22 February 2024
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Behaviour and learning
- Popular

Practical approaches to strengthen behaviours that promote learning and minimise behaviours that disrupt and inhibit learning.

This guide is a companion resource to Teaching for positive behaviour: supporting engagement, participation and learning.

As learning, behaviour, and wellbeing are inseparable, this guide illustrates how to ensure students' strengths, interests, learning needs and preferences are considered in the design of learning environments.

The strategies within this guide: 

  • support The New Zealand Curriculum
  • promote inclusive, culturally responsive practices
  • are learner and whānau centred
  • support schools to take a reflective, problem-solving approach
  • promote self-regulated learning behaviours – in particular, the key competencies of relating to others, participating and contributing, and managing self
  • support student-to-student interactions and relationships as well as teacher-facilitated learning
  • are applicable to both traditional and more flexible, innovative learning environments
  • can often be supported using appropriate digital technologies.

The strategies are underpinned by Universal Design for Learning, a framework that guides the design of flexible, barrier-free learning options and supports.

Understanding behaviour

Key concepts and terms related to behaviour and learning.

If students are learning successfully, if they are feeling connected, if they know that people care, they are less likely to behave in ways that jeopardise their opportunities to be part of that.

Ngaire Ashmore, Principal, Tangaroa College

Understanding how to respond to problem behaviour

When you understand the purpose of a specific behaviour, you can determine how to respond and intervene.

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A Functional Behaviour Assessment (FBA) identifies where, when, and the likely reasons why a behaviour of concern happens. It is used to inform a behaviour support plan that addresses the reasons for behaviour/s occurring.

Source: Ministry of Education | Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga

Ministry of Education | Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga

Three suggestions for implementing this strategy:

  1. Identify triggers


    • Resources
  2. Gather information and problem solve


    • Resources
  3. Plan a response


    • Resources

Strategies for action

Six key strategies to support positive behaviours for learning.

Foster positive relationships and partnerships

Relationships foster a sense of belonging, which is an important basis for learning and engagement.

Video hosted on Vimeo

Kaiako talk about the importance of getting to know ākonga Māori and building trust to enable learning.

Collaboratively develop a safe and caring culture and climate

The classroom environment makes a big difference to how students learn.

Six suggestions for implementing this strategy:

  1. Define the classroom culture


    • Video
    • Resources
  2. Agree behavioural expectations


    • Resources
  3. Support authentic student decision making


    • Video
    • Resources
  4. Design the physical environment


    • Video
    • Resources
  5. Provide useful structure


    • Video
    • Resources
  6. Actively manage classroom behaviours


    • Video
    • Resources

Supporting language and communication skills

Children and young people need well developed speech, language, and communication skills to enable them to participate and achieve.

Six suggestions for implementing this strategy:

Support emotional wellbeing and positive mental health

Take a planned and empathetic approach to enabling students to strengthen their emotional wellbeing and positive mental health.

It’s vital for their identity. If they know who they are, they can have somewhere to grow from. They’re more responsive in the learning environment. 

It’s setting them up with tools for life, with a mind-set to help them navigate the world. Being aware of what’s around them, making sure they maintain a respect for themselves that they can then give to others.

Ebony Repia

Enable access and participation in learning

Consider how you will design a flexible learning environment that values and expects diversity and is effective for each learner. 

Video hosted on Youtube

Universal Design for Learning in action: A framework that guides the design of flexible, barrier-free learning options and supports.

Five suggestions for implementing this strategy:

Respond safely to challenging situations

Have belief and faith that learners learn new strategies. Prepare yourself to provide effective, responsive support.

He moana pupuke ka ekengia e te waka 

A choppy sea can be navigated. 

Five suggestions for implementing this strategy:

Key resources

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He māpuna te tamaiti: Supporting social and emotional competence in early learning

Read time: 160 min

This resource has been written for kaiako in Aotearoa New Zealand early learning services. Its purpose is to support you to understand and draw on effective practices that enhance children’s social and emotional competence, engagement, and learning.

Publisher: Te Whāriki Online

Teaching for Positive Behaviour

Teaching for positive behaviour: Supporting engagement, participation, and learning

Read time: 111 min

This resource supports teachers in all New Zealand primary and secondary schools to understand and draw on effective strategies that enhance students' behaviour, engagement, participation, and learning.

Publisher: Positive Behaviour for Learning

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Mental health education and hauora: Teaching interpersonal skills, resilience, and wellbeing

This resource supports teaching children and young people about mental health, wellbeing, resilience, and interpersonal skills. It includes lesson plans that work for multiple year and curriculum levels, and are particularly useful for years 7–11 health education.

Publisher: NZCER Press

Price: One off charge $85.00


Encourage positive behaviours

This resources provides strategies for encouraging positive behaviour in the individual, the classroom and school-wide.

Publisher: Positive Behaviour for Learning

Guide to Index of the guide: Behaviour and learning

Strategies for action: