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Predictability

Updated: Nov 24, 2022



The Early Career Framework states that a teacher must learn that... A predictable and secure environment benefits all pupils, but is particularly valuable for pupils with special educational needs.


Predictability, or being able to know what to expect, is an important ingredient for healthy development. Predictable routines and consistent relationships provide a foundation of trust and security for children. When children know what to expect and who they can rely on, they have the confidence to explore the world around them and develop new skills.


Consistency from the educator = predictability for the student = feelings of safety at school.


Human development relies on predictability. When children do not have to worry if their basic needs (such as food, housing, and safety) will be met, they can focus their energy and attention on other things, like playing and learning. Predictability enables a child to know what to expect so the child can organize their behavior to be successful. For example, by learning the schedule and norms of a classroom, children can arrive on time, follow the rules, and engage effectively in learning and social interactions.


Consistency and structure are beneficial both for our kiddos and for adults. It’s not something we think about a lot, but for children, what transpires during their days is largely out of their control. They don’t get to determine how their day will unfold; they’re simply expected to “roll with it” while we – the adults – try to balance “all the things” and keep everyone safe and fed while doing so. Clear structure and expectations provide limits and boundaries and help children not only predict how parents will react but also teaches them how to behave.


Consistency means that we follow through with what we say we are going to do. It gives power to our words. It is resisting giving our child second and third chances when he breaks a rule or behaves poorly. Giving in instead of holding our ground – even when we are tired/stretched thin/overworked – will backfire on us in the long run, because giving in teaches our kiddos that next time they just need to push a little bit more and we will eventually let them have what they want.


Consistency allows boundaries and expectations to be set, which actually provides children with a sense of safety. When unexpected changes occur, their safety and security is impacted, sometimes causing anxiety. While we cannot predict all changes, having consistent routines and expectations is a solid foundation that helps them adapt to changes as needed.


Structures and routines also help students learn how to control their behaviours. When expectations and consequences are known, children actively make the choice to behave accordingly or deal with the consequence that follows. If you are consistent with how you respond to positive and negative behaviours, children are more likely to adjust their behaviour. Consider some examples adults might face:

  • If every day on your way home you drive over a pothole, eventually, you learn to avoid it because you don’t want to get a flat tire. You have altered your behavior due to a consistent circumstance.

  • If you eat lunch at 11:30 every day but today you have a meeting that runs over until noon, you will be hungry, but you will cope knowing you will be able to eat once the meeting wraps up. You have just reasoned with yourself to be able to cope with an unexpected and undesired change.

Think now about how an unpredictable learning environment might make a student feel whilst at school.


Consistency and predictability are imperatives to the experience of a safe environment. Consistent routines and expectations are particularly helpful for traumatized children who need a school environment which counters the lack of predictability and safety in their lives outside of school. Below are some detailed aspects of consistency and predictability with strategies for a school experience that is safe for all students to be able to learn, grow and thrive.


Consistent and predictable rituals, routines, and procedures help students:

  • prepare for each part of the day

  • know what to expect

  • aid in smooth transitions

  • provide reminders for upcoming events

  • calm students


Consistency helps create trust that the adults can provide safety. For students to experience consistency and predictability, rituals, routines, and procedures must be clearly planned and executed with consistency and predictability. Most educators get the first part correct, beginning the year with strong plans and clear rules, but then quickly become inconsistent and unpredictable in their implementation.


Investing in consistency and predictability will substantially reduce the likelihood that students will become dysregulated because they are anxious and uncertain about what comes next. Predictable schedules make it easier for students to internalize the progression and to shift from one task/activity to the next. For example, posted schedules inform students of what is coming up and what they’ve already done. It also serves as a visual aid to reference when students have questions about the day. Consistency and predictability also make for easier responses to unexpected changes in the day by allowing you to clearly state the aspect of the planned schedule being replaced with the change in the schedule for that day.


Consistency and predictability are created through:

  • daily or class-specific schedules and agendas posted in the same place in every classroom

  • clearly defined and posted behavior expectations

  • clearly defined sequence of actions for transitions

  • consistently used calls to attention and non-verbal signals for behavioral expectations

  • preparation warnings and countdowns to transitions

As a teacher, predictability is just as important for you as it is for your students. When your behaviour is consistent - as in, it is the same each time they see you - your pupils know what to expect and so you as the teacher will in turn know what behaviour to expect from THEM. When you consistently greet pupils at your door, in a positive way, making use of the routines you have established by making them routine - pupils will behave in a predictable way too.


