10 Characteristics of Effective Learning and How to Observe Them (2024)


10 Characteristics of Effective Learning and How to Observe Them (1)

Effective learning is defined as methods of learning that involve children actively participating in their own learning and personal development.

Research shows that children are more likely to learn by actively talking and listening, writing, reading, and reflecting as this helps them understand and retain the information they have accumulated.

Rather than children simply copying what the teacher is telling them or what other children are doing, with effective learning, they are much involved in their own progress. A good way to think of it is children are ‘learning how to learn’ which results in the development of rich language, concentration and exploration skills.

Effective learning places children and their needs at the centre of the learning process. This is supported by the Curriculum for Excellence (CFE) which helps children and young people gain the skills, knowledge and attributes needed for life.

The aim of the CFE is for children and young people to become successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors.

What Does Effective Learning Look Like?

Classrooms should be active.

They should be a place where children are involved in their own learning and responsible for their personal development. Classrooms should be designed as a collaboration between practitioners and children to create an environment that puts the needs of the child first.

An active classroom is one where learning takes place through doing. Think of a classroom set-up where groups of children are working together on the carpet or around a desk, sharing ideas and collaboratively working to solve a problem.

This demands cooperation and collaboration which are some of the most effective forms of learning. Furthermore, working in groups enhances critical thinking and the ability to work with others to achieve a common goal.

When learners are actively participating in their development, they can identify and set academic goals that will enable them to develop further. By being involved in establishing these goals, they are becoming self-reliant and taking ownership of their own learning.

The characteristics of effective learning form a strong basis of Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and play an important role across all EYFS teaching and assessments in England.

Although particularly significant in the Early Years learning, it can be beneficial to apply these techniques throughout teaching including Key Stage 1, Key Stage 2 and beyond.

Characteristics of Effective Learning?

The children ask more questions – good questions!

Asking questions is so important in the learning process and for effective learning to take place.

If children are participating in learning with no natural curiosity then the chances of meaningful interactions are low.

Children need to engage in the activity which requires questioning why something is a certain way or why something means what it does.

This process further deepens their understanding as they’re looking further into an issue rather than simply accepting what they’ve been told.

Questioning also allows practitioners to check the child’s understanding of a particular subject and keep them engaged with the task at hand.

This increased engagement gives rise to a positive attitude and a sense of pride, as the children feel proud of the effort they’re putting in.

10 Characteristics of Effective Learning and How to Observe Them (2)

Questions Are Valued Over Answers

Questions are more important than answers as they frame and expose a child’s understanding of a piece of work. It also shows that they’re thinking into a subject and working to generate solutions to a problem.

As discussed, lessons should be led by the children asking good questions, but to increase engagement, these questions should have a currency attached. This helps make the activity more interactive and can add a playful element to the activity.

This could include giving out points to those who ask questions or by handing out stickers as rewards.

These small activities increase the likelihood that the children will want to participate, thus increasing effective learning.

Ideas Come From a Variety of Sources

When planning activities, ideas should come from a variety of sources to ensure the children are receiving a variety of information.

You don’t want to narrow down their learning or focus too much in one direction so try to keep your resources broad.

To enable a diversification of information, look towards resources such as the community, content led experts outside of education, and ask the children themselves for ideas.

This enables them to use their imagination and become independent thinkers as they are suggesting their own ideas for content. In addition, this contributes to their sense of self-direction as they are active parts of their own learning.

A Variety of Learning Models Are Used

Every learner learns differently. As human beings, our approach to learning is based on a combination of strengths and preferences, so it’s important to use a variety of learning models to be inclusive of each child.

From project-based learning, direction instruction, peer-to-peer learning, e-learning, mobile learning and so on, there are various models employed depending on the needs of the child and the subject being taught.

How we learn can heavily depend on what we’re learning and sometimes even our preferred mode of learning might not be best suited to the particular task at hand.

As none of the learning models suit every piece of content or curriculum, it’s important to diversify and try a varied approach.

10 Characteristics of Effective Learning and How to Observe Them (3)

Playing and Exploring Increase Engagement

According to the EYFS, children learn by exploring the world around them through their senses. By creating activities that stimulate their senses such as sight, sound, smell, taste, or touch, children will learn about the world in a very natural way.

Repetition is also important for children to practice the skills they’ve learnt and they should be allowed time to play with things they enjoy. They’ll often play with toys that are familiar to them or those they have seen other children using and engage them in imaginative play. Dressing up and role play are good activities for this.

As children will usually choose activities that are familiar to them, they should be encouraged to try new things. However, whilst each activity should present a challenge, it should be age and stage appropriate to help build their confidence.

Practitioners should try and offer as much support as possible, or demonstrate activities so children know what to do.

