1.2: Understanding the evidence: The importance of expectations, routines and relationships


Time allocation

60 minutes with 1.2b


  • Read the information and look at the examples provided.
  • As you do this, make notes in response to the key questions below.
  • You will need to take the notes with you to your mentor session for discussion with your mentor.

Key questions

  1. Why is it important to create a predictable learning environment?
  2. How can the climate for learning support good pupil behaviour?
  3. What would you expect to see in a classroom in which behaviour management is working well?

The intended outcomes of this activity are for you to:

Learn that
1.1 Teachers have the ability to affect and improve the wellbeing, motivation and behaviour of their pupils.
7.1 Establishing and reinforcing routines, including through positive reinforcement, can help create an effective learning environment. 
Learn how to
Demonstrate consistently high behavioural expectations and establish effective routines by:
1e Creating a culture of respect and trust in the classroom.
Establish effective routines and expectations by: 
7j Reinforcing routines (e.g. by articulating the link between time on task and success). 

Teachers have the ability to affect and improve the wellbeing, motivation and behaviour of their pupils

You have likely imagined yourself as a teacher with your own class, and what it will look and feel like in your classroom. It is likely to include positive pupils who are motivated to learn and who do not misbehave. This dream can be a reality. Through your direct actions and behaviours as the teacher you have the ability to influence all of this. 

Behaviour management can be one of the most challenging parts of teaching for all teachers and it might well be something you are feeling worried about. Learning how to manage behaviour effectively makes a big difference to pupils’ learning, contributes to improved outcomes and will make you feel significantly happier about your role (Education Endowment Foundation, 2019). It also significantly improves pupil wellbeing in the classroom. Children who are calm and secure in their surroundings are more likely to learn; it is our job as teachers to ensure that our classrooms provide this environment. All teachers, no matter what stage of their career they are at, need to keep developing their skills in managing behaviour. 

Establishing and reinforcing routines creates a positive climate for learning

The research in this area is clear. Classroom climate and management are key to maximising the learning that can take place (Coe et al., 2014). Not surprisingly, the choices teachers make about how they manage their classroom can have a significant, positive effect on reducing misbehaviour (Valdebenito et al., 2018). Establishing the learning environment plays an important role in pupil engagement (Gutman & Schoon, 2013). In particular, showing our pupils what is expected of them through routines promotes good behaviour (Institute of Education Sciences, 2008; Education Endowment Foundation, 2019). 

It can be motivating for pupils to know what is expected from them. The vast majority of pupils want to do well and will be motivated to meet your expectations. When it is made clear what is expected, they will know how they should behave. We can help our pupils with this through establishing routines for the everyday things that happen in our lessons. 

Routines can be used for most common classroom activities, such as:

  • Entering the classroom
  • Starts and ends of lessons
  • Starting and finishing work
  • Transitions between activities or places in the learning environment
  • Taking out and putting away resources
  • Whole-class teaching and discussion
  • Handing out equipment.

Making your pupils feel safe and secure is an important part of teaching and also improves pupil wellbeing. Classrooms should be predictable environments with clear rules, routines and expectations about behaviour as well as learning, which offer all pupils opportunities for success (Kern & Clemens, 2007; Rosenshine, 2012).  Teachers should set high standards for behaviour as well as for learning and believe that their pupils can meet these standards (Willingham, 2009). When you establish a calm, purposeful learning environment, pupils will:

  • Be more likely to behave well 
  • Be able to concentrate and therefore learn 
  • Be motivated to learn
  • Have increased wellbeing
  • Feel secure enough to take risks and show you their thinking (see Block 2).

Routines, by definition, need to happen in the same way every time, making your classroom a predictable and safe place; pupils will know where they stand and what you expect from them. 

What do more experienced teachers do to establish and maintain these routines? The table below shows three key strategies:

StrategyHow it is effectiveExample
Explicit instructions Tells pupils exactly what you expect to see and means expectations cannot be misinterpreted.“When you come into the classroom, I expect each person to be silent. That means no one will talk.”
Reminders Reminding pupils of rules and routines means that they will be reinforced, and pupils are more likely to remember what to do.“I need all eyes on me and conversations finished by the time I have counted down to 1. 3,2,1.”
Consistent modelling of behaviour Modelling the behaviour you expect to see shows pupils what you want from them and makes this explicit.“Pens down (puts pen down) and looking this way without talking (hand to lips).”

In your notepad

  • Why are routines important for improving classroom behaviour?
  • Which of these statements is NOT true?
    1. Routines show pupils what is expected of them, so they know how to behave.
    2. Routines force pupils to comply with the school culture.
    3. Routines create a predictable classroom environment for pupils. 
    4. Routines lead to a calm and predictable environment, which is conducive to learning.
  • When can we use routines in our teaching?
    1. Just at the end and beginning of lessons.
    2. When completing complicated tasks.
    3. For most common classroom activities.
    4. When behaviour is poor.
  • Name three methods that experienced teachers use to establish and maintain routines.

Another way we can strengthen and embed our routines is through positive reinforcement. Positively reinforcing what we want to see reduces poor behaviour and helps increase academic engagement (Institute of Education Sciences, 2008). It is also motivating and supports pupil wellbeing. When we praise and give attention to the specific behaviour we want to see, it increases the likelihood of that behaviour happening again. It will also encourage other pupils to follow suit. The same is true in reverse: if a pupil continuously calls out and the teacher responds to them, they are receiving attention for that behaviour and are likely to repeat it. Positive reinforcement should be used strategically to nurture the behaviour we want to see. 

This table shows three ways positive reinforcement can support routines and good behaviour:

StrategyHow it is effectiveExample
Tell/show pupils what behaviour you expect and why.Behaviour may suggest that the pupil does not know what behaviour is expected of them. Reiterate explicitly and give the pupil a chance to correct their behaviour.“When I am talking I need to see your eyes on me to show me that you are listening.”
Praise the behaviour you want to see. Reinforces good behaviour of the pupils showing it and encourages others to follow suit.“Thank you Ushma, who came into the room quietly and sensibly and has now started on her work.”
Support pupils to self-regulate and monitor their own behaviour.Providing a self-monitoring strategy allows pupils to assess and record their own behaviour to support them to become more aware of it and learn how to adjust when appropriate.Provide a checklist of questions to guide pupils in their own behaviour: Did I get started on time? Am I following instructions? Am I on task? Did I ask for help in the right way?

In your notepad

  • Think about a recent lesson: what behaviours do you give attention to in the classroom?
  • How could you use positive reinforcement to support your routines and the behaviour you want to see?

Routines need to be actively taught and reinforced frequently, with reasons, so that pupils understand what is expected of them (Muijs & Reynolds, 2017). In Activity 1.3, we look at how teachers can establish effective routines. Pupils should recognise routines as the ‘norms’ of the classroom. If you have effective routines, pupils will follow them consistently and efficiently, maximising time for learning.


Time allocation

60 minutes with 1.2a


  • Read the information and look at the examples provided.
  • As you do this, make notes in response to the key questions below.
  • You will need to take the notes with you to your mentor session for discussion with your mentor.
Learn that
1.1 Teachers have the ability to affect and improve the wellbeing, motivation and behaviour of their pupils.
1.2 Teachers are key role models, who can influence the attitudes, values and behaviours of their pupils.
1.3 Teacher expectations can affect pupil outcomes; setting goals that challenge and stretch pupils is essential.
1.4 Setting clear expectations can help communicate shared values that improve classroom and school culture. 
1.5 A culture of mutual trust and respect supports effective relationships. 
7. 5 Building effective relationships is easier when pupils believe that their feelings will be considered and understood. 
Learn how to
Develop a positive, predictable and safe environment for pupils, by:
7g Responding quickly to any behaviour or bullying that threatens emotional safety.

Key questions

  1. What can you do to build positive relationships with your pupils?
  2. How would you define a culture of respect and trust in your classroom? What does a classroom that has this culture look like?

In the first section of this activity, we looked at using rules and routines to support an effective climate for learning. In part b we take a closer look at how our relationships with pupils and our expectations of them can have a direct impact on behaviour and the learning environment in our classroom.

