1. Strand overview and contracting

Video transcript

Presenter: Peps McCrea

We all know teachers who are great at fostering good behaviour. Pupils seem to like them, to work hard in their lessons. Perhaps you can remember a favorite teacher who neither you nor your classmates would mess around for. It’s tempting to think that this is down to individual character traits, that good behaviour management is just something that teachers can just do.  But in fact, helping pupils to behave in a way that will support them to learn is something that all teachers can learn to do well. As role models for pupils, we can have a big influence over how they behave.

Presenter: Nicholas Hickman

Behaviour for learning involves putting things in place that will enable your pupils to think hard and try their best. Most effective behavior management strategies are proactive, rather than reactive. They involve advance planning. They require teachers to think about what they can do to shape behaviour for the better. To build an effective learning environment, teachers need to establish and maintain strong routines and set high expectations for learning. We also need to teach pupils the specific behaviours that support their learning. And to build strong relationships with pupils, teachers need to behave in a way that is consistent and make an effort to get to know them. Get to know the school behaviour policy, greet pupils in the corridors, make positive phone calls home. All of these things build trust and show that teachers care. Good behavior management doesn’t happen by chance or by magic. It happens as a result of advance planning and implementing tried and tested strategies over and over again. The results will be more than worth the effort.

Presenter: Peps McCrea

Over the course of the behaviour strand, we will help you learn how to shape your pupils’ behaviour, so that enables them to get the best out of school and beyond. The material’s based on a growing body of evidence for both outside and inside the classroom. In the first half of the strand, we’ll show you ways of effectively managing behavior. We’ll show you the value of strong classroom routines, clear expectations, and trust. In the second half of the strand, we look at how to create a climate for effective learning by providing structured support, helping pupils to be more receptive to challenge, and supporting them to think hard.

The strand has been carefully sequenced so that it supports you across the term. At the beginning of the strand, we cover how to set up some of the key routines that you will want to have in place from day one. Towards the end of the strand, we’ll explore practices that require more complex behaviour management, such as setting up effective group work. What you learn in the first half of the strand will support you in the second.

Each video will provide you with an overview of the module, practical strategies, and the model of classroom practice to watch and unpick. The videos focus on techniques that you can apply in the classroom and draw on the same research base that is outlined in the evidence summary. We don’t want you to just copy what you see in the videos. One example alone can never fit every context. What they can do, however, is give you a concrete example of some of the key ideas that you will learn. When you’re watching, pay close attention to the ideas that we highlight. These ideas are transferable across all subjects, phases, and learners. The better you understand these core principles, the more you will be able to adapt what you see to your specific needs.

Over the course of this strand, we want you to learn some practical ways in which you can manage classroom behaviour, as well as some of the theory that underpins these practices. You will come to see that managing behaviour isn’t just about stopping disruption and getting pupils to comply. There’s a lot more we can do to influence pupil thinking and motivation, which will ultimately help them to learn.

When behaviour’s going well, not only do pupils learn more, but it’s a much more enjoyable experience for everyone.

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Read | Strand introduction

Welcome to the Behaviour strand of the programme. This strand is composed of 12 modules and has been designed to last roughly a term. It is best completed during your first term as an NQT – typically the autumn term.

By the end of this strand you will have an evidence-informed understanding of:

  • How to establish an effective learning environment.
  • How to effectively manage behaviour.
  • The importance of holding and promoting high expectations for all pupils.

This programme has been designed to ensure that teachers develop a holistic understanding of effective teaching so, while the Behaviour strand is mostly about behaviour, it also incorporates insights from Instruction and Subject.

Furthermore, you’ll notice that as the strand progresses, modules will often touch on previously learned content. This is intentional and a crucial aspect of your learning experience. Some concepts on the programme are so important that they need to be revisited multiple times to ensure you develop a deep and durable understanding.

The strand comprises modules sequenced to first explore the process of establishing an effective learning environment, before considering how to promote behaviours that support effective learning.

  • Module 1 explores the foundations of effective behaviour management.
  • Modules 2-5 cover the process of laying the foundations of an effective learning environment.
  • Modules 6-7 cover the process of maintaining an effective learning environment over time.
  • Modules 8-11 explore more complex ideas around certain practices that can support more effective learning, incorporating and building on previous modules.
  • Module 12 explores how teachers continue to improve the learning environment over time.

Making it work

The features of effective learning environments can vary slightly depending on the subject(s), phase(s) or community you teach. In addition, there are some elements of the learning environment, like the school behaviour policy, that you will have limited control over. This is why it’s important that you work with subject and phase specialists in your school to help you identify the best ways to apply your learning. You have the responsibility to take ownership of your professional development and make it work, but also the right to seek assistance and support (for example with challenging behaviour). Talking to your colleagues and your mentor about the ideas and practices you encounter will help you to better understand what ‘good’ looks like for your particular context.

The evidence cited in the strand draws primarily from research on:

  • Classroom practices of effective teachers.
  • Cognitive science and educational psychology (for example, how pupils learn).
  • Evidence on effective educational approaches (both in the UK and internationally).

You might have previously come across some of the terminology explored, however some of the technical language used, particularly around cognitive science, may be new to you. Several key terms are explored further in the evidence summary below.

A reminder of the programme pattern

Each module in the Behaviour strand follows the pattern below:

  • A 10-minute video shows what some of the key ECF ideas in the module look like in practice.
  • A 15-minute evidence summary provides an overview of key research to read relating to the key ECF ideas in the module.
  • 15 minutes of quiz and reflection enable you to check your understanding and consider the evidence in light of your knowledge and experiences.
  • Weekly instructional coaching that draws on this material and tailors the weekly focus to your specific context and needs, including the needs of your pupils, with built-in opportunities for practice. This is the main part of the mentoring process.

Year one of the programme has been designed with the intention of schools working through one module per week. However, the programme has been built in a flexible way so that schools can adapt it to their needs and work through it at a slower pace as required, while still ensuring they cover the ECF.

Now that we have introduced how the strand will work, it’s time to dive into an evidence summary exploring some of some of the key ideas that underpin the strand.

B1 | Strand overview

Teaching challenge

Ms Foden is starting a new year at school. She wants to create an effective learning environment for all of her pupils but worries that she may find it difficult to get some pupils to listen, work independently, or show sufficient respect in the classroom. What does an effective learning environment look like, and where should she start in building one?

Key idea

Creating a predictable and secure classroom environment, managing pupil behaviour and holding high expectations all contribute to more successful learning.

Evidence summary

The classroom environment and pupil learning

Effective teaching entails improving pupil achievement, in terms of both academic outcomes as well as other outcomes that matter to their future and success (Coe et al., 2014). Improving pupil achievement means generating a lasting change to pupils’ capabilities or understanding. Pupil behaviour, the learning environment and how teachers manage these, all play a critical role in improving pupil learning.

The learning environment or classroom ‘climate’ is a result of multiple factors, such as (Coe et al., 2014):

  • Teacher expectations.
  • The relationships between teachers and pupils.
  • How the teacher manages the classroom.

There is strong evidence that certain teaching approaches lead to better pupil behaviour and create a more effective learning environment (IES, 2008).

The most effective learning environments are those that are predictable and secure, where pupils are responsive to the teacher (IES, 2008), and where pupils feel a sense of connection to their school, peers and teachers. Such classroom environments also contribute to a positive school culture (Chapman et al., 2013). Classroom environments like these are good for all pupils, but particularly those with special educational needs (Carroll et al., 2017).

In general, pupils are more alike than different in terms of how they think and learn (Willingham, 2009), so common approaches are likely to be effective in improving pupil behaviour. But this must be balanced with the need to match teaching and classroom management to individual pupil needs (IES, 2008). Providing additional support can be particularly beneficial to pupils with specific barriers to learning (Carroll et al., 2017).