Learning Is Personalised

Personalised learning aims to customise learning for each child’s strengths, skills, needs and interests.

It’s not a ‘one size fits all’ approach as rather than practitioners leading all children through the same lesson, they provide individual journeys that are tailored to the individual needs.

Although each child learns at a different pace, the goal of personalised learning is to keep the child on track so they still meet the standards required.

Practitioners can personalise learning by a variety of criteria including assessment results, interest and readiness to learn. By adjusting the pace accordingly, this may help you to ‘uncover’ what a child needs and then tailor the content to suit.

Assessment Is Persistent, Authentic and Fair

Assessments are important as they help practitioners to determine whether a student has understood a piece of work. However, assessments should be more focussed on the needs of the learner rather than purely checking up on what they have learnt.

Practitioners should ask themselves ‘Why are the children being tested? How will this help improve their future learning? What are the benefits?’

These questions can help shape future assessments so they have a meaningful purpose and provide information that can be used to scope further learning.

Also feedback should be provided quickly after an assessment so children know the areas they need to improve on and can start working towards future goals.

Criteria for success is balanced and transparent

Children should never have to guess what ‘success’ means in an effective learning environment. This should be communicated through clear guidance and indicators so they can monitor their own progress.

Success should be measured as part of a cohesive framework that isn’t purely based on participation, assessment results, attitude or other individual factors.

The core element of the framework is that it makes sense to the student, as they need to understand how their development is being monitored and what they can do to grow.

As each child is different, each of their goals will be different, but the key is ensuring each child understands what they are working towards. They should never be asking themselves ‘what does this mean?’ as for a goal to be achievable, they need to be able to envision it.

Tracking assessments for both parents and teachers is made easy with Learning Journals.

Learning Habits Are Constantly Modelled

As a teacher, it’s important to model the process of learning from an adults perspective.

Children often learn from what they see around them and this approach is much more direct and observational.

Demonstrating to children the challenges you have previously faced and talking about how you overcame them, is an effective tool in enabling children to learn from you.

They can then apply these experiences and behaviours when they are faced with a problem as they have the knowledge of how to react.

Traits such as persistence, curiosity, creativity and collaboration are great examples of development characteristics and will help prepare children for future situations.

By simply talking to children about learning, practitioners become more relatable as you’re showing children that you experience the same problems as they do.

As an adult talking about overcoming a problem, you’re also proving that learning is a lifelong process and will continue to benefit the children even outside of the classroom.

10 Characteristics of Effective Learning and How to Observe Them (4)

There Are Constant Opportunities for Practice

By taking time to reflect on practices, it facilitates learning, growth and renewal throughout the career development of a teacher.

Practitioners are very busy and taking the time out of the working school day to reflect on best practices is not always possible, but this should be consciously built into their schedule to improve future learning.

Urie Bronfenbrenner, American Psychologist:

“Development, it turns out, occurs through this process of progressively more complex exchange between a child and somebody else- especially somebody who’s crazy about that child”

Old thinking and ideas can be revisited and reflected on to determine their effectiveness and complex ideas can be re-approached from new angles.

From simple to complex processes, the aim is to maximise a child’s development characteristics and opportunities to learn. This process also helps identify appropriate adjustments for future practices.

Active Learning to Increase Motivation

As part of effective learning as defined by EYFS, children need help to remain focussed and engaged in an activity.

Young children have a short attention span and can become easily distracted so activities should be a combination of child initiated and adult-led activity that can be incorporated into their daily routines.

Practitioners should also ensure that all activities are age appropriate so that children are not being set up to fail if something is too challenging.

It’s more beneficial to their learning to give a child an easy task which can be made progressively harder rather than overloading them with a difficult task they can’t complete.

This allows them to achieve in small stages and slowly pick up new skills.

Adults should also continuously provide support when children are learning any new activity, as this can be a frustrating process so perseverance is key.

10 Characteristics of Effective Learning and How to Observe Them (5)

10 Characteristics of Effective Learning and How to Observe Them

Effective learning is defined as methods of learning that involve children actively participating in their own learning and personal development. The premise of effective learning is that it is not a one-way process where pupils simply copy what they are told, but a collaborative process where pupils have a pivotal role in their own development.

Rather than just sitting and listening to a teacher talk, for effective learning to take place, children must be actively involved by asking questions, participating in group discussions and using critical thinking to analyse and solve problems.

What’s more, in an effective learner, knowing different strategies or ways or working isn’t enough. It’s about monitoring and reviewing these strategies to maximise their effectiveness so learners can reach their full potential. Hence why effective learning is often referred to as ‘learning how to learn.’