Setting clear expectations can help communicate shared values that improve classroom and school culture

To create a calm, purposeful classroom environment, it is key to focus on the positive behaviours you expect (Coe et al., 2014). You can do this through:

  • Conveying clear expectations (“this is how we do things here”)
  • Giving precise instructions about what is expected.

This clarity of expectations is essential to securing good behaviour from your pupils. In communicating these standards, we also need to explain in detail how pupils are expected to meet them. Experienced teachers will do this explicitly, early on with every new class and continue to reinforce their expectations all the time. They also lead by example, role-modelling the behaviours they expect from pupils. 

Look at the cartoon below which highlights this.

The image shows two classroom scenes: 

One is chaotic, with the heading ‘Avoid this’, while the other
is calm, with the heading ‘Try this’.

In the chaotic classroom, the pupils are distracted and misbehaving. The teacher is struggling to
regain control, calling out:

‘Why are you out of your seat?’
‘Don’t call out!’
‘Don’t use that tone of voice to speak to me.’
‘Can you please stop talking?’

In the calm classroom, the teacher establishes control by reminding pupils of expectations, saying:

‘We put our hands up when we want to answer a question.’
‘We hang our coats on the hooks so that nobody trips up.’
‘Some pupils are using the sink area well.’
‘I’ll give you a few minutes now to get on with your work over there.’
Avoid thisTry this
What the teacher should avoid, and things they should try to avoid sayingWhat the teacher should try to do, and how they might say it
Avoid questions that you don’t need to know the answer to.
“Why are you out of your seat?”
Focus on what pupils are doing and what they are expected to do.
“We put our hands up when we want to answer a question.”
Avoid questions that you don’t need to know the answer to.
“Can you please stop talking?”
Give clear instructions about what is expected.
“We hang our coats on the hooks so that nobody trips up.”
Avoid telling pupils what they should not be doing.
“Don’t call out.”
Focus on the behaviour rather than the individual.
“Some pupils are using the sink area well.”
Avoid focusing on secondary behaviours, like eye-rolling, huffing, sulking.
“Don’t use that tone of voice to speak to me.”
Enable pupils to respond to expectations.
“I’ll give you a few minutes now to get on with your work over there.”

It is important to maintain a positive, calm climate and we can do this through focusing on what we want to see pupils doing. Teachers can use both verbal and non-verbal prompts to communicate their expectations of behaviour to the pupils. It is also important that you give pupils an opportunity to adjust their behaviour before escalating things.

Verbal prompts Non-verbal prompts
  • Instructions
  • Praise
  • Saying “Thank you”
  • Reinforcement
  • Giving pupils choices
  • Reminders of school behaviour policy
  • Smiling or frowning
  • Nodding or shaking head
  • Eye contact
  • Hand signals like thumbs up
  • Position in the room
  • Silent speaking – mouthing “thank you” or “no” to a pupil
  • Turning a pupil’s book to the right page

While pupils should have a clear understanding of our general expectations for their behaviour, this should be reinforced for specific activities. When giving task instructions we need to make it clear to pupils what we want them to do and the behaviour we expect to see as they complete the task. Being crystal clear about our expectations will support our pupils in knowing exactly what to do.

When explaining a task, you should:

  • Provide clear instructions to complete it
  • Provide clear expectations for behaviour, for example that the task should be completed in silence or in pairs etc.

Once you have given instructions:

  • Visibly scan the room to check who is following your instructions
  • Praise pupils who have begun the task
  • Verbally remind anyone who is speaking that the task is to be completed in silence
  • Use non-verbal signals to encourage slow starters to begin.

Watch the video to see this in practice.


The final version of this video will be available from spring 2021, as the publication of this programme was fast-tracked in response to disruptions to this year’s initial teacher training.


Giving instructions and checking understanding

Video type

Classroom footage

Short description

In the classroom, a teacher gives pupils short and clear instructions to complete a task, then in various ways checks that pupils have understood the instructions.


It is important that we tell pupils our behavioural expectations when they complete a task. This will mean our expectations are clear and pupils know what to do. Watch what the teacher says and does in giving their instructions.