References from the ECF

[Further reading recommendations are indicated with an asterisk.]

Aronson, J. (Ed.) (2002) Improving academic achievement: Impact of psychological factors on education. New York: Academic Press. Bandura, A. (1986) Social foundations of thought and action: a social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Campbell Collaboration (2018) School-based interventions for reducing disciplinary school exclusion: A Systematic Review. Accessible from: https://campbellcollaboration.org/library/reducing-school-exclusion-school-based-interventions.html .

Chapman, R. L., Buckley, L., & Sheehan, M. (2013) School-Based Programs for Increasing Connectedness and Reducing Risk Behavior: A Systematic Review, 25(1), 95–114.

Chetty, R., Friedman, J. N., Rockoff, J. E. (2014) Measuring the Impacts of Teachers II: Teacher Value-Added and Student Outcomes in Adulthood. American Economic Review, 104(9), 2633–2679. https://doi.org/10.1257/aer.104.9.2633 .

*Education Endowment Foundation (2018) Sutton Trust-Education Endowment Foundation Teaching and Learning Toolkit: Accessible from: https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/evidence-summaries/teaching-learning-toolkit [retrieved 10 October 2018].

Hanushek, E. (1992) The Trade-off between Child Quantity and Quality. Journal of Political Economy, 100(4), 859–887.

*Institute of Education Sciences (2008) Reducing Behavior Problems in the Elementary School Classroom. Accessible from https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/PracticeGuide/4 .

Johnson, S., Buckingham, M., Morris, S., Suzuki, S., Weiner, M., Hershberg, R., B. Weiner, Hershberg, R., Fremont, E., Batanova, M., Aymong, C., Hunter, C., Bowers, E., Lerner, J., & Lerner, R. (2016) Adolescents’ Character Role Models: Exploring Who Young People Look Up to as Examples of How to Be a Good Person. Research in Human Development, 13(2), 126–141. https://doi.org/10.1080/15427609.2016.1164552 .

Jussim, L. & Harber, K., (2005) Teacher Expectations and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies: Knowns and Unknowns, Resolved and Unresolved Controversies, Personality and Social Psychology Review 2005, Vol. 9, No. 2, 131–1557.

Lazowski, R. A., & Hulleman, C. S. (2016) Motivation Interventions in Education: A Meta-Analytic Review. Review of Educational Research, 86(2), 602–640. https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654315617832 .

Murdock-Perriera, L. A., & Sedlacek, Q. C. (2018) Questioning Pygmalion in the twenty-first century: the formation, transmission, and attributional influence of teacher expectancies. Social Psychology of Education, 21(3), 691–707. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11218-018-9439-9 .

*PISA (2015) PISA in Focus: Do teacher-student relations affect students’ well-being at school? Accessible from: https://doi.org/10.1787/22260919 .

Rathmann K., Herke M., Hurrelmann K., Richter M. (2018) Perceived class climate and school-aged children's life satisfaction: The role of the learning environment in classrooms. PLoS ONE 13(2): e0189335. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0189335 .

Rubie-Davies, C. M., Weinstein, R. S., Huang, F. L., Gregory, A., Cowan, P. A., & Cowan, C. P. (2014) Successive teacher expectation effects across the early school years. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 35(3), 181–191. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appdev.2014.03.006 .

Slater, H., Davies, N. M., & Burgess, S. (2011) Do Teachers Matter? Measuring the Variation in Teacher Effectiveness in England. Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0084.2011.00666.x .

Tsiplakides, I. & Keramida, A. (2010) The relationship between teacher expectations and student achievement in the teaching of English as a foreign language. English Language Teaching, 3(2), P22. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1081569.pdf .

Wubbels, T., Brekelmans, M., den Brok, P., Wijsman, L., Mainhard, T., & van Tartwijk, J. (2014) Teacher-student relationships and classroom management. In E. T. Emmer, E. Sabornie, C. Evertson, & C. Weinstein (Eds.). Handbook of classroom management: Research, practice, and contemporary issues (2nd ed., pp. 363–386). New York, NY: Routledge.

Zins, J. E., Bloodworth, M. R., Weissberg, R. P., & Walberg, H. J. (2007) The Scientific Base Linking Social and Emotional Learning to School Success. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 17(2–3), 191–210. https://doi.org/10.1080/10474410701413145

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