Positive behavior interventions and supports in the classroom
Not only for general education students, positive behavior interventions and supports can be used effectively with special education students as well.
The Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports model (PBIS) is suitable for general education students.
On the contrary, the PBIS model was developed with special education students in mind.
In a previous article, we discussed the connection between social skills and academic success. No matter how effective we are at teaching social skills and appropriate behavior, there will always be students who find it more difficult to meet these standards than others. Students with special needs require special assistance when addressing behavior issues; teachers must take care that the behavior is not due to the disability. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) requires that only “scientifically research-based interventions” be used with special education students.
PBIS (formally known as PBS) was developed by university researchers in conjunction with the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and fulfills the requirements of IDEA. The OSEP Technical Assistance Center on PBIS serves the purpose of providing schools with the methods necessary to implement PBIS according to both research-based and best-practice studies, ensuring compliance with IDEA. The references at the end of this article are just a few of the articles showing the connection of PBIS with positive effects in student behavior, academic performance, and mental health.
School-wide PBIS is a three-tiered approach to prevention of behavior problems.
The elements of each level are as follows:
|Prevention tier||Core elements|
Individual PBIS has multiple components that integrate four elements: benchmarks of values desired, research-validated practices, changes in the school’s system of discipline, and incorporation of behavioral science. The overall concept is that teachers use behavior supports and interventions that not only stop the undesirable behavior at the moment, but encourage a change of values so that behavior continually improves. Children are identified along a spectrum of the three tiers (much like the Response to Intervention, or RtI, model). All children are given instruction and expectations, at-risk students are taught core skills more frequently, and high-risk students are targeted for reinforced social skills and behavior assessments.
Many specific evidence-based practices exist for teachers to use in the PBIS model. As an introduction, we provide six generalized guidelines for implementing PBIS.
- Establish a safe learning environment. This is the core value of the PBIS system. Behavioral problems often arise in classrooms where students have fear of ridicule and feel that they can’t share their feelings and knowledge freely. Classrooms feel respectful and safe have students who succeed. Be sure to be particularly attuned to students’ making rude comments about their classmates and let them know that behavior will not be tolerated.
- Use data to assess students’ instructional and behavioral needs. As you can see in the school-wide model above, data collection is key to the PBIS model. Having specific records of student behaviors (e.g., checklists, charts, journals) helps teachers to make informed decisions about the specific interventions they would like to use. This data collection should be an ongoing process so you can monitor improvements.
- Establish clear behavioral and learning expectations. In previous articles, we discussed the “hidden curriculum.” For PBIS to be successful, the expectations cannot be hidden; students need to understand clearly how they are to behave. Clear expectations can include posted class rules, established routines, and consistent consequences for misbehavior.
- Focus on effective instruction at the appropriate level. Students who are struggling with their academic work may act out to hide their frustration. On the other hand, students who find their work too easy may misbehave out of boredom. Differentiating your instruction to match students’ learning levels is not only good practice for teaching, but it will save you time and effort in correcting behavior issues.
- Encourage students to become self-aware of their own behavior. A core value of the PBIS model is that students are to begin to recognize and change their behavior and decision-making on their own. Ask students to reflect on their behavior often, especially when you have noticed them acting out or improving their responses to difficult situations. Ask them, “What about your behavior caused this difficulty?” or “What do you think you did that made June feel good about herself?”
- Continually reflect on your own practice. Are you finding one class or group of students particularly difficult? Effective teachers not only monitor their students’ behaviors, but their own as well. Review your lesson plans and your student interactions from the past several weeks. Perhaps you are relying on one instructional method repeatedly and students are becoming restless. Is your pace too quick or too slow? Are you reacting to your students at the end of the day differently than at the beginning? Teachers are only human, and we all experience times when we are tired or short on patience. Reflecting often on our own behavior can help us improve our classes just as much as reflecting on our students’ actions.
The bottom line
Because PBIS is often implemented school-wide, it is often seen as a general education model. However, PBIS is suited for students with disabilities and helps to ensure that teachers are complying with IDEA. Educators interested in implementing PBIS in their own classrooms or schools should read the helpful (and free) blueprint provided by OSEP.