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Instructional Practices

Why PBIS? Benefits of PBIS in Schools 

7 Min Read
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The classroom provides a micro-environment conducive to reinforcing positive behaviors through active supervision and the implementation of routines that offer opportunities for students to practice, receive feedback, and grow.

What Is PBIS in the Classroom?

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) refers to a system for promoting a positive school culture through a tiered system of interventions. Schoolwide PBIS efforts focus on the cumulative impact of positive behavior and provide a framework for defining behavioral expectations and setting out the rewards for meeting those expectations.

With PBIS, schools can reduce the need for time-intensive individualized behavioral plans by proactively addressing the needs of students through clear expectations and interventions that are sustainable and effective.

Positive behavior intervention strategies are informed by data that helps identify underlying causes of disruptive behavior, analyze patterns, and review interventions to determine their effects on student behavior. The end goal is to identify ways to support positive behavior choices while offering new strategies to decrease inappropriate behaviors.

Progress toward schoolwide PBIS goals begins at the individual level. Teachers work closely with students to promote PBIS expectations and establish the rewards for meeting those expectations. Most classrooms, for example, operate at a Tier 1 level, which meets the needs of most students. Of course, additional interventions are sometimes needed to address disruptive behavior, but the philosophy of PBIS seeks to remediate by promoting desirable behaviors rather than simply issuing trips to the principal’s office.

When you combine the principles of PBIS with your daily classroom routines, you can create a foundation for lasting positive change in your school. Here are four key benefits of PBIS in schools. 

4 PBIS Benefits to Create a Lasting Positive Change

1.  Classroom PBIS improves academic outcomes

 Studies have shown that the implementation of PBIS in the classroom improves student outcomes, as evidenced by better academic performance and improved social and emotional health. As the research has shown, PBIS programs that are clearly defined and implemented with high fidelity provide the foundation for a healthy learning environment.

Well-defined expectations are just one piece of the puzzle for classroom PBIS. A robust PBIS program will be flexible and based on ongoing observation.

Teachers should create an environment that is flexible enough to meet the needs of all learners through the use of multi-functional classroom spaces. For example, classrooms should be able to accommodate activities for both large and small groups, while also leaving room for individual or one-on-one work. Students in these classrooms have multiple ways to succeed and are provided with a variety of contexts in which to practice positive behaviors.  

And, because PBIS is an ongoing process of continuous evaluation, teachers have the opportunity to recognize and accurately identify the root causes of inappropriate behaviors. With this knowledge, interventions and support can get the student onto a better path before learning opportunities are lost.

2.  Classroom PBIS reduces the incidence of disciplinary issues

The framework for teaching positive behavior involves defining expectations, outlining the rewards for exhibiting them, and the consequences of not meeting them.

Discipline in the classroom can be fraught due to poorly defined expectations for behavior. Other complicating factors for discipline include the prevalence of unconscious biases and the inability of teachers to fully understand the external forces that influence student behavior.  

PBIS is designed to define behavioral expectations clearly and provides a framework for remediation of disruptive behavior. When teachers can successfully communicate what constitutes positive vs. negative behavior, they give students a roadmap for learning and demonstrating prosocial behaviors.

The focus of PBIS is to “teach” students to behave instead of relying on reacting or punishing them for not meeting expectations. Research shows that when schools use positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS), student discipline issues are reduced significantly.

With a framework that focuses on promoting positive behaviors rather than a punitive framework that seeks to punish, teachers who understand PBIS can more accurately diagnose and address potentially disruptive behaviors before they begin.

3.  Classroom PBIS provides consistency and fidelity

Another important benefit of PBIS is that it provides consistency and fidelity in the classroom. The classroom offers the best environment for learning and practicing positive behaviors. This is because PBIS principles are most effectively reinforced when practiced with the same people, day after day. As teachers infuse daily classroom life with PBIS principles, they show students how positive behaviors can improve their daily lives, both inside and outside of the classroom.

Classroom management can be thought of as a series of interactions between teacher and student that reinforce good behaviors and prevent negative ones from emerging. Classroom PBIS can support students in practicing these critical competencies in everyday interactions by implementing the following strategies:


Routines are activities that students anticipate each day, such as completing a “Do Now” activity at the beginning of class and an exit ticket at the end. They’re predictable, which is important for the broader goal of establishing clarity in behavior expectations.

Classroom routines provide many opportunities for reinforcing positive behaviors. For instance, when students have to stand in line, teachers can use this as an opportunity for modeling courtesy by going first, waiting for an empty desk, or moving aside so that someone else can pass by. Teachers should also take advantage of inevitable disruptions or conflicts to keep the peace, such as asking kids with cell phones to put them away when they get too noisy. When kids see how these small daily routines help them behave more positively toward each other, it’s easier for them to carry on those habits outside of class as well.


A check-in is an open dialogue with a student about their day, their progress on tasks or goals they’ve set for themselves, and any problems they may be having. These facilitated discussions offer teachers the chance to model positive behaviors while students get the opportunity to observe, practice, and discuss how these prosocial behaviors improve their lives.

In the hands of a knowledgeable teacher, a classroom check-in offers many benefits. Thoughtfully designed prompts and activities give students opportunities to talk with others about non-academic topics, a structure for discussing challenging issues without conflict, and a safe space to prepare for learning.


Feedback is an ongoing conversation between teacher and student about specific academic work or personal development needs that the student may have. This conversation can involve both praise (specifically intended to reinforce good behavior) and correction (specifically meant to prevent disruptive behavior).

When students know how to give and receive appropriate feedback, they have a “superpower” that will greatly advantage their school, work, and personal relationships. Therefore, activities designed to improve classroom PBIS can also serve to normalize the process of self-evaluation and how to give and receive constructive, respectful feedback.

4.  Classroom PBIS supports schoolwide PBIS goals

Schoolwide PBIS efforts focus on the cumulative impact of positive behaviors and provide a framework for defining behavioral expectations and setting out the rewards for meeting those expectations. The best and most effective application of PBIS is a systemic, schoolwide approach broadly defined at the school level and applied, promoted, and supported at the classroom level.

PBIS teachers are not only instructing children on how they can behave better, they’re also reinforcing those lessons with daily routines built around positive behaviors. This includes small moments of encouragement where teachers reinforce positive behavior or in structured activities such as role-playing, wherein children can solve problems while avoiding impulsivity.

When classroom PBIS is used to support the goals and expectations of schoolwide PBIS, you nurture systemic change in the learning culture of the entire school.

PBIS Principles in Action

There are many PBIS benefits to both students and teachers when a PBIS program is implemented effectively. Classroom PBIS is an essential part of a schoolwide effort to promote positive behaviors. In fact, the application of these principles in the classroom can be so powerful that they can have a significant impact on your relationships with students, even in the absence of a schoolwide program.

Students in schools that implement a PBIS program learn what constitutes appropriate behaviors—such as following directions, being respectful, and working quietly—and are given opportunities to practice those behaviors. Rewards are provided when students meet their goals.

If PBIS is delivered with consistency and fidelity at the classroom and school level, students begin to see how positive behaviors contribute to safer and more productive schools. By seeing PBIS principles in action, they are more likely to comply with rules and engage in prosocial behavior both within and outside of school. That’s because they see principles such as responsibility, empathy, equity, kindness, and self-respect as more than just abstract concepts. They will know how the power of positive behaviors will open doors for them in every aspect of their lives.

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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