A Critical Review of Behaviour for Learning and the Extent to Which It Raises the Achievement of Learners

A Critical Review of Behaviour for Learning and the Extent to Which It Raises the Achievement of Learners


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A Critical Review of Behaviour for Learning and the Extent to Which It Raises the Achievement of Learners

The management of students’ behaviour in a contemporary classroom environment is very challenging for newly qualified teachers (NQTs) that are yet to gain the qualified teacher status (QTS). These challenges emanate from the multicultural nature of the student population and the diverse experiences they bring to the mixed-ability class from their home environment. Additionally, students’ behavioural challenges are amplified during adolescence when the transition from childhood to adulthood is underway and manifests in identity crisis and other emotional turmoil. Students in their teens are likely to witness a drastic decline in their behaviour and a sharp drop in their educational performance if they are not empowered sufficiently on strategies of addressing the transition period in their development. In turn, novice teachers not sufficiently equipped with behavioural change knowledge and class management strategies may find teaching adolescent students, especially in a mixed-ability and multicultural setting, extremely challenging and dissatisfying. Such challenges can lead to low education achievement by the students, and job and career dissatisfaction by the teachers, which could lead to dropping out and exiting the teaching profession, respectively.

Behaviour for Learning (BFL) is a theoretical framework that emphasizes the development of every child to his or her full potential by promoting positive behaviour to enhance positive learning, and therefore can be used to address the class management challenges experienced by NQTs (Ellis & Tod, 2013). The framework model explains the relationship between the learner, learning behaviour and learning or that between self, others, and the curriculum, as advanced by Ellis and Tod (Jolliffe & Waugh, 2017). The framework outlines the positive methods of helping students to develop behaviour and skills that they need for succeed in education and training for future professional application of the knowledge. Understanding learning behaviour is critical for teachers to improve students’ educational outcomes and teaching experience for instructors. The learning behaviour of students affects “how long a teacher stays in the profession” because it influences the feelings of teaching efficaciousness and career satisfaction (Lee & Van Vlack, 2018; Shapiro, Brown, & Astin, 2011, p. 495). More importantly, learning behaviour influences the academic achievement of students in a school setting and ultimately their professional and career achievement later in the work environment (Jolliffe & Waugh, 2017). In this regard, positive learning behaviour is motivating and beneficial to students and teachers, while bad learning behaviour could also be a source of anxiety, stress, and depression of both parties. Therefore, understanding the learning behaviour is critical to improving the learning outcome of students and teaching experiences of educators.

Setting and Context

I am a secondary school NQT teacher (KS4/5) teaching Design and Technology (Food specialist) to a mixed ability class. I am currently placed an urban secondary school with a multicultural and mixed ability student population. The students in my class are adolescents aged between 14 and 18 years, and they present diverse learning behaviours that promote or hinder their learning process and education achievement. This essay focuses in the successful teaching of design and technology to students in Key Stages 4 and 5 (KS4/5) following the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) in the United Kingdom through positive behaviour modification. Firstly, I will draw from the seminal work of Simon Ellis and Janet Tod on the Behaviour of Learning (BFL) framework for a definition of learning behaviour and an explanation of it influence on the achievement of learners (Ellis & Tod, 2013). Then, I will turn to behavioural theories that underpin behaviour management in a classroom environment and use them to explain the extent to which learning behaviour promotes the achievement of learners. I also reflect on the formative and summative assessments of behaviour modification in my class and the lessons they provide for addressing classroom behavioural challenges and enhancing the achievement levels of students.

Literature Review

This study focuses on the question: how does learning behaviour in a classroom setting influence the achievement levels of learners? The follow-up question is, how does the application of the Behaviour for Learning (BFL) framework promote positive learning behaviour in students and their learning achievements? These questions are critical for my teaching career as I pursue my Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) and Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). I am intent on having a positive and lasting impact on my students and community through education as a way to economic empowerment and freedom, and sustainable socioeconomic wellbeing. I would like to see my students attain their highest academic achievements and develop to their full potential to narrow the disparities and inequalities and achievement gaps that emanate for the diverse behavioural-based learning processes. In this regard, I would like to understand how to create a safe, motivating, creative and positive learning environment in which student exhibit positive and regulated behaviour that would encourage and promote learning regardless of learning abilities, background and experiences of the students.

Theoretical foundations

The behaviourism paradigm in learning has re-emerged in recent times following the discounting of the notion that child learners come with empty minds to be filled with knowledge by teachers. Murtonen, Gruber, and Lehtinen (2017) notes that behaviourism was criticised much as in the 1970s for oversimplifying the learning process as a change of observable behaviour without considering the complex cognitive processes the occur during the learning process. However, the Bologna Declaration of 1999 and its emphasis on competencies saw behaviourist tradition undergo research-informed modifications that make it applicable in contemporary education settings (Murtonen, Gruber, & Lehtinen (2017). Pigot-Upshall (2017) and Saari (2019) and narrates how B. F. Skinner’s experiments on and John Locke’s postulations of conditioning as a learning process entrenched the notion of learning as behaviour change that can be mediated by rewards and punishments. Similarly, Ouadoud, et al. (2017) identified John Watson as the father of behaviourism in education circles and notes that he further developed the principle of stimulus and response in conditioning the behaviours of learners, which has become the basis of the learning management systems used in school settings. However, behaviourism has become applicable in contemporary learning environments despite previous criticisms, following advancements in theoretical foundations, such as the behavioural learning theory and social learning theory that implicate the environment and social interactions as mediators of the learning process

Behavioural learning theory asserts that the environment around the learner influences the learning process through operant conditioning characterised by rewards to encourage and discourage desirable and undesirable behaviour respectively (Algahtani, 2017). In the same vein, social learning theory asserts that behaviour is learned through socialisation and can be used to facilitate the acquisition of new behaviours for the first time (Cooper & Klein, 2018). Cooper and Klein (2018) explain that according to the theory, learning through socialisation occurs by definitions, imitation, differential reinforcement, and differential association and that the theory can be employed to develop tools that can assess and predict behaviour in learners. Likewise, Morgenroth, Ryan, and Peters (2015) advance a motivation theory of role modelling to explain how learning can be motivated by the desire to emulate a role model that is highly-admired by the learner. Likewise, Froiland and Worrell (2016) used the same theory to explain how intrinsic motivation enhanced the attainment of learning goals. However, De Leeuw, et al. (2015) argued that the theory of planned behaviour can be used to construct assessment tools that can be used to measure the learning outcomes of behavioural change.

Behaviour For Learning Framework  

According to Ellis and Tod (2013), Behaviour For Learning (BFL) framework links the management of behaviour with promotion of learning and teacher can use it to identify the desirable behaviours they would like to develop in their student and the influences they would have on them. This framework forms the basis of behaviour management theories employed in handling students to encourage the development of desired cognitive and psychosocial attributes among learners that promote a positive educational process. However, Parsonson (2012, p.16) noted that,“Strategies to manage or change behaviour in schools can involve school-wide, classroom based or individual child-focused intervention”. To place this into context, Ellis and Tod (2013) define different types of relationships that foster positive behaviour for learning to raise students’ achievement. Relationships within the learning environment include the relationship with the curriculum and with self as well as social relationships with others (Ellis & Tod, 2013, p.85-106). A student needs to cultivate a positive relationship with the curriculum, self, and others to create an enabling learning environment for higher performance. Ellis and Tod (2013) also provide effective strategies for dealing with challenging behaviour and cultivating a positive learning environment in classrooms that a teacher should follow. In the guideline, the scholars discuss the importance of personalized learning for improved performance. Personalized learning creates an inclusive environment where the teacher treats learners uniquely based on their needs and behavioural challenges. [A1] 

Smith (2017) [A2] examines the theory of behaviour and Behaviour For Learning, where he reviews Ellis, Tod, and other guidelines for behaviour for learning. Furthermore, he reviews the relationship between learning theories and behaviour for learning in schools. The study establishes [A3] that motivation is a critical component for improving behaviour for learning and outcome for students. Teachers need to improve self-esteem, self-regulatory mechanism, and control for learners to raise their performance (Smith, 2017, p.68). Using positive rewards, such as accolades and recognition of good performance, could create an environment for improved results by promoting the feeling of accomplishment among learners and teachers.  Ellis and Tod (2013) also explain that school ethos and control models follow the behaviourist approaches that support the idea that a need exists to assert power and control over learning to occur. [A4] Consequently, [A5] administrators develop school ethos that defines the learners’ relationship with the curriculum, self, and others for effective education (Longobardi, et al., 2016;  Smith, 2017, p.68). Therefore, the close relationship between Smith’s (2017) examination and Ellis and Tod’s (2013) Behaviour For Learning guidelines makes it reliable to apply in real life situations in classroom management.

