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In this lesson, we’ll be learning about a model of discipline, called positive behavior intervention and strategy (PBIS). By the end of the lesson, you’ll understand the philosophy behind this strategy and how to implement it in your school.

Defining PBIS

Carmen is a chatty 9th grader and sometimes gets into trouble. Last week, Carmen was caught fighting outside the school and was suspended for four days.

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This was fine with Carmen because she doesn’t really enjoy being at school anyway. The following week, she was caught fighting again, except this time Carmen was expelled.Students like Carmen often find themselves on the path to the juvenile justice system. But what if her high school had a different discipline strategy? What if the school provided Carmen with strategies to help address her behavior, such as counseling and peer mediation? What if she had supports at school and frequent check-ins to improve her mental health and change her behavior?Which model do you think has a better outcome for Carmen? Research has shown that zero tolerance policies don’t work, especially for at-risk students. A tiered intervention model, where students receive progressively more supports based on data collection, is much more successful at addressing the core needs surrounding the behavior, improving student outcomes.One such model is called positive behavior intervention and supports or PBIS. It focuses on creating a positive schoolwide culture, collecting data and analyzing it to create specific interventions for at-risk students.

One of the most important aspects of PBIS is making it data driven. All strategies should be based on school data that is consistently collected and analyzed.

Schoolwide PBIS (SW-PBIS)

To implement schoolwide PBIS, the entire school needs to be on board. Implementing schoolwide PBIS involves collecting data about student behavior. Which behaviors do teachers think are the most important to address? Once the staff has identified three to five target behaviors, they need to decide upon and show students what those behaviors look like.This means explicitly teaching the target behavior like you would any other type of content.

For example, in English class, you wouldn’t simply tell students to write an analogy. You would define an analogy as a literary device, provide examples and show students how to use it properly in their own writing. The same goes for behavior in the PBIS model.

Expectations should be clearly described for each school environment.

At the beginning of the academic year, some schools devote days to teaching target behaviors.

Other schools use a system to call out students on positive behaviors, such as a bulletin board in the hallway, or announcements at an assembly or the beginning of class.

Shout outs to students who follow target behaviors
kindness bulletin board

Classroom PBIS

Imagine your school is on board with PBIS. But PBIS strategies also need to be applied in the classroom where higher tiered interventions happen.

PBIS tiered interventions
PBIS interventions

Tier 1

Tier 1 interventions mirror the schoolwide interventions. So, if respecting other students is a goal, the goal should be enforced in the classroom.

The most important part of the process is being consistent and collecting data to inform your practice. All teachers need to have similar practices for reinforcing positive behaviors and discouraging negative behaviors.Tier 1 is designed to prevent new negative behavior, not necessarily to curb behavior that is already inappropriate. This is where Tier 2 supports come in.

Tier 2

Tier 2 interventions are designed to reduce negative behavior in students that don’t respond to Tier 1 interventions. Teachers can identify these students based on data collected in the classroom. Only students with moderate behavior problems qualify for this type of intervention.

Let’s look at an example of a Tier 2 intervention.Lamika has been acting up in class lately; she has trouble completing assignments and spends way too much time looking at her phone. Although you use Tier 1 interventions for your whole class, Lamika doesn’t seem to respond. You decide Lamika needs a Tier 2 intervention. You suggest:

  • Frequent check-ins to keep her on task
  • Increased positive reinforcement during class
  • Calls home
  • Placement in an afterschool program for additional support

Tier 2 interventions are still widely available to all students, but require more one-on-one teacher intervention than Tier 1 supports. If a student doesn’t respond to Tier 1 or 2 supports, it’s time to take a more intensive approach, which is Tier 3.

Tier 3

Tier 3 interventions involve intensive analysis and highly individualized plans to improve behavior.

First, a functional behavior analysis (FBA) should be conducted, where behaviors are monitored and triggers are identified. The purpose of this analysis is to determine the root cause of and specifically address negative behavior.Students can be recommended for intensive counseling services if their behavior stems from trauma or other emotional problem, which is common in urban schools. If the problem stems from a biologically based illness, such as bipolar disorder or a learning disability, students should be referred for special educations services. In addition, there may need to be a change to the student’s environment to prevent the behavior.

For example, one of your students, Jose, has been acting out aggressively. During his FBA, you notice that large groups of students trigger Jose’s aggressive behavior, and this trigger is trauma based. One intervention is to teach Jose personalized coping skills to control his triggers, or modify his environment. An inclusive modification might be allowing Jose to sit by himself in the back of the room. If he is unable to tolerate the environment, he might need to be moved to a smaller class, or transferred to an alternative program that can meet his needs.

Lesson Summary

PBIS is a discipline model that focuses on tiered intervention and schoolwide target behaviors with consistent expectations and consequences. In this model, data informs target behavior selection and is analyzed to revise interventions. Classroom PBIS involves specific levels of intervention, from Tier 1, which enforces schoolwide expectations, to Tier 2, or targeted interventions to address some problem behaviors. Tier 3 are highly individualized interventions that may require a special education referral or changes to a student’s environment.

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