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Instructional Practices

8 Components of PBIS to Support Effective Implementation

9 Min Read
8 Components of PBIS to Support Effective Implementation

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is an evidence-based framework that promotes positive student behavior in schools. Focusing on teaching students positive behaviors can positively impact a school’s culture and climate, making it a more pleasant place to study and work. However, successfully implementing a PBIS program requires many different elements to be in place. Let’s take a look at eight components of PBIS.

Key Elements of PBIS

1. Teamwork

As you might imagine, it takes a village to implement a PBIS program. Although the elements of PBIS may seem basic, everyone involved in the process must understand its purpose and expectations of PBIS. A successful implementation depends on all stakeholders (administrators, teachers, support staff, parents, and students) being on board.

Supporting PBIS is not just the work of teachers. Efforts to support PBIS in schools and classrooms require teamwork to succeed. It’s important for every member of the school community to know how to effectively recognize, promote, and reward positive behavior to inspire real and lasting change.

The PBIS team will lead the way in facilitating schoolwide and classroom change; this is where most of the important decisions will be made and handed down for the staff to hopefully follow. Your PBIS team should be representative of all stakeholders, with individuals from all levels participating. Team members may include:

  • School Administrators: A principal or other administrator should be in a leadership position, as PBIS will involve decisions to be made at the schoolwide level.
  • School Counselors: When dealing with strategies for improving student conduct, the school counselor may have more training on the matter than anyone else in the school. Use this person to determine ways to approach the use of positive reinforcement for behavior.
  • Grade-Level Teachers: Each grade level should be represented by one of its teachers. This teacher will be able to express the most common issues the students are having with conduct at that age level.
  • Parent Representatives: It is essential to get the parental support needed for a strong PBIS program. Many parents will choose to follow a similar program at home if they are educated on how to do so.
  • Team Leaders: A team leader will be needed to set agendas and meetings, create a schedule, and essentially always keep the team on track.

2. Buy-In

Implementing a PBIS program at the school, classroom, and individual levels can be a lot of work. For PBIS to prosper, it needs as much buy-in as possible from staff members from every department, as they’ll be the ones administering those practices daily.

As much as we know that positive behavior interventions improve student outcomes, getting buy-in from teachers and staff to implement yet another program can be tough. Teachers have a lot on their plates already. Therefore, how you teach and communicate about PBIS to these stakeholders is so important. You will need teachers, parents, and students to agree to the plan, understand their roles, and ensure everyone knows it’s a team effort.

Like any other kind of organizational change, PBIS buy-in needs to come from the top and work its way down. So, with that in mind, it’s crucial to ensure senior staff, such as department heads, are on the same page about PBIS efforts at your school.

Most importantly, buy-in is unlikely to be universal and instant, so you must give your staff time to adjust to changes and to see the benefits for themselves.

3. Clear Objectives

As part of your PBIS behavior plans, you must develop clear and measurable objectives. The focus of the learning objectives should be behavioral. In other words, identifying the behaviors that will be taught and rewarded. However, “Improved student behavior” is a very broad goal. What specific problems have you or your staff observed among the student body? Is bullying an issue? Are students disengaged from lectures?

The following are examples of specific learning objectives:

  • By the end of this lesson, students will identify two positive ways to ask for help in class.
  • By the end of this school year, students will use good sportsmanship during recess and PE at least 90% of the time.

Many states include positive behavior objectives as part of their social and emotional learning, health and wellness, or citizenship learning objectives. When possible, you should align your school or classroom management PBIS goals with these objectives.

With well-defined outcomes and a vision of what you’d like your school’s culture to look like, you’ll have a much easier time identifying and reinforcing desirable behaviors. Some schools go as far as to include these desired outcomes as part of their mission statement to remind everyone what the school strives to achieve.

4. Defining Positive Behaviors

With clear objectives in mind, you can now decide which positive behaviors you’re going to promote and teach students. It’s important that teachers, staff, and students all have a common understanding of what positive behaviors look like. Talk about examples of positive and negative behaviors when you observe or experience them.

Here are some simple examples of positive behavior that you can keep in mind:

  • When students arrive in the classroom, they greet their teacher and take their seats ahead of time.
  • Students raise their hands to ask questions instead of interrupting the lesson.

Once you decide what behaviors you’d like your students to exhibit, explain those behaviors to the entire class. Outline what positive behavior looks like, why it’s important, and how it can be taught so that everyone understands. If creating a list for each classroom, choose specific behaviors that are directly relevant to your students’ needs and learning environment.