Filming brief for teacher

  • Provide clear instructions to complete a task as well as clear expectations for behaviour, for example in silence). Once you have given instructions:
  • Visibly scan the room to check who is following your instructions.
  • Praise pupils who have begun the task.
  • Verbally remind anyone who is speaking that the task is to be completed in silence.
  • Use non-verbal signals to encourage slow starters to begin.

Video script


Making sure that you are very clear in your instructions and about your expectations when it comes to behaviour is essential. Part of that is checking that pupils have understood your instructions.

You can do this by praising those who follow your instructions. And you can offer polite but firm reminders to pupils who do not follow your instructions.

Remember that in addition to what you say, non-verbal communication can be very effective. Holding a finger to your lips may be just as effective as telling people to be quiet.


We are going to look back at the persuasive leaflets we wrote in the last lesson and check that we have used all of the key features of persuasive texts.

Make a note of any features you have not used.

Select one feature that you have used effectively and write a sentence or two explaining why you think it is effective.

I want you to open your books and spend five minutes doing this in silence.

[Teacher scans the room to check who is following instructions]

Amar, I can see you have started already and so have several others – well done.

Holly, we are working in silence, thank you.

Tom… [Tom is standing up and teacher gestures with her arm for him to sit down and begin, which he does]

In your notepad

  • What does the teacher in the video say?
  • What does the teacher do?
  • How do they make their expectations clear?
  • What is the impact of this?

Teacher expectations can affect pupil outcomes

We know that our beliefs can be very influential. What you believe your pupils to be capable of achieving will directly influence what they actually achieve (Murdock-Perriera & Sedlacek, 2018). The Pygmalion or ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ research (Rosenthal et al.) in the 1960s showed that when teachers (but not their pupils) were told by researchers that a random group of their pupils had achieved high scores on an aptitude test, these pupils did better over the course of the year than the ‘ordinary’ pupils in their classes. In reality, the test was made up. Not knowing this, the teachers were shown to ask more questions, give more thinking time and provide more feedback to the pupils they believed to be more able. Clearly what you think of your pupils’ abilities and how you plan to meet their needs matters hugely. The higher the expectations you have of your pupils, the more you will push and challenge them and the more their outcomes will improve (Murdock-Perriera & Sedlacek, 2018).

It is important that you hold high expectations of all your pupils and convey these clearly and consistently through the challenge you provide for them. Show each individual pupil that you believe they can succeed. If you expect too little of a pupil, it is likely that they will be under-challenged and consequently not achieve as much.

Taking specific actions to ensure that you treat all pupils as individuals and showing them that you have high expectations of them is important. The list below shows some of the ways you can do this:

  • Give all pupils the same amount of time to answer questions.
  • Positively reinforce answers from all pupils.
  • Give all pupils the same opportunities to engage in the lesson.
  • Move seating plans around often and keep these purposeful.
  • Give pupils the same opportunities for feedback.

The way a pupil views their own ability will be affected by your expectations of them. Self-perceptions are often seen as precursors to motivation: if a child believes in their ability, they are likely to be more motivated and put forth greater effort, leading to improved performance (Education Endowment Foundation, 2019). We will see in future Blocks that part of this is giving children a chance to succeed and experience success.

This doesn’t mean that you should have low expectations. You should set learning goals that will challenge your pupils. They should have a level of difficulty that only makes them achievable with sustained effort. You can support your pupils to achieve these by demonstrating your high expectations of them; show pupils that you believe in them and their abilities. We can support and develop pupil attitude towards challenge (Willingham, 2009). Pupils must be encouraged to persevere, even when they find work challenging, as it is this process that will help them learn. The level of challenge will convey your high expectations to your pupils and when they achieve success in meeting those high expectations they will be motivated to work harder and strive to achieve further success (Chapman et al., 2013; Rathmann et al., 2018).

