PBIS 101  

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PBIS 101


You can go deeper into PBIS here, but you can learn about the basic building blocks right here at PBIS 101. What is PBIS? And why should you as an educator care about it? We can begin to answer those questions by exploring some of the key elements of PBIS:

  1. Positive behavior has to be taught just like an academic subject — Educators cannot expect students to know the correct behaviors for any given situation unless they teach, model and reinforce those behaviors for their students. Likewise, students do not learn positive behaviors by being punished for negative behaviors; they actually need to learn the value of the positive behaviors so they can make them their own.
  2. PBIS is proactive, rather than reactive — Putting thought and care into creating environments that promote positive behaviors generally leads to fewer negative behaviors that have to be addressed later on. Simple changes in behavioral expectations, classroom and common-area setup, and the way teachers interact with students can greatly reduce the occurrence of negative behavior before it ever happens.
  3. PBIS is a team sport — PBIS works best when it is a school-wide initiative. Students respond best when every adult in the school building is consistent and clear in enforcing the school rules and in reinforcing positive behaviors. And related to that….
  4. Successful implementation of PBIS depends on stakeholder buy-in — While PBIS typically reduces behavior problems, it is not a quick fix and does take some time and effort to implement. School administrators must engage teachers and teachers must engage students to buy into PBIS for it to be successful. One way to do this is to involve teachers and students in developing the school’s set of behavioral expectations (see the call-out box on this screen for more on this). Another way to promote buy-in is to ensure that all the teachers in the building have the professional development and other administrative supports they need to successfully implement PBIS.
  5. PBIS is based on data-driven decision-making — Every step in both developing and implementing PBIS at a particular school is based on ongoing data collection and analysis. PBIS is a fluid process—strategies and results must be constantly monitored so they can lead to new and better strategies and results …to meet the needs of each individual situation.

The Three-Tiered Model


PBIS uses a three-tiered model to promote positive behaviors and prevent negative behaviors. The first tier includes the strategies that are put into place for all the students in a school; these strategies generally address the behavioral needs of between 80-90% of a school’s students.


The second tier includes more specialized strategies—usually small group interventions—for the 5-10% of the students for whom the first-tier strategies are not sufficient.


And the third tier entails more individualized interventions for the 1-5% of students who are not completely addressed by the first and second tiers.


On this site, we primarily focus on the first tier of the model, but you can learn more about the entire three-tiered model of PBIS by following the links here.

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BEST PRACTICE:  Behavioral Expectations

The PBIS team at each school develops its own set of positive behavioral expectations (and if it’s doing the job correctly, the team involves all of the school’s stakeholders in this process).


The behavioral expectations are simple, general positive expressions of the ways students (and everyone else in the school) are meant to act. Each school generally has a set of three to five behavioral expectations—here is a representative example:


  • Respect Yourself
  • Respect Others
  • Respect Property


Once these school-wide behavioral expectations are in place, they become the basis for much more specific behavioral expectations that are developed by the team and the school’s teachers for particular areas of the school and for individual classrooms.


You can “respect yourself” by completing your homework every night; you can “respect others” by washing your hands before leaving the rest room; you can “respect property” by taking good care of the library books you borrow.