In addition to improving pupil behaviour, over time effective learning environments can produce a range of important benefits, including:

  • Pupil-teacher relationships: Positive relationships and pupil perceptions of their teacher are based on repeated interactions over time (Wubbels et al., 2014). Being responsive to pupil needs, including considering and seeking to understand their feelings, can help build strong teacher-pupil relationships.
  • Pupil attitudes to learning: Pupil perceptions of school are shaped by teacher-pupil interactions and the goals, values and behaviours of classmates (Rathmann et al., 2018).
  • Pupil wellbeing: Pupils who perceive that their teachers are in control of the class and are able to include them in activities are also more likely to feel satisfied in life and have better school outcomes (Rathmann et al., 2018).
  • Wider outcomes: In addition to generating high academic outcomes for pupils, effective environments can also improve wider outcomes such as university entrance and graduation rates, higher wages, and lower chances of becoming pregnant as a teenager (Chetty et al., 2014).

Effective behaviour management

Part of creating an effective learning environment entails managing pupil behaviour. Effective behaviour management happens best when teachers anticipate challenging pupil behaviours and modify the classroom environment to prevent or mitigate them (IES, 2008). Behaviour management strategies typically fall into one of three categories:

  • Proactive: Approaches for pre-empting and preventing problem behaviours before they occur. For example, using seating plans.
  • Reactive: Strategies to deal effectively with classroom behaviours as they arise. For example, using rewards or sanctions.
  • Escalation: Where proactive and reactive strategies are failing to work after a time, or where behaviour is extremely disruptive or dangerous, teachers should follow the school behaviour policy and/or discuss with their mentor what further support can be put in place. For example, calling parents, setting detentions or sending pupils out of the class after a certain number of sanctions.

Part of effective behaviour management involves setting clear rules and consistently reinforcing them (Coe et al., 2014; IES, 2008). The goal of these rules should be to create an environment where pupils are routinely successful (Coe et al., 2014). In the first half of the Behaviour strand we explore a series of teacher approaches that establish an effective learning environment with good pupil behaviour. Evidence suggests that there are several specific ideas and practices that teachers can use to build an effective learning environment and manage pupil behaviour. These include:

Time on task While pupil behaviour is not a perfect indicator of whether pupils are learning (Coe, 2013), there is a significant relationship between the amount of time pupils spend on task and how much they learn (Muijs & Reynolds, 2010).
Peer effects Pupil behaviour is influenced by that of their peers (IES, 2008). The more that individual pupils adopt on-task behaviours, the more likely it is that other pupils will follow them.
Positive reinforcement Positive reinforcement can create an effective learning environment. Positive reinforcement entails providing acknowledgement, praise and rewards for positive behaviours. However, teachers must be careful not to overuse praise, as this can inadvertently communicate low expectations (Coe et al., 2014). To avoid this, teachers can use ‘acknowledgement’ when expectations are merely met and reserve ‘praise’ for when they are exceeded. Sanctions for negative behaviours can also be used alongside positive reinforcement. Providing more praise than reprimand has been found to be most effective (IES, 2008).
Pupil success Ensuring a high pupil success rate is a powerful way to foster pupil behaviour and learning (Rosenshine, 2012). How Ms Foden communicates her expectations of pupil success can influence what they do and achieve. For example, if she inadvertently communicates low expectations of success, pupils can start to think that they can’t do it (Tsiplakides & Keramida, 2010) and reduce the amount of effort they put in (Gutman & Schoon, 2013). Conversely, pupils’ prior experiences of success at a specific, appropriately challenging task makes it more likely they will be motivated to persist at similar tasks in the future; this also makes it more likely they will be successful at such tasks (Gutman & Schoon, 2013). Ms Foden should balance challenge with high success rate (Rosenshine, 2012)
Motivation Pupil motivation can be intrinsic (driven by the task itself) or extrinsic (driven by rewards and sanctions). Pupils who are motivated intrinsically are more likely to stay on task longer and persist when learning gets challenging (Lazowski & Hulleman, 2016). Over time, Ms Foden should aim to reduce extrinsic motivators and increase pupil intrinsic motivation. For example, helping pupils to master challenging content, and make links between their long-term goals and the work they are doing in school, can help pupils to journey from needing extrinsic motivation to being motivated to work intrinsically. Building effective relationships with parents, carers and families can improve pupils’ motivation, as well as pupil behaviour and academic success (EEF, 2018). Ms Foden should use opportunities like parents evening to communicate proactively and engage parents and carers in their children’s schooling.
Self-regulation Self-regulation – the ability to steer our own behaviour and learning – is a strong predictor of attainment and future success. A key aspect of this is emotional regulation (Gutman & Schoon, 2013). This is important because negative pupil emotions can lead to pupils avoiding a task (Kluger & DeNisi 1996) and also because the ability to regulate one’s emotions affects pupils’ ability to learn, success in school and future life (EEF, 2017). Effective self-regulation also requires pupils to develop metacognitive strategies – how they plan, monitor and evaluate their approaches to specific tasks. Teacher support for pupil metacognition is likely to increase pupil self-regulation, success and therefore motivation (EEF, 2017).