Application of BFL in schools. As a common practice in the school context, Napier (2008) noted that [A6] most schools employed the consequence system to develop behaviour. It promotes the use of verbal reprimands and other models of punishment to discourage negative behaviour. Napier (2008) further stated that in some cases, instructors resorted to the school detention system to correct the behaviour. The study supports [A7] the Behaviour For Learning guidelines provided in Ellis and Tod of dealing with difficult behaviour in schools and classrooms (Napier, 2008, p.188-221). In the same vein, Ellis and Tod (2013) support the use of school ethos and guidelines as an effective model of dealing with behavioural issues among learners and defining the relationships between teachers and students and the curriculum. 

Emotional training in schools could help to develop a positive learning environment for learners and teachers. Smith (2017, p.72) [A8] argues that emotional training reinforces self-regulation for learners, ‘… it enables children to understand and express their feelings in appropriate and more socially acceptable ways, supports their capacity to refocus on learning when overwhelmed with strong feelings, and helps them to become more emotionally resilient…’, a notion supported by Coelho, Marchante, and Sousa (2015) and Li et al. (2016). [A9] In the same context, Jones and Bouffard (2012) [A10] examine social and emotional learning in academic institutions and propose that one of the most effective ways to develop behaviour is to integrate the social and emotional learning (SEL) programs in the curriculum. They argue that learners with strong emotional and social skills perform higher in academics and have positive interaction patterns with other learners within the educational environment (Jones & Bouffard, 2012, p. 2). [A11] Cotler et al. (2017) support the notion that developing learners’ emotional intelligence improves the learning outcome and behaviour for learning. They argue that emotional training boosts self-awareness and others’ awareness, thus the positive development of behaviour for learning. Altogether, the assertions by Yoder (2013) [A12] on emotional training are consistent with Cotler et al. (2017) and Jones and Bouffard (2012). Based on Yoder (2013), learning should employ a holistic approach other than focus on academics alone; it should develop the learners’ social and emotional skills. Team-based learning improves the outcome of emotional and social learning because they increase self- and social awareness (Lee & Van Vlack, 2018; Yoder, 2013, p. 13).

Behaviour For Learning and Student Achievement

Literature indicated that relationship management improves behaviour for learning and raises learning outcomes. For instance, Fontaine (2014) examines social relationship management among high school students and the impact that it has on emotional intelligence and establishment of an enabling learning environment. One of the research questions that he attempts to answer is the retention that modern high schools use to keep learners in schools and to reduce high rates of dropout (Fontaine, 2014, p.105). Based on the study, student relationships aid to market high schools to their potential peers because they create a positive learning environment. Similarly, Drapińska (2012) conducted a similar study to examine student relationship management approaches in Poland. She argues that universities with positive student relationships perform higher than in places where it is negative. Similarly, as study by Wagner and Ruch (2015) revealed that student behaviour and character attributes, such as hope, zest, perseverance, perspective, gratitude and love for learning were associated with their positive behaviour and achievement.  

From another perspective, in-class practices such as distractions affect the quality of behaviour for learning and educational outcomes for learners. Winter et al. (2010) and Parsonson (2012) examine the impact of multitasking on students’ learning outcomes and argue that it reduces the level of concentration and knowledge acquisition. A supportive educational environment should be free from all forms of distractions, and instructors should provide content in places that foster concentration. Similarly, Mandah (2019) suggests that employing effective classroom management styles, such as sitting arrangements, could reduce distraction and create an enabling environment for behaviour for learning along with offering improved learning outcomes. In the same vein, Bakosh et al. (2016) advocated mindful-awareness training to enhance the emotional and social awareness of students.  