5. Rewards and Incentives

A framework for rewards should be created to motivate students to behave in ways that support learning. Rewards can be tangible or intangible. The reward should be meaningful to the student and presented promptly by someone who is viewed positively by the student.

Your PBIS rewards program is important because it motivates students to achieve. As you define positive behaviors, you must also tie them to rewards. Some schools award tokens or other currency that can be used in school stores, while others may offer privileges such as extra free time or a homework pass to motivate students. Some schools have the space to keep a physical school store, while others may rely on smaller classroom shops or mobile stores. Virtual school stores are also available.

Additionally, a system of recognition isn’t limited to students; you could also establish one for your staff. To improve teacher PBIS buy-in, develop a system to reward faculty members for their efforts in helping to implement your PBIS initiative, especially in those early days when there’s greater skepticism surrounding the program.

Dealing with Discipline

Adopting PBIS doesn’t mean doing away with disciplining students entirely, so having procedures in place to handle misbehavior can be helpful. A set of accepted disciplinary measures can increase support for your PBIS program, as teachers won’t feel like their hands are tied when dealing with particularly difficult students.

6. Evaluation

How can you tell if your PBIS initiative is working? Your PBIS program should be continually evaluated for effectiveness, and adjustments should be ongoing to inform your efforts in identifying and meeting student behavior needs. These evaluations are best carried out daily in the classroom and can be tied to grading periods and year-end assessments.

Measuring outcomes is an important part of the function of any PBIS program. It’s vital to know how effective your program is and to use that information to improve. You could collect data on what behaviors are being observed and what discipline decisions are being made by staff members throughout the school year. Collecting this data should be an ongoing process. If you only collect data at the beginning, middle, and end of the year, you’ll have less useful results.

Armed with the right data, you’ll be able to identify areas for improvement, support initiatives that are working well, and help your staff where they need it. Additionally, you can use the collected data to tell a story about your PBIS program’s successes and failures. If you can use the numbers to show that the initiative is working, based on a decrease in office referrals or an increase in test scores, for example, then you may consider publishing a PBIS case study to inform your staff, parents, and community of your initiative’s success. Staff and parents will be more willing to support PBIS if they can see that it’s making a difference.

7. Training and Professional Development

Providing adequate training for staff and teachers will build a foundation of understanding for PBIS. Teachers will need training on how to implement PBIS in the classroom, reinforce positive behavior, and deal with negative behavior. Your students will also need to be educated on PBIS principles.

PBIS training programs should be tailored to meet each school’s specific needs. This way, you can provide a variety of training and professional development opportunities for all school community members to support their implementation skills.

As PBIS is an ongoing process, it’s best to create a framework that develops your staff right alongside it. The framework should reinforce how to teach the right behaviors, recognize and reward students, and resort to disciplinary measures.

Additionally, consider methods for getting direct feedback from your staff throughout the year. You can do that by holding administrative “office hours,” designating a PBIS representative to whom instructors can reach out with concerns, and perhaps creating an online forum for submission and answering queries. Take this feedback to help iterate on the program and provide additional training resources.

8. Consistency

There is arguably nothing more important than consistency when it comes to ensuring the success of a PBIS initiative. Consistency is a key element in facilitating any behavioral change. By consistently implementing the program and reinforcing positive behaviors, we help students to understand that positive behaviors are always expected.

It’s important to start with a common understanding of the program, which will help ensure consistency at every level. The core ideas of PBIS should be taught and learned across all grades, emphasizing evidence-based practices (EBPs). The following strategies should always inform your initiatives:

  • Have consistent policies and practices. All school staff should be using similar language and rules to teach expectations throughout the school day.
  • Have consistent language. Everyone should have a common set of words or phrases used to teach expected behaviors.
  • Ensure the program is implemented with fidelity. Once you get rolling, make sure it’s being done right.
  • Consistently monitor the program to identify areas for improvement and evaluate and act on that data accordingly.

Transforming School Culture

Not every PBIS initiative succeeds, and that’s because it takes consistent and diligent work every day to produce lasting results. Developing and implementing the many components of a PBIS program requires ongoing evaluation and observation in your education department. As you train teachers and school staff to accurately identify problematic behaviors and provide them with a framework of interventions to support positive behaviors, you empower them to affect positive change that can transform the culture of schools.

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This article was adapted from a blog post initially developed by the education technology company Classcraft, which was acquired by HMH in 2023. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.

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