Strategies to try What this looks like in practice
Set challenging goals for your pupils.
  • Model to pupils how to set a specific long-term goal, by sharing your own.
  • Demonstrate how goals should be actionable.
  • Sensitively increase or decrease the challenge and aspiration of pupils’ goals.
  • Support pupils in setting a timeline and a method of recording progress.
  • Teach pupils the rationale behind setting their own goals. A goal that they set for themselves can be more empowering than one imposed by somebody else.
State the outcomes you want to see.
  • Avoid statements phrased in negative terms. Use ‘do’ instead of ‘don’t’; ‘can’ instead of ‘can’t’.
Consistently communicate that pupils are improving and are capable of improving.
  • Praise effort: “You showed perseverance in that task, well done”.
  • Acknowledge small improvements and draw attention to them.
  • Encourage pupils when they get stuck: “You can’t do this right now but if you try X I think you will be able to”.
  • Acknowledge mistakes as part of learning.
Show all pupils that you believe they are capable of achieving success.
  • Use positive language with pupils: “I am really impressed at the way you used quotes to support your ideas”.
  • Tell pupils when tasks are challenging and explain the purpose in this.
Highlight successes of all pupils.
  • Ensure that you are praising and highlighting successes of all pupils, not just a select few.
  • Give pupils opportunities to showcase excellent work and ensure that all pupils take part.

Look at the following example of a teacher helping a pupil set a challenging goal.


Pupil: I want to get better at reading.

Teacher: Ok so let’s have a think about how you are going to achieve that. If I want to get better at something, I know that I need to practise that skill. For example, I really want to learn how to bake bread, so I am going to have a go at doing that every weekend. Would practice help you here?

Pupil: Hmm yes, I think so.

Teacher: Well we know that regular practice is the best way to improve. How often could you practise reading?

Pupil: Well I don’t really like reading.

Teacher: I am really impressed that you have chosen that as something you want to get better at then. You have chosen a challenging goal for yourself, which is the best way to help yourself improve. How will this help you with your schoolwork?

Pupil: I think it would help me in English because I would find the work easier.

Teacher: I think improving your reading would support you in all of your subjects and even outside school as well. We can talk about that a bit more in a minute. Let’s think about how you can achieve this. How about starting with just a short amount of reading each day?

Pupil: I guess I could read for a bit in the evenings?

Teacher: How about we say 10 minutes reading to start?

Pupil: I could do that.

Teacher: How are we going to record your progress?

Pupil: I could write in my reading log?

Teacher: That would be great! So, what’s the goal?

Pupil: I am going to practise reading every evening for 10 minutes.

Teacher: Great. Should we check in again next week and see how you are getting on?

Pupil: Yes, that sounds good.

In your notepad

  • How does the teacher support the pupil to set a challenging goal?
  • What sort of language does the teacher use to show high expectations?

Effective relationships are integral to a positive classroom environment

Building positive relationships with the classes and individual pupils you teach is of the utmost importance to both you and your pupils. One of the largest potential mediators of academic outcomes is the extent to which students are motivated and engaged by their interactions with teachers (Allen et al., 2011; Wubbels et al., 2014; PISA, 2015; Valdebenito et al., 2018). When pupils have good relations with their teachers, both their performance and their sense of belonging at school benefit (PISA, 2015). Positive teacher-pupil relations are also associated with higher life satisfaction (Rathmann K et al., 2018) and they can also support the attitudes, behaviours and strategies that facilitate success in school and workplace, such as motivation, perseverance and self-control (EEF, 2019). Secure and positive relationships will also have an impact on the way you feel about your classes and on your own wellbeing. Pupils who want to behave in your lessons will strive to achieve their best and will be motivated and engaged in their learning.

To make a positive start, teachers need to get to know the pupils they teach, for example by using their names and modelling the respectful attitude they expect in return (Muijs & Reynolds, 2017).



Learning everyone’s name

Video type

Talking head

Short description

A teacher explains to the viewer techniques they use to quickly remember pupils’ names.


Listen to the strategies the teacher uses to learn names quickly and consider what the impact of each one would be.

Video transcript

One of the first things you can do to create a positive relationship with your pupils in a new class is to address them by name so that they feel respected and included.

