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How PBIS works in your classroom

Brittany RodriguezOctober 17, 2018

student raising hand in classroom

How you manage your classroom has a great impact on your students’ and staff’s success. . When schools and teachers work together on Positive Behavioral Supports and Interventions (PBIS), they create a safe and fair educational experience that supports the best learning environment for everyone.

How does PBIS work in school?

PBIS is a set of tools and strategies 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. The PBIS framework works for all students. 

While it is commonly viewed as a general education initiative, PBIS is specifically mentioned in special education law in the U.S. as part of the the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). It was adopted to combat exclusion, teach respectful behaviors, and promote skills to improve behavioral and academic outcomes.

Why use PBIS?

As we mentioned earlier, the quality of a school’s social environment has a profound impact on a student’s academic performance, attendance, behavior, and even education completion rates. By focusing on PBIS, educators create an environment that helps all students achieve significant changes in behavior. 

PBIS was developed as a multi-tiered framework to teach positive social and cognitive behaviors. It provides strategies for students to engage in the classroom by setting behavioral expectations, positive PBIS rewards, and clear consequences. These evidence-based 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.

Promote good behavior

Successful classroom management can help you teach your students. But if you’re able to provide positive reinforcement you  can also promote good student behavior. Through PBIS, students learn about appropriate behavior in the same way they learn Math or English. Instead of interrupting others, students are taught how to share their ideas while being respectful to classmates and teachers. PBIS is an effective strategy for all age groups.

How to effectively implement PBIS in the classroom

Because PBIS is designed to minimize misbehavior, it can create a more welcoming school environment for students. When there are fewer disciplinary incidents, academic achievement will improve across all grade levels.  

Want to implement PBIS in your classroom? Here are some guidelines: 

  • Practice early intervention. By treating the root cause of misbehavior, PBIS helps prevent future incidents from arising. This may involve providing behavior 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 desired behavioral skill retention across grade levels. By observing student portal behaviors, your school can identify which behaviors need greater attention in the classroom.

Digital badging

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

Schoolwide PBIS support system 

If you want your PBIS programs to be successful, you’ll need support from the entire school community, not just a single classroom. And, since every school has its own learning environment, the implementation of PBIS needs to be based on your specific needs. Professional development is also critical to implementing PBIS and seeing the improvements it can foster.

Start with the development and implementation of health, mental health, and wellness programs. Then you can continue with teaching students social, emotional, and behavioral skills as part of their educational experience.

Leadership team

Schoolwide implementation typically involves a leadership team of administrators and educators who set three to five behavioral expectations that fit their school’s needs. 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 behaviors both in the school and the classroom. Your long-term goal is to help students develop:

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Social problem-solving skills
  • Conflict prevention and resolution
  • Emotional coping skills.

Leveling the playing field

Ultimately, PBIS creates a community that respects both students and teachers. But it also levels the playing field for all pupils by maximizing their social, emotional, and behavioral self-management skills. Every student has a right to learn and PBIS helps to foster a  safe environment that makes that possible. 

Photo credit: gpointstudio /; Anna SamoylovaUnsplash


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