Turning learning into action: The challenge of behaviour change

We all learn differently

In order to optimise the sharing and acquisition of new knowledge, different modes of learning need to be leveraged. For example, the behaviourism, cognitivism and constructivism learning theories each suggest the adoption of different learning styles. Behaviourism rewards the acquisition of knowledge, cognitivism facilitates the application of rules, and constructivism necessitates problem-solving and self-sufficiency.

However, merely addressing different learning styles is not sufficient; the context in which a given communication or educational initiative is delivered is critical in order to ensure the audience is receptive to it. Developing a bespoke programme within a framework that accounts for context is the key foundation of long-term success.

But does it work?

Measuring the real-world impact of communication and education programmes on behaviour has, in recent years, become the holy grail for agencies and pharma clients. Both groups are increasingly being asked to justify and show returns on their investments, particularly when it comes to long-running activities.

“This is what we always do…” is no longer an adequate response; robust metrics are needed to identify activities and tools that truly effect positive behaviour changes versus those that merely reinforce current behaviours.

Thankfully, there has been an increasing body of academic research in modelling human behaviour over the past few years, including the adaptation of the COM-B model.1 This model posits that behaviour occurs as an interaction between three necessary conditions: capability, opportunity and motivation.

  • Capability (the participant’s psychological and physical ability to change)
  • Opportunity (whether the participant’s social and physical environment is conducive to change)
  • Motivation (the participant’s immediate and continued desire to change)

The Theoretical Domains Framework2 provides a pragmatic adaptation of this model to enable practitioners to understand and intervene in human behaviours in relation to the management of disease and healthcare in general.

Developing meaningful metrics

In addition to the use of evidence-based tools to establish the drivers of and barriers to behavioural change, the advent of digital technology and real-time data collection facilitates the development and implementation of robust measurement systems.

At Porterhouse Medical Group, we believe in developing evidence-based tools that enable meaningful feedback to be captured instantaneously and effectively both before and after intervention to provide granular and accessible data. These insights help us as an agency to ensure that to our client activities are targeted and effective.

For more information on the evidence-based tools developed by Porterhouse Medical Group or any of the points raised above, please get in touch: Fabrice.Allum@porterhouseinsights.com.



  1. Michie S, van Stralen MM and West R. The behaviour change wheel: A new method for characterising and designing behaviour change interventions. Implement Sci 2011; 6: 42.
  2. Michie S and Johnston M. Optimising the value of the evidence generated in implementation science: The use of ontologies to address the challenges. Implement Sci 2017; 12 (1): 131.