Of course, in order to do that, you need to learn and remember their names, which can be challenging. Here are a few techniques I use to make sure I learn my pupils’ names as quickly as possible:

  • In the first lesson, I ask pupils to tell me something about themselves to give me a sense of who they are. This works best if I refer to that piece of information when I next address them by name.
  • In the first few lessons, I ask each pupil to display a name card on their desk so that I can use their names every time I speak to them, from the first minute of the first lesson.
  • I make sure I look at pupils’ faces when I speak to them to help establish an association between names and faces.
  • I use a fixed seating plan because I find that knowing where in the room to expect a name and a face to be serves as a helpful memory aid.

Those are the techniques I find helpful but of course there are others. The important thing is not to leave it to chance, but to plan how you are going to make it easy for yourself to remember pupils’ names.

In your notepad

  • What is the impact of learning names quickly?
  • What strategies does the teacher use to learn pupils’ names quickly?
  • Which do you already use?
  • Are there any strategies you could lift and use in your practice?

While knowing the name of each pupil is a good start, it is clearly not enough! Every interaction you have with your pupils is important as it is these interactions that build relationships. Pupils spend about a third of their waking hours in school during most weeks in the year (PISA, 2015), which means that teachers can become key role models within their pupils’ lives (Johnson et al., 2016) and help pupils form ideas about what it means to be ‘a good person’. This is clearly an important responsibility; you are probably asking yourself how you can best go about it.

Studies show that pupils notice and consider the following things:

  • How well they are treated by their teacher
  • How well their teacher treats others
  • How well they get on with their teacher
  • The behaviour the teacher models.

(Lerner & Lerner, 2016)

It is particularly important that you respond quickly to any instances of bullying or threats to emotional safety of pupils in your class. Showing that this kind of behaviour is not tolerated and being clear on the consequences by following your school behaviour policy will help to build pupil trust in you and models your high expectations for behaviour.

The following table shares some of the ways you can build and maintain a culture of trust and respect with your pupils. Read through the suggestions and answer the questions that follow.

Strategies to use Putting them into practice
Learn names quickly.
  • Use name cards at the beginning of term.
  • Use a seating plan and refer to it.
Treat pupils with respect.
  • Be polite in interactions with pupils.
  • Avoid using sarcasm or humour at pupils’ expense.
  • Deal with issues individually and privately when possible (see the section on behaviour).
Get to know pupils as individuals.
  • Talk to pupils.
  • Talk to colleagues.
  • Talk to their families and carers.
  • Take an interest in what pupils tell you about their lives.
  • Be attentive.
  • Take an interest in pupils’ extra-curricular activities when appropriate.
Support pupils and show them that they are listened to.
  • Deal with problem behaviour when it arises (see the section on behaviour).
  • Notice when pupils seem upset or disengaged and take a moment, at an appropriate time, to talk to them.
Know who to contact with any safeguarding concerns.
  • Find out who the safeguarding lead in your school is.
  • Familiarise yourself with your school’s safeguarding policy.
Demonstrate a love of learning.
  • Be enthusiastic about the content you are teaching.
  • Tell your pupils why you love the subject or topic they are learning.
Involve all pupils in lessons.
  • Ask questions to all pupils.
  • Try to ensure every pupil has spoken in your lesson at least once (this can be answering a question to you when you circulate, answering a question in front of the class, offering a suggestion when asked, or any other form of appropriate talking).
Respond consistently to pupil behaviour.
  • Always follow the rules and routines you have established.
  • Treat all pupils equally.
  • Always be consistent.
  • Always follow through on rewards/sanctions.
Respond quickly to any behaviour or bullying that threatens emotional safety.
  • Deal quickly and firmly with any incidents of bullying.
  • Refer behaviour to relevant members of staff.
  • Follow the school behaviour policy.
Be positive.
  • Start each lesson in a positive way.
  • Give meaningful praise often.

In your notepad

  • What are three positive impacts of having good relationships with pupils?
  • Which strategies do you feel that you already use successfully? In which areas do you feel you could improve?
  • What steps will you take to do this?


Focusing on maintaining clear routines, building positive relationships and keeping your expectations of all pupils high will reduce the need for behaviour interventions. The more time and energy you put into laying the foundations for a positive climate for learning, the less likely it will be that pupils will misbehave.


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