Adults, including practitioners and parents, need to understand how to integrate these development characteristics into a child’s daily routine to enrich their learning experiences.

How Learning Journals Supports Effective Learning

Tracking a child’s learning is a collaborative process between practitioners and caregivers where information needs to be easily recorded, uploaded and shared so any progress can be monitored.

With tools such as creating observations, engaging with parents, and tracking progress, Learning Journals provides a complete platform for measuring your child’s personal development.

Unlike physical folders and documentation, the Learning Journals platform also allows parents to interact with their child’s learning by leaving comments and uploading their own observations from home.

Learning Journals understand that your child’s development matters and places their needs at the forefront.

Interested in the Learning Journals platform? Sign up for your free trial and experience the benefits it can offer.

10 Characteristics of Effective Learning and How to Observe Them (2024)


What do characteristics of effective learning explain? ›

The Characteristics of Effective Learning describe behaviours children use in order to learn. To learn well, children must approach opportunities with curiosity, energy and enthusiasm. Effective learning must be meaningful to a child, so that they are able to use what they have learned and apply it in new situations.

What is the most important characteristics of an effective learner? ›

Good learners pursue understanding diligently.

Most importantly they talk with others, read more, study more, and carry around what they don't understand; thinking about it before they go to sleep, at the gym, on the way to work, and sometimes when they should be listening to others. Good learners are persistent.

How do you observe learning? ›

Observational learning is the process of learning by watching the behaviors of others. The targeted behavior is watched, memorized, and then mimicked. Also known as shaping and modeling, observational learning is most common in children as they imitate behaviors of adults.

What are the characteristics of effective teaching and learning materials? ›

The teams looked at the research that establishes these characteristics and have organized them around five components: learning climate; classroom assessment and reflection; instructional rigor and student engagement; instructional relevance; and knowledge of content.

What characteristics make an effective and successful lesson? ›

What are the Qualities of a Great Lesson Plan?
  • Clarity of Organization. ...
  • Clarity of Explanation. ...
  • Clarity of Examples and Guided Practice. ...
  • Clarity of Assessment of Student Learning. ...
  • 6 Remote Learning Strategies to Successfully Check for Your Students' Understanding.
27 Jan 2021

What are the characteristics of a highly effective learning environment? ›

Curiosity, persistence, flexibility, priority, creativity, collaboration, revision, and even the classic Habits of Mind are all great places to start. So often what students learn from those around them is less directly didactic, and more indirect and observational. Old thinking is revisited.

Why is it important to understand the characteristics of learners? ›

An understanding of learner characteristics enables students to be more efficient and effective in their learning. It also encourages educators to be more precise in their teachings. Learner characteristics are so diverse that they range from personal to academic.

What is the importance of effective learning? ›

Children gain greater understanding.

Effective learners gain a greater complexity of understanding when it comes to the concepts and information they've learned. They are more readily able to connect different pieces of knowledge together.

What are the qualities of good learners at least 10? ›

What makes a successful learner?
  • …are leaders in their own learning.
  • … engage with the world around them.
  • … question everything.
  • … think for themselves.
  • … are driven by their interests.
  • … push through challenges.
  • … are determined to succeed.
  • …have inner motivation and self discipline.

What is the best way to make learning effective? ›

Top 10 best study tips
  1. Be consistent. If you try to cram, you'll set yourself up for failure. ...
  2. Sleep properly. ...
  3. Try the Pomodoro method. ...
  4. Create the right environment. ...
  5. Create flashcards. ...
  6. Break everything down. ...
  7. Teach other people. ...
  8. Get some exercise.
7 Apr 2022

What is the most effective way in learning? ›

The most effective practice is to work a short time on each class every day. The total amount of time spent studying will be the same (or less) than one or two marathon library sessions, but you will learn the information more deeply and retain much more for the long term—which will help get you an A on the final.

How do you apply learning by observing in teaching? ›

For tasks that can be observed and modeled, it may be beneficial to pair students with other students. By doing so, teachers may increase the likeliness that learners will pay attention during the task and retain information. Students may also feel more motivated when observing their peers.

How do we observe? ›

Scientists observe in many ways – with their own senses or with tools like magnifying glasses, thermometers, satellites or stethoscopes. These tools allow for more precise and accurate observations. Tools also help gather information about things beyond our capability to experience firsthand – deep space, for example.

What is observation with example? ›

The definition of an observation is the act of noticing something or a judgment or inference from something seen or experienced. An example of observation is the watching of Haley's Comet. An example of observation is making the statement that a teacher is proficient from watching him teach several times.

Why do we observe children's learning? ›

By observing children as they explore, play and learn, practitioners can ensure that a child's development is at the expected stage, whether the environment and resources (toys or equipment) are stimulating their development, and what future support the child will need in order to gain new interests, skills and ...

