PublicationsSystematic reviewsTheories of learning behaviour
A systematic review of how theories explain learning behaviour in school contexts

What do we want to know?

Behaviour management has been the focus of considerable research, publication and professional development in the field of education. In spite of this, pupil behaviour remains an area of concern for policy-makers, schools and their teachers. The issue of how best to train and support teachers to manage pupil behaviour is an issue of considerable importance if policies for increased inclusion, raising attainment and widening participation are to be effectively enacted in educational settings.

One way to enhance opportunities for in this area is to build an evidence base of theoretical explanations for learning behaviour to support tutors in providing effective initial teacher education (ITE) training for behaviour management. This systematic review was commissioned by the Teacher Training Agency in order to contribute to such an evidence base.

Who wants to know?

National and local policy-makers; those involved in teacher education and school development; teacher trainees; school-based mentors.

What did we find?  

Because of the small number of studies reviewed, the findings are considered to be tentative.

  • Researchers have used theories that combine cognitive, affective and/or social perspectives, consistent with the view that learning behaviour is influenced by the interaction of how the learner thinks, feels and interacts.
  • Many of the learning behaviours studied were related to staying on-task in group settings.  Useful strategies related to the development of motivation and discipline, social behaviour and self-efficacy.
  • Behaviour management could be improved by: promoting mastery orientation rather than performance orientation; promoting on-task discussion between pupils; working in partnership with pupils in goal setting; discouraging competitive classroom contexts.
  • Positive learning behaviour can be enhanced by: emphasising effective learning behaviour through subject teaching; use of cognitive and affective strategies; formative assessment of social, emotional and behavioural indicators of learning; developing a shared understanding of learning behaviour between teacher and pupil; and increasing the integration of the 'social' and the 'academic'.

What are the implications?

Because of the small number of studies reviewed, the implications are considered to be tentative.

  • Teacher trainees should develop a sound knowledge of the theories of learning behaviour, and be aware of the need to promote 'behaviour for learning'.
  • Effective learning behaviour should be addressed through subject teaching.
  • 'Behaviour for learning' should be given greater priority within the ITE curriculum, and should be enhanced by some work on relationship management and some core SEN standards.  ITE students could usefully experience school placements which bridge 'special' and 'mainstream' provision.
  • Production of national guidelines for the promotion of learning behaviour would be useful.

How did we get these results?

Five studies were synthesised; they were written in English, published between 1988 and 2002; and covered theoretical links to learning behaviour in school contexts for pupils aged 3 to 16 years.

This summary was prepared by the EPPI Centre

This report should be cited as: Powell S, Tod J (2004) A systematic review of how theories explain learning behaviour in school contexts. In: Research Evidence in Education Library. London: EPPI Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London.

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