Education Endowment Foundation:Learning behaviours

Learning behaviours

Improving the teaching and learning of learning behaviours 

Evidence on learning behaviours from the Teaching and Learning Toolkit alongside the findings from recent EEF projects.

Support for our most disadvantaged pupils requires strategic national decisions, logistical leadership by schools and high-quality teaching from dedicated teaching staff. Schools are best placed to know their communities, know their families and know their children.

When we use the word behaviour’ we can quickly assume that it relates solely to strategies to manage misbehaviour in the classroom. Crucial as these are, there is another dimension: how teachers can also explicitly support pupils’ learning behaviours’. As we teach these, developing and strengthening learning behaviours in our pupils, they become more motivated, engaged, and determined to succeed.

So, what do we mean by learning behaviours? A learning behaviour can be thought of as a behaviour that is necessary in order for a person to learn effectively in the group setting of the classroom (Ellis and Todd, 2018).

EEF learning behaviour work has developed from the rich and diverse evidence base represented in the EEF guidance reports on improving behaviour, metacognition and self-regulated learning, special educational needs in mainstream schools, working with parents, and social and emotional learning.

Evidence emerging from EEF evaluations and the wider evidence base suggests that when used and implemented correctly, alongside good teaching of content and skills, these approaches provide powerful ways to raise pupil attainment.

This page is an overview of current evidence on how to support pupils to become effective and self-motivated learners. It draws on: relevant topics from our Teaching and Learning Toolkit; findings from the EEF-funded projects that directly relate to supporting pupils to become effective and self-motivated learners; and other evidence-based resources we hope will be useful.


Ellis, S. and Todd, J. (2018) Behaviour for Learning, Routledge.

These approaches in the EEF Toolkit all show moderate-to-high impact on pupil attainment for very low cost. This means they are approaches which schools are right to consider very seriously when deciding how to support pupils’ learning in a more holistic way and improve pupil attainment most cost effectively.

While many of these practices are used in classrooms to some extent, the evidence shows that high impacts shown in the Toolkit can be difficult to achieve in practice, and that teachers need specific training to be able to help pupils develop these effective learning behaviours alongside content knowledge. The Toolkit provides a snapshot of past research. It is not a prediction of what will happen in future classrooms. What remains central is that school leaders and teachers use the Toolkit to complement their professional judgement and knowledge of their own school context. The Toolkit is written to enable school leaders to explore principles for positive impact and mechanisms to mitigate potential negatives. Schools can plan to use the Toolkit to establish best bets’, approaches that are likely to make a positive difference to pupils in school.

Effective implementation of learning behaviours requires school leaders to develop a shared language for their school culture and to explore areas for improvement using a robust diagnostic process to then make evidence-informed decisions. A clear, logical and well-specified plan will be communicated with infrastructure prepared. Delivering and sustaining the plan will require creativity and flexibility, however the underlying essential elements (or active ingredients) should remain at the heart. For more ideas around effective implementation, the EEF’s guide to implementation in schools may provide a useful framework.