Building teacher habits

By Gary Aubin posted 02-11-2022 11:30

Hannah Heron, EEF' content specialist for learning behaviours, outlines the importance of building habits.

It’s 10.15am and Emily, an Early Career Teacher, is preparing to move her Year 3 pupils from working on the carpet back to their tables. Transitions within the classroom have been challenging in the past, but not today. Today, she focuses on the children and begins to speak:

1…Voices off, stand up, head to your tables.’

2…Sit down quietly and pick up a pencil.’

3…Turn to your partner and get started!’

The whole process takes less than a minute. The transition is seamless. The children are focused and on task. Pleased, Emily turns to me with a smile and says, we’ve been working on that all week!’

Build Habits to support effective learning behaviours

Evidence can provide us with best bets’ for improving outcomes for pupils.

How then, can we draw from evidence that surrounds learning behaviours to inform our teacher habits and support pupils to develop independent learning behaviours?

Why build habits?

Managing the limitations of the working memory is a challenge for teachers. When something becomes a habit, it frees up space in our working memories. Building in evidence-informed teaching habits can allow us to focus our delivery on what works for pupils; freeing up space to think more deeply about the learning that is taking place.

What works?

Here are some examples of evidence informed teacher habits straight from the classroom:

1.Every parents’ evening we set up an example study table, including all the resources we gift families (dictionary, calculator, pencil case) and enjoy engaging in conversations about how a learning space could support self-regulation at home.” Secondary Assistant Headteacher

Recommendation 3 Metacognition and Self-regulated Learning

2.Each week we suggest a practical learning activity for parents to try at home. This week we challenged families to make a junk musical instrument. We shared question stems to promote self-regulation: Have we done something like this before?’ Could we draw a plan?’ I’m wondering why…?’ Does our instrument look like the plan?’ EYFS Lead

Recommendation 2 Working with Parents to Support Children’s Learning

3.In PE lessons I have been planning in more time for reflection at the end of a game to explore how it feels when we lose or win. I hope that naming and exploring these emotions will help pupils to independently manage their emotions and respond more constructively in future sessions.” Year 6 Teacher, PE subject lead

Recommendation 2 Improving Social and Emotional Learning in Primary Schools

4. We encourage our staff to set high expectations for all. Ensuring an appropriate level of challenge is set for every learner provides opportunities for independent learning behaviours to develop. Teacher habits that promote time spent on guided practice can effectively support all pupils to become more independent. Teaching Assistant habits support pupils through offering prompts and clues.” School SENDCo

Recommendation 3 Special Educational Needs in Mainstream Schools

5. I make a conscious effort to praise pupils when they have demonstrated perseverance within a learning task. For example: Sean, you referred to your apparatus symbols list to help you with that task – well done for remembering this resource and persevering.” Over time this has improved the way learners in my classes overcome setbacks.” Secondary Science Teacher

Recommendation 2 Improving Behaviour in Schools

As seen in the example from Emily’s classroom, building evidence-informed habits could lead to positive outcomes for teachers and pupils.

Reflecting on her next steps, Emily shared with me her intention to continue to build in simple habits into her routines around behaviour. Next week, she will begin the habit of meeting each of her pupils at the door with the aim of continuing to build relationships to promote positive learning behaviours in her classroom.

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This blog first appeared on the EEF website.