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Creating equitable schools with positive behavioral interventions and supports

How you choose to manage your classroom greatly influences your students’ success. When schools and teachers work together on positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS), they create a safe and fair educational experience that supports the best learning environment for everyone.

What is PBIS?

PBIS is a set of tools and strategy based on a simple principle: instead of punishing students for problem behavior, teachers recognize the significance of classroom management and preventive school discipline to maximize student success. It’s a framework that works for all students.

Although now commonly viewed as a general education initiative, PBIS holds a unique place in special education law in the U.S. within the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). It was adopted to combat exclusion, teach respectful behaviors, and promote behavioral skills.

Why use PBIS?

The quality of a school’s social environment has a profound impact on student outcomes such as academic performance, attendance, behavior, and even education completion rates. By focusing on PBIS, educators create an environment that helps all students achieve important behavior changes.

Developed as a multi-tiered framework to teach positive social and cognitive behaviors, PBIS provides strategies for students to engage in the classroom by setting behavioral expectations, positive rewards, and clear consequences. These practices are supported by the physical school environment, effective classroom routines, and behavioral expectations. When implemented correctly, PBIS promotes a more positive school climate, safer learning environments, and more trusting and respectful student-teacher relationships.

Successful classroom management can help you teach your students. Providing positive reinforcement, on the other hand, can help promote good student behavior. This is where PBIS excels. With PBIS, students learn about appropriate behavior just as they learn about math or English — an effective strategy across all age groups. For example, students are taught how to share their ideas while being respectful to classmates and teachers, instead of interrupting others.

How to effectively implement PBIS in the classroom

Because its goal is to minimize misbehavior, PBIS can create a more welcoming school environment for students where there are fewer disciplinary incidents. In turn, this can increase academic achievement across all grade levels. To successfully implement PBIS, consider the following general guidelines:

  • Practice early intervention. By treating the root cause of misbehavior, PBIS helps prevent future incidents from arising. This may involve providing support for students who are struggling.
  • Use tiered systems. PBIS is effective when implemented through a tiered system for different age groups.
  • Monitor progress. Determine if students are improving or need intervention. This can help individualize the PBIS process for students.
  • Collect data. Be sure to measure effective intervention methods and progress assessments. This is a good way to track behavioral skill retention across grade levels. By observing student behaviors, your school can identify which behaviors need greater attention in the classroom.

For older students, PBIS may involve initiatives like digital badging to help keep students on track to success both within and beyond the classroom. As students get older in the PBIS system, the rewards can also change. For higher grade levels, since most students are expected to behave appropriately, whole class participation can be rewarded with a pizza party at the end of the week, for example.

Schoolwide PBIS support

In order for PBIS programs to be successful, they need to depend on the entire school community and not just a single classroom. Since every school has its own unique climate, implementation of PBIS needs to be based on the needs of each learning environment. Professional development is also critical to implementing PBIS implementation and seeing the improved outcomes that it can foster.

The first steps with PBIS should start with the development and implementation of health, mental health, and wellness programs. It should continue with teaching students social, emotional, and behavioral skills throughout their educational experience.

Schoolwide implementation typically involves a team of administrators and educators who set three to five behavioral expectations that suit their school. The expectations are positively stated and adapted across the school, from the classroom to the playground, the cafeteria and even on the bus. These expectations are also used to determine procedures for teaching school and classroom behaviors. The long-term goal is to help students develop their interpersonal, social problem solving, conflict prevention and resolution, and emotional coping skills.

Leveling the playing field

Ultimately, PBIS creates a community within the school that respects students and teachers alike. But more than that, it levels the playing field for all pupils by maximizing their social, emotional, and behavioral self-management skills that help foster a safe and equitable educational environment that is conducive to learning which is the right of every student.

Photo credit: gpointstudio / Shutterstock.com; Anna SamoylovaUnsplash

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