Behaviour For Learning and Promotion of Learners’ Achievements

This critical review strives to explain the Behaviour for Learning framework and the extent to which it promotes the achievement of learners. The review reflects on the formative and summative assessment of my school experiences and their explanations from an analytical perspective of the relationship between theory and practice as I work towards my Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) and qualified teacher status (QTS). It also focuses on the lessons learned from literature and experience that would help me facilitate the improvement of learners’ achievement through applying Behaviour For Learning framework for positive behaviour modification.

Lessons Learned

A formative assessment of my classroom performance provided valuable lessons on the presence or absence of positive learning behaviours in my class. Specifically, the classroom layout hindered effective teaching because students were disrupted by the presence of computers on their desks. In addition, I used warning inconsistently and used praise rarely. I used too much questioning using the twenty statement tests (TST) questioning technique, and indication that I employed limited assessment for learning (AFL) strategies. Moreover, I talked much, denying students sufficient opportunities to participate and become engaged in the lessons, which slowed the pace of learning. Besides, I did not ensure accessibility to leaning phases, which hindered the development of positive learning behaviours. The students’ feedback was enlightening because it echoed these challenges, which promoted their poor learning behaviours and lowered their achievement levels, from which I learned that I was yet to master the application of Behaviour for Learning framework to promote the development of positive learning behaviour in my classes. For instance, although most students were interested in the design and technology classes and wanted to succeed through high achievement levels, they felt that I treated them unfairly because I used warnings inconsistently and did not recognise their hard work.

However, the summative assessment of my experiences indicated that I had managed to make significant steps towards improving positive learning behaviours and promoting achievement in my class after responding to the challenges through the application of the Behaviour for Learning framework. For instance, I jointly planned my lessons with my students and students were working more in groups while the lessons were unplugged, which promoted their engagement and immersion into the lessons. This was accompanied by a seating arrangement that created a computer working area to eliminate the distraction of students during guided instructions and enhance self-regulation, as suggested by Arguedas, Daradoumis, and Xhafa (2016).  In addition, I banned the use of TST questioning technique and employed a variety of AFL strategies to track the progress of my students. Moreover, my use of warning was more consistent while in increased the application of positive praise to motivate my students and model the desired learning behaviours, as recommended by Freeman et al. (2018). Besides, the students’ autonomy in self-directed learning has increased significantly, as explained by Panadero (2017). 

Obstacles to Positive Learning Behaviour

From the formative and summative assessments, I foresee some obstacles in entrenching positive learning behaviour that would enhance education achievements of my student, albeit being minimal. Specifically, I was still using excessive questioning, which slowed the pace of learning. In addition, the transitions remained confused due to my indecisiveness. Besides, my inconsistent application of the school’s behaviour policy will present challenges in modelling positive learning behaviour in my classes, as it undermines the school-wide efforts discussed by Gage et al. (2015).  

However, I can address these challenges elucidated by the lessons learned using several strategies. Firstly, I will learn more about AFL strategies to help me apply a variety of progress tracking approaches without using the questioning technique excessively. Secondly, I need to plan my lessons collaboratively with my students and colleagues to improve identification of transition moments and the effective and consistent cues I should use in class to reduction transitional ambiguity. Coles et al. (2015) and Egeberg, McConney, and Price (2016) recommend and upgrade teachers’ beliefs, knowledge and skills related to classroom behaviour management through interventions, like a multi-component consultation program and application of best practices.

Thirdly, I will need to reflect on the school’s behaviour policies and my inconsistent application to identify which areas I can implement in my classes and ensure that they are accommodated in my lesson plans.  


In conclusion, a positive learning environment supports behaviour for learning and raises educational outcomes for learners. The literature reviewed demonstrated that teachers could build an enabling environment by using motivation theories, self-management models, emotional training, and social awareness to improve the learning setting and outcomes. A holistic approach, person-centred methods, and effective class management strategies are critical techniques that would help model positive behaviour for learning and enhance learning outcomes of students.


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 [A1]interesting paragraph …needs more criticality in the approach


 [A3]a specific study?

 [A4]expand here …

 [A5]check language here

 [A6]date/ ref?

 [A7]what study? -be specific here


 [A9]reference after quotation marks



 [A12]Please check all referencing for consistency

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