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A Brief PBIS Implementation Guide

7 Min Read
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Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support, or PBIS, is a system that schools can use to create a healthier learning environment for all students. PBIS programs improve the overall school climate by teaching appropriate social skills and expectations for behavior. Implementing PBIS can be daunting, but careful planning and organization can make it a successful addition to your school. This article will provide a brief PBIS implementation guide to help you successfully implement a PBIS program at your school.

Elements of Implementing PBIS in the Classroom

PBIS programs work best when designed and developed at the district, school, or even classroom level. The best PBIS programs are customized to meet the needs of each school’s student population. This customization may involve tailoring the PBIS program to specific grade levels, demographics, or behavioral concerns. There are some elements to think through, no matter who the program is ultimately for.

1. Clear expectations

For PBIS programs to be effective, they need to articulate behavioral expectations clearly. This means that teachers and school staff must be on the same page regarding behavioral expectations. Clear expectations help students achieve their objectives and provide teachers and administrators with a framework to hold students accountable for their behavior.

2. Buy-in from stakeholders

The success of a PBIS program hinges on the engagement of all school personnel, from administrators to bus drivers, parents, and community members. Teachers, students, family members, and administrators must work together to implement the program.

3. Recognition program to reward positive behaviors

For PBIS programs to successfully incentivize positive behavior, they need a system of rewards and recognition. This system should be fair and consistent so that students know what is expected of them and what they can earn for exhibiting positive behavior. The PBIS rewards and recognition should also be meaningful to the students so they feel appreciated and motivated to continue behaving positively.

4. Guidelines for addressing problem behaviors

PBIS programs also include guidelines for addressing problem behaviors. Schools that use PBIS strategies typically have a three-tier system for responding to student misbehavior. These three tiers identify problematic behavior in straightforward language and provide a framework of interventions for when a student does not meet behavioral expectations. 

5. Means and methods to collect program data

Ensuring the ongoing value and relevance of your PBIS program requires collecting survey data from all stakeholders. Continuous data collection in PBIS provides critically important information about whether the program meets the expected outcomes. Schools must have the means and methods to collect relevant data and determine if their PBIS program is working properly. This also allows educators to adjust the program as needed. Data should be collected regularly, both formally and informally. Then, your PBIS team can analyze the data to see which strategies are working best and identify areas where they need to improve.

How to Implement PBIS in the Classroom

There’s no question that relationships are everything. At the heart of PBIS is improving relationships between teachers and students, creating the conditions for a healthy and positive learning environment. With PBIS, you can’t just use another school’s program and get the desired results. Behavioral expectations and student needs differ from school to school. Therefore, your PBIS program should be purpose-built to address the needs of your student body. 

Here are 8 PBIS implementation steps that you can follow to help develop a PBIS program at your school.

Step 1: Build your PBIS team.

Creating a Positive Behavior Intervention and Support system is not a one-person job. It takes a committed team to create and execute a PBIS implementation plan with fidelity. PBIS teams should represent all school community members, including teachers, students, staff, family members, and community partners. This team will solicit feedback from the school community and develop a plan for positive behavior reinforcement tailored to the school’s specific needs. 

Step 2: Understand the needs of your school community.

You must cultivate a positive relationship with the school community to gain their support and increase buy-in for your PBIS program. That begins by talking to school community members to learn more about the needs that the program needs to address. For example, some schools implement PBIS to handle disciplinary issues, while others use PBIS to support community-building efforts. This allows for a better understanding of what behaviors the program needs to address and what specific interventions should be implemented. 

Step 3: Define measurable goals.

Once you’ve identified the outcomes your program will target, your PBIS team will work to define and clearly articulate the behavioral expectations you want students to meet. This step is essential to ensure that everyone—administrators, teachers, and students alike—are on the same page about what the expectations are for positive behavior. In addition, establishing clear expectations helps reduce ambiguity and promotes consistency across classrooms and grade levels.

Step 4: Provide training.

When implementing PBIS in the classroom, training and development are critical to getting teacher buy-in. Provide training and workshops to ensure all staff members understand the behavioral expectations and the framework for handling negative behaviors. Training should be interactive and provide opportunities for participants to share their ideas. Offer these professional development opportunities regularly to keep teachers and staff up to date on new techniques and strategies. Investing in a quality training and development program will help ensure the success of your PBIS initiative.

In addition to training for teachers and staff, students should also receive training. You will want to introduce them to the program and facilitate conversations about the program’s system of behavioral expectations and rewards. These conversations are a great time to talk about the broader goals of PBIS, such as good citizenship and personal responsibility, and how positive behaviors benefit students in and out of school. 

Step 5: Incentivize positive behavior.

Reward systems are an essential element of PBIS programs. School stores are one way of engaging and motivating students to participate in PBIS. They provide a tangible way for students to earn rewards, which are used to purchase items in the store. In addition, providing a system of rewards helps reinforce positive behavior and gives students a sense of ownership and responsibility for their school community. 

Step 6: Provide a PBIS framework for identifying and addressing negative behavior.

Your PBIS program will also include a framework for identifying and addressing negative behaviors. A transparent system of behaviors and interventions increases equity by ensuring that emerging issues are handled consistently, free of bias or subjectivity. Most PBIS programs use a three-tiered system of categorization that makes it easy for teachers to determine the right interventions to use to correct negative behavior. 

Step 7: Collect data and use that data to improve your program.

Collecting relevant data from teachers, students, and other stakeholders can give you insights you would never see otherwise. For example, data can help you identify areas where your students struggle and need the most support and identify programs or strategies that are working well and should be continued. Additionally, data can help you track progress over time, allowing you to see how your PBIS program is helping to improve the overall climate of your school. 

Sometimes the data trends don’t turn out the way you expect. For example, if you receive data showing that your program is failing in some areas, you can use that insight to help improve your program. 

Step 8: Celebrate successes.

One of the keys to a successful PBIS program is celebrating successes, both large and small. Students and teachers are more likely to remain engaged in the program when they see that the school is focused on positive behavior. 

There are many ways to celebrate successes in a PBIS program. You can announce the good news at all-school assemblies, post positive messages in the hallways, or give out awards and certificates. You can also celebrate success individually by thanking students or staff members who have exhibited positive behavior.

No matter how you celebrate success, it’s essential to keep everyone involved in the process. When students feel appreciated, they’re motivated to continue following the rules and exhibiting positive behavior.

Final Note

The right PBIS program for your school won’t be a one-size-fits-all solution. When developing your PBIS program, you’ll need to consider your school’s unique needs and culture. After considering the needs of your school community, you’ll need to identify which behaviors you want to focus on and develop a plan for how to implement PBIS in your school.

Remember, PBIS is a continuous process, and you’ll need to adjust along the way to ensure that the program continues working for your school. Collecting and analyzing data from program participants will give you the information you need to improve the program over time.

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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