively to lectures, discussions, presentations and group work activities. Learners who pay attention will benefit from increased comprehension and retention of information.
Learners participate actively during class sessions. Active participation involves asking questions, making suggestions, offering opinions, sharing experiences and taking part in debates.
The following behaviours will help create such a climate.
Behaviours which support effective learning include:
• Being prepared – having everything you need ready to go;
• Taking responsibility for your work;
• Making sure you do not interrupt others while they are speaking;
• Listening attentively without interruption;
• Showing respect for teachers and fellow pupils;
• Treating yourself and others respectfully;
• Using appropriate language
Developing positive relationships and behaviours
The teacher-student relationship has a direct impact on student learning, as well as the development of self-esteem in children. In this context, it is important to understand that there are different types of relationships:
• Teacher-Student Relationship – This type of relationship involves an exchange of information or knowledge between two people who have some kind of professional connection with each other. It can be formal or informal.
• Student-Teacher Relationship – A student’s relationship with his/her teacher is based on trust and respect. Students learn from their teachers because they want to do so; they also feel comfortable asking questions about what they don't know. Teachers help them develop skills by providing opportunities for practice and feedback. They encourage students to take responsibility for their own learning.
• Peer Relationships - These involve interactions among peers. Peers may interact through social activities such as sports teams, clubs, academic groups, etc., but peer relations often occur outside these contexts.
Transform culture with a behaviour for learning agenda
There has been much debate about whether critical thinking is a skill or a character disposition. The same could be said about other learning behaviours that we want to promote in the classroom. We have visited several challenging schools where behaviour has been identified as an issue. In these mainstream schools most of the emphasis was placed upon sanctions instead of promoting the development of children's dispositions.
Children in school today require clear feedback when they have displayed positive behaviours. In time, this type of conditioning will lead to the self-regulated learning we all strive for. The learning resources in our membership include the learning skills framework. The badges in this pack help with the communications from schools to parents.
Reinforcing Effective Learning Behaviours
To make the development of positive behaviours visible in a school we have developed a set of eight badges that can be used to reward pupil progress. Primary schools are used to having stickers as rewards but our taxonomy offers more precision to developing effective learning behaviours. We often see house points and certificates being used to nurture purposeful learning environments.
The Learning Skills framework gives teachers a consistent approach to develop deeper learning in their classrooms. The rubrics can help teachers talk about a positive approach to learning that a child has made. The adoption of positive learning behaviours begins to embed itself into the schools DNA as we now have a behaviour system that can track and reward student progress. The stickers bring children's attention to behaviours for learning and also demonstrates their adoption to the parents. Positive learning behaviours can even be integrated into schools assessment systems.
Teaching techniques should have a focus on behaviour management rather than just teaching content. Teaching methods must include strategies which support good classroom discipline. For example, if a class is noisy then the teacher needs to find ways to reduce noise levels. If a group of children are disruptive then the teacher will need to identify how best to manage this situation.
In addition to using specific teaching techniques, teachers can use general approaches to managing behaviour. Teaching should have knowledge acquisition at its heart but this is impossible if low-level disruption is preventing it. We get into teaching not to discipline but to bring meaning to children's lives. However, if positive learning behaviours have not become habitual then we have no chance of making the impact we wish for. In this sense, improving behaviour with teaching techniques is all of our responsibility.
Teaching Behaviour for Learning : A Framework for Schools
The Learning Skills model was designed to provide an alternative way of thinking about teaching and learning. It provides a structure for planning lessons and assessing outcomes. This means that teachers can plan ahead and design lessons around key concepts or topics. As well as helping teachers think about lesson plans, the learning skills model helps them assess whether pupils understand the material taught.
What is an ambulatory teaching setting? Ambulatory settings are those where students move from one activity to another within the same room. They may go from sitting down to standing up, moving between different activities such as reading, writing, listening, speaking etc. Ambulatory settings allow us to teach across multiple modalities and they encourage active engagement by allowing learners to choose what they want to do next.
Ambulant teaching methods allows you to:
• Teach more effectively because you don’t have to worry about getting your materials out quickly enough before the bell rings;
• Use time efficiently so that you spend less time preparing each day;
• Allow students to work independently without having to supervise every step;
• Encourage independent thought and problem solving;
• Provide opportunities for self-directed study;
• Give students choices over when and how much information they learn;