PublicationsTopic index of systematic reviewsKnowledge pagesLearning skills
Learning behaviour and skills
This page contains the findings of systematic reviews undertaken by review groups linked to the EPPI Centre

Learning behaviour
Learning skills

Learning behaviour

One systematic review investigated theories of learning behaviour [1] and found, tentatively that:

  • 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'.

Learning skills

Where the objective is to develop conceptual understanding rather than the mastery of specific skills, effective approaches are those which explicitly develop awareness of learning strategies and techniques, particularly when these are targeted at the metacognitive level. One review found [2] that characteristics of these approaches include:

  • Structured tasks which focus on specific and explicit strategies in the subject context;
  • Capacity in lessons for more effective exchanges between the learner and the teacher concerning the purpose of the activity;
  • Small group interactions promoting articulation about the use of learning strategies;
  • Mechanisms built into learning tasks to promote checking for mutual understanding of learning goals by peers and with the teacher;
  • Enhanced opportunities for the learner to receive diagnostic feedback linked directly to the content of the task.
    Some necessary conditions for these approaches to be successful: are 
  • The teacher needs to have good understanding of the subject and of different approaches to learning, and be sensitive to the demands of different types of learners;
  • Teachers should have a repertoire of practical tools and strategies to guide the learner and enhance opportunities for feedback about learning;
  • Both teachers and learners should have an orientation towards learning characterised by a willingness to engage in dialogue and negotiation regarding the intent and purpose of a particular teaching and learning activity;
  • The focus of learning should be on how to succeed through effort rather than ability and through the selection of appropriate strategies by the learner.


1. A systematic review of how theories explain learning behaviour in school contexts (2004)

2. Learning skills and the development of learning capabilities  (2007)

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