What are the 6 methods of observation? ›

  • Structured observation.
  • Covert observation.
  • Participant observation.
  • Overt observation.
  • Unstructured observation.
22 Mar 2021

When were the characteristics of effective learning introduced? ›

This is good news: the Characteristics of Effective Learning have been a central part of the EYFS since 2012.

What is the need the importance and characteristics of a good lesson plan? ›

It should have clear aims:The lesson plan should clearly state the objectives, general and specific to be achieved. It should be linked with the previous knowledge: The plan should not let the lesson remain an isolated one. It should have its basis on the background of the class.

What are the characteristics of the most important aspects of a lesson plan? ›

It should be a document that a teacher can work from in the lesson, so it should be neat, clear, well-organized with clear and appropriate as well as achievable aims. “A lesson plan is a teacher's detailed description of the course of instruction or "learning trajectory" for a lesson.

What are the characteristics of a good lesson for teaching a key concept in your subject area? ›

  • State desired quality of work.
  • Have students paraphrase directions.
  • Ensure that everyone is paying attention.
  • Ensure that all distractions have been removed.
  • Describe expectations, activities and evaluation procedures.
  • Start with a highly motivating activity.
  • Build lesson upon prior student knowledge.

What are effective learning skills? ›

The 21st century learning skills are often called the 4 C's: critical thinking, creative thinking, communicating, and collaborating. These skills help students learn, and so they are vital to success in school and beyond.

How do you evaluate effective learning? ›

How to Assess Students' Learning and Performance
  1. Creating assignments.
  2. Creating exams.
  3. Using classroom assessment techniques.
  4. Using concept maps.
  5. Using concept tests.
  6. Assessing group work.
  7. Creating and using rubrics.

How do you assess the effectiveness of teaching and learning? ›

There are three elements to consider when evaluating teaching effectiveness within a particular context: Criteria – attributes of effective teaching. Evidence – documentation of teaching considered in the review process. Standards – expectations of quality and quantity.

How do you ensure that effective learning happens in the classroom? ›

Rather than just sitting and listening to a teacher talk, for effective learning to take place, children must be actively involved by asking questions, participating in group discussions and using critical thinking to analyse and solve problems.

How can teachers effectively use observational learning? ›

For tasks that can be observed and modeled, it may be beneficial to pair students with other students. By doing so, teachers may increase the likeliness that learners will pay attention during the task and retain information. Students may also feel more motivated when observing their peers.

How can teaching effectiveness be improved? ›

How to Improve Teaching Quality and Effectivness
  1. Make your expectations clear.
  2. Make eye contact and address students by name.
  3. Supplement lectures with hands-on activities.
  4. Recognize students' accomplishments and respond appropriately to their concerns.
24 Mar 2021

How do you assess the effectiveness of your teaching during and after the practical? ›

Small-Group Instructional Feedback (SGIF) is a simple, powerful technique for determining the effectiveness of your teaching. It is equally valuable for new and for experienced teachers. It uses a specially trained colleague to provide you with a consensus of student opinion about your teaching in a particular class.

What is example of effective learning? ›

Spacing or spreading out learning opportunities over time improves learning. For example, students will learn and retain more if they study 30 minutes M-F, rather than for 2.5 hours all on one day. Students should create a schedule with brief study sessions each day and stick to it.

What is the importance of effective learning? ›

Children gain greater understanding.

Effective learners gain a greater complexity of understanding when it comes to the concepts and information they've learned. They are more readily able to connect different pieces of knowledge together.

What are the reasons for observing learners learning? ›

Observation of a child's behavior can:
  • Help an educator better understand why a child might be having challenging behavior.
  • Identify special needs.
  • Better understand the child.
  • Allows for documentation of skills.
  • Shows the child's communication style.
  • See what their interactions with their peers are like.
3 Mar 2022

What are some examples of observational learning in the classroom? ›

A child learns to walk. A child learns how to play a game while watching others. A child shows that she has learned the basic steps of cooking a meal by doing so at a play kitchen in her classroom. A child learns a science concept by demonstration from the teacher.

What are some examples of observational learning in everyday life? ›

Learning new skills: Children and adults can learn new skills through observational learning. A child can learn how to paint her nails by watching their mom, or an adult may learn to lift weights by watching others on videos. Reinforcing positive behavior: Some people can learn positive behavior by observing others.

What is observational learning explain with example? ›

This is the form of learning that doesn't need teaching and just comes naturally. For example: A child learns to make and different facial expressions by observing his/her mother. A child learns to walk through observation. A newer employee is always punctual after seeing a colleague get fired for being late.

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