Behaviour that fosters effective learning

In the second half of the Behaviour strand, we will explore ways that teachers can foster effective learning. This part of the strand has lots of connections with the Instruction strand. Evidence suggests that there are several specific ideas and practices that teachers can use to generate behaviours that further foster effective learning in the classroom. These include:

Guided instructionPupils learn best when they build on what they already know, and when teachers guide them clearly and directly towards what they need to know – an approach sometimes referred to as ‘explicit instruction’ (Coe et al., 2014). This is in contrast to less guided instruction, where pupils are left to ‘join the dots’ or discover things themselves. Once a teacher has established their classroom expectations, maintaining good pupil behaviour while adding to their teaching repertoire requires effective instruction. There are links with the Instruction strand later in behaviour.
PracticeGetting pupils to think about and practise expected behaviours, by guiding them and reinforcing desirable behaviours, can foster positive changes in pupil behaviour change over time (IES, 2008). Guided practice can develop pupil metacognition linked to specific tasks, and practice can also develop pupils’ capacity to self-regulate their emotions, which can support pupils to be more successful and independent over time (EEF, 2017).

Holding high expectations is one particularly important yet hard-to-pin-down part of creating an effective learning environment. When we talk about teacher expectations we mean: the beliefs that teachers hold and the messages that they communicate regarding what their pupils are capable of, both in terms of behaviour and learning. In turn, this influences the levels of classroom challenge and support that teachers provide (Coe et al., 2014). Inadvertently communicating low expectations can lead to a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’, where pupils behave and learn in line with what the teacher expects rather than what they are capable of (Murdock-Perriera et al., 2018; Tsiplakides & Keramida, 2010).

Nuances and caveats

Behaviour is only one piece of the effective teaching puzzle. Effective instruction and sound teacher subject knowledge are also critical (Coe et al., 2014). And perhaps most importantly, these different dimensions of effective teaching influence each other – it is only when they are aligned that effective teaching can flourish (IES, 2008).

So, while Ms Foden must work hard to develop her understanding and approach around behaviour, she must also recognise that this needs to go hand-in-hand with things like providing the right balance of challenge and support for helping her pupils to experience regular success in the classroom. It is little wonder that becoming a great teacher takes time and continued learning.

Key takeaways

Ms Foden can promote positive pupil behaviour and an effective learning environment by understanding that:

  • Holding high expectations, creating an effective learning environment and managing behaviour effectively all positively impact pupil learning outcomes.
  • Creating an effective learning environment over time can also have benefits for classroom relationships, pupil attitudes to learning, pupil wellbeing and wider outcomes and wider school culture.
  • Teachers can create effective learning environments through proactive, reactive and escalation strategies.
  • Teachers can foster further effective learning behaviours through developing behaviours that help pupils to learn more successfully.
  • Teacher expectations play an important (yet complex) role in influencing pupil behaviour and learning.
  • Balancing the challenge and support that teachers provide in order that pupils experience success is key.



Carroll, J., Bradley, L., Crawford, H., Hannant, P., Johnson, H., & Thompson, A. (2017). SEN support: A rapid evidence assessment. 

Chapman, R. L., Buckley, L., Sheehan, M., & Shochet, I. (2013). School-based programs for increasing connectedness and reducing risk behavior: A systematic review. Educational Psychology Review, 25(1), 95-114.

Coe, R. (2013). Improving Education: A triumph of hope over experience. Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring. ecf-coe2

Coe, R., Aloisi, C., Higgins, S., & Major, L. E. (2014). What makes great teaching. Review of the underpinning research. Durham University.

Chetty, R., Friedman, J. N. & Rockoff, J. E. (2014). Measuring the Impacts of Teachers II: Teacher Value-Added and Student Outcomes in Adulthood. American Economic Review, 104(9), 2633–2679.

Gutman, L. & Schoon, L. (2013). The impact of non-cognitive skills on the outcomes of young people.

IES (2008). Reducing Behavior Problems in the Elementary School Classroom.

Education Endowment Foundation (2017). Metacognition and Self-regulated learning Guidance Report.

Education Endowment Foundation (2018). Teaching and learning toolkit.

Kluger, A. N., & DeNisi, A. (1996). The effects of feedback interventions on performance: A historical review, a meta- analysis, and a preliminary feedback intervention theory. Psychological Bulletin, 119 (2), 254–284.

Lazowski, R. A., & Hulleman, C. S. (2016) Motivation Interventions in Education: A Meta-Analytic Review. Review of Educational Research, 86(2), 602–640.

Muijs, D. & Reynolds, D. (2010). Effective Teaching. London: SAGE Publications.

Murdock-Perriera, L. A., & Sedlacek, Q. C. (2018). Questioning Pygmalion in the twenty-first century: the formation, transmission, and attributional influence of teacher expectancies. Social Psychology of Education, 21(3), 691–707.

Rathmann K., Herke M., Hurrelmann K., Richter M. (2018). Perceived class climate and school-aged children’s life satisfaction: The role of the learning environment in classrooms. PLoS ONE 13(2): e0189335.

Rosenshine, B. (2012). Principles of Instruction: Research-Based Strategies That All Teachers Should Know. American Educator, 36(1), 12–20.

Tsiplakides, I. & Keramida, A. (2010). The relationship between teacher expectations and student achievement in the teaching of English as a foreign language. English Language Teaching, 3(2)

Willingham, D. T. (2009). Why don’t students like school? San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Wubbels, T., Brekelmans, M., den Brok, P., Wijsman, L., Mainhard, T., & van Tartwijk, J. (2014). Teacher-student relationships and classroom management. In E. T. Emmer, E. Sabornie, C. Evertson, & C. Weinstein (Eds.). Handbook of classroom management: Research, practice, and contemporary issues (2nd ed., pp. 363–386). New York, NY: Routledge.


Answer the questions in the quiz to check your understanding of the evidence summary.

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Reminder of key takeaways

Ms Foden can promote positive pupil behaviour and an effective learning environment by understanding that:

  • Holding high expectations, creating an effective learning environment and managing behaviour effectively all positively impact pupil learning outcomes.
  • Creating an effective learning environment over time can also have benefits for classroom relationships, pupil attitudes to learning, pupil wellbeing and wider outcomes and wider school culture.
  • Teachers can create effective learning environments through proactive, reactive and escalation strategies.
  • Teachers can foster further effective learning behaviours through developing behaviours that help pupils to learn more successfully.
  • Teacher expectations play an important (yet complex) role in influencing pupil behaviour and learning.
  • Balancing the challenge and support that teachers provide in order that pupils experience success is key.

Reflect on the following questions

  1. What did you see in this module that you already do or have seen in other classrooms?
  2. What do you feel is the gap between your current practice and what you have seen in this module?
  3. Which of the ‘key takeaways’ do you need to focus on? Where and when might you try to apply them to your teaching?