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Why PBIS student surveys are essential for improving your programs

Sara AustinJuly 4, 2022

Why PBIS student surveys are essential to improve your programs

PBIS student surveys are an important way for teachers to collect feedback on their PBIS classroom behavior programs.

PBIS is an umbrella term for a collection of strategies, not a single solution. PBIS programs use various methods to understand and respond appropriately to student needs and are designed to provide a comprehensive system for understanding, responding to, and improving student behavior. It can be applied to any setting or program where children and adults interact within the same space.

PBIS was originally developed as an alternative to zero-tolerance policies because these stringent measures were ineffective at changing behaviors in schools. PBIS programs require proper support from school leaders or staff members trained on how these different interventions work together effectively under one system for each student.  

There is no one-size-fits-all PBIS solution that can do the job. Instead, the PBIS program you develop for your school should be used to address the specific needs of your school and community. However, it can be hard to know if the program has the desired effects with a custom solution. The best way to ensure that your PBIS program meets your students’ needs is to ask students their opinions.

The value of PBIS student surveys

At the culmination of their Measures of Effective Teaching project, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation released findings that indicated that reliable and valid surveys from students were a useful way to measure teaching effectiveness. However, measuring teaching effectiveness is a complex task, given the nuanced nature of the give-and-take between teachers and students and the externalities that can influence learning retention and student engagement.

PBIS student surveys, they found, are among the most reliable methods for evaluating the effectiveness of teaching practices. By asking the right questions at the right times, teachers can unlock their potential for professional development and make adjustments to classroom management systems in real-time. Frequent surveys can provide you with valuable insight into the effectiveness of your PBIS program.

Another benefit is that student surveys are easy to use and can be deployed quickly. As a result, they are ideal for administrators, teachers, and parents to gain insight into what’s working well in their school and what needs improvement.

There are many different types of surveys you can use to gather data from your students, school personnel, parents, and community members. They can be used at any point in the school year and are especially effective when used in conjunction with other PBIS tools such as check-ins and positive behavior interventions.

PBIS student surveys can be completed individually or within groups. If students complete surveys individually, you may want to provide them with an area where  they can write down their responses in private. If students complete their surveys in groups, it’s important to have group leaders who will ensure that everyone has a chance to participate.

Student surveys can be used at any grade level and should be administered regularly throughout the year. These periodic check-ins allow students to share their thoughts on how they feel about their school environment, rules, expectations, and the tools that support their learning.

As you can see, PBIS student surveys can be powerful tools for monitoring and measuring progress towards your PBIS goals. In addition, student surveys can be used by teachers to do the following:

Gather information about how well the PBIS program is working

There are many different ways you could evaluate your PBIS program. Student surveys are an excellent tool because they’re quick and easy to implement and can be used at any time during the year.

Student surveys are especially useful for evaluating either the beginning or end of a PBIS implementation period since they provide an overview of how well students think their school is doing in meeting its goals for creating positive behavior, rather than being limited to only observing certain aspects of school climate (such as academic achievement). Student survey results should also be compared against state or district benchmarks so that schools can see what areas are in need of improvement, or if their students’ perceptions match those already achieved by other public schools around them.

Teachers and administrators use PBIS student surveys to collect feedback on what’s working well in classrooms or schools and where they need improvement. The survey results then help inform PBIS programs going forward — for example, if certain strategies aren’t having an impact on behavioral issues at one school but are succeeding at another within the same school district.

As part of any PBIS system of support, schools must collect ongoing data about students’ behavior so that appropriate interventions can be implemented. Using real-time data allows you to decide how best to help students who are struggling to meet behavioral expectations and fall behind in their academic performance.

Demonstrate to students that their thoughts and feelings about PBIS are important and valued

To truly make students feel comfortable being honest about PBIS and how it improves the learning environment, teachers and administrators can use anonymous surveys and handle the insights provided with respect and discretion. Survey tools such as SurveyMonkey can be used to collect anonymous feedback.

Privacy is important because some students are hesitant to share their experiences and opinions because they feel they may be targeted or singled out. By consistently respecting each student’s expectation of privacy, we ensure that the data we receive from PBIS student surveys is an honest and accurate reflection of their feelings.

Encourage communication between students and teachers about how students feel the learning environment can be improved

Without student feedback, it’s hard to know if your PBIS program is effective. While you may think you can tell from the teachers and administrators in your building, there are so many factors that go into evaluating a program that it makes sense for students to be included in this process.

The most important reason for listening to students is because they are experts on their own experiences at school — they know what works for them and what doesn’t. They also have a unique perspective on how things are working in general. They can help identify the root causes of important problems within the school environment or the curriculum itself. And by demonstrating genuine concern and caring for their thoughts and opinions, you reinforce that PBIS is a program for them and not merely a framework of rules and consequences.

Identify hidden problems that may not be evident to teachers or administrators

While teachers work with students every day, the way that students interact with each other may not always be evident. Unfortunately, the most challenging causes of harm to vulnerable students are often the hardest to see. These interactions are kept hidden from adults and have the potential to work against all of your efforts at building a healthy learning environment.

Student surveys can help uncover some of these issues before they become significant problems. Instead of soliciting feedback from students once or twice a year, asking students for feedback via a PBIS school climate survey at least once a month can improve outcomes and support student safety. By promptly identifying problems such as bullying or self-harm, teachers and administrators can move to prevent further issues. In addition, by giving students an outlet to confidentially report on the challenges and issues they face, we demonstrate our care and concern and offer a way to report bullying and harassment among peers anonymously.

Plus, by reducing the time it takes to identify behavioral issues that may disrupt learning, we can implement the interventions prescribed in our PBIS action plan and resolve conflict.   

Track progress towards PBIS goals

Student surveys are a great way to gather information about how well your school is doing in implementing PBIS. In addition, they can help you understand how students view their own behaviors and the positive classroom environment that you’re trying to create for them.

With periodic surveys, you can determine if any changes are needed in the curriculum or classroom environment that could help improve student behavior.

Collect survey data that supports ongoing PBIS efforts

In the past couple of years, in addition to the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers have faced a great deal of backlash about even the most uncontroversial teaching practices. It seems hard to believe that there could be controversy around SEL programs or mandates to not speak about certain topics in school, but these problems have become a cultural flashpoint in many communities. Student surveys can be a tool for justifying and supporting your PBIS efforts. With this data in hand, administrators can present evidence that your PBIS program is fueling positive change in students’ lives.

Final Note

It’s important to remember that student feedback does not replace the need for ongoing assessment by teachers and administrators. A survey can be a quick, easy way to collect data from students, but it is not as accurate or thorough as an in-depth interview with students or teachers. 

A single survey can provide valuable information about what works in your program and what needs improvement, but it may not be enough on its own to determine whether or not your PBIS program is effective overall.

There are many resources available for the purposes of assessing a PBIS program and finding actionable ways to improve it. One of the most reputable is the PBIS Self-Assessment Survey, which we’ve found to be highly valuable for administrators who want to get the best possible outcomes from their initiatives. Originally created by the Center on PBIS, it’s available for free at this page on our website.For more strategies that will help you use surveys to improve your PBIS programs, check out our blog post, How do you improve programs with PBIS student surveys?

Photo credit: Google Education

Better middle school PBIS begins with better implementations

Download your free PBIS implementation guide to access best practices and an implementation checklist to build a better program in your middle school.

Download the guide now


Better middle school PBIS begins with better implementations

Download your free PBIS implementation guide to access best practices and an implementation checklist to build a better program in your middle school.

Download the guide now