Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)
What Is PBIS?
Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is a proactive approach that schools use to improve school safety and promote positive behavior. The focus of PBIS is prevention, not punishment.
At its heart, PBIS calls on schools to teach students positive behavior strategies, just as they would teach about any other subject—like reading or math. In these schools, all students learn about behavior, including those with IEPs and 504 plans.
PBIS recognizes that students can only meet behavioral expectations if they know what the expectations are. Everyone learns what’s considered to be appropriate behavior and uses a common language to talk about it. Throughout the school day—in class, at lunch, and on the bus—students understand what’s expected of them.
PBIS has a few important guiding principles:
Students can learn behavioral expectations for different situations.
Students learn expected behaviors for each school setting through explicit instruction and opportunities to practice and receive feedback.
Stepping in early can prevent more serious behavior problems.
Each student is different, so schools need to give many kinds of behavior support.
How schools teach behavior should be based on research and science.
Tracking a student’s behavioral progress is important.
Schools gather and use data to make decisions about behavior interventions.
School staff members are consistent in how they encourage expected behavior and discourage infractions.
According to several studies, PBIS leads to better student behavior. In many schools that use PBIS, students receive fewer detentions and suspensions and earn better grades. There’s also some evidence that PBIS may lead to less bullying.
How PBIS Works
Most PBIS programs set up three tiers of support for students and staff.
Tier 1 is a schoolwide, universal system for everyone in a school. Students learn basic behavioral expectations, like how to be respectful and kind. School staff members regularly recognize and praise students for good behavior. They may also use small rewards, like tokens or prizes, to recognize when students meet the expectations.
Tier 2 provides an extra layer of support for students who continue to struggle with behavior. The school gives those students evidence-based interventions and instruction.
Tier 3 is the most intensive level. It’s for students who need individualized supports and services because of ongoing behavioral concerns.
Students with IEPs or 504 plans can be in any of the tiers. If you have a student with an IEP or a 504 plan and your school uses PBIS, be sure to ask the IEP team how the two overlap.
PBIS vs. Traditional Discipline
In a school that uses traditional discipline, teachers may try to correct behavior through punishment. Here’s an example.
During a class discussion, a student sitting in the back throws a spitball. With a more traditional approach, the teacher sends the student to the principal’s office to be punished. The student then returns to class and is expected to behave. But there’s no instruction that tells the student what a more appropriate behavior would have been.
A school using PBIS handles this differently. With PBIS, the school looks at behavior as a form of communication. PBIS doesn’t ignore problem behavior. Schools still use discipline, but punishment isn’t the focus. Instead, the focus is on teaching expectations, preventing problems, and using logical consequences. Schools that use PBIS look for appropriate consequences that are effective in changing the student’s behavior, not just in the moment, but in the future as well.
Edgemont's PBIS Matrix