Positive Behavior Support: Strategies & Examples

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  • 0:03 What Is Positive…
  • 1:08 Strategies
  • 4:04 Examples
  • 5:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Michael Quist

Michael has taught college-level mathematics and sociology; high school math, history, science, and speech/drama; and has a doctorate in education.

Positive behavior support (PBS) is an approach to managing students who present behavioral challenges in the classroom. This lesson defines PBS and provides strategies for and examples of dealing with behavior challenges.

What Is Positive Behavior Support?

James, one of your students, stares at you with the same witless expression, waiting for you to turn your back. As soon as you do, the invisible missile that was in his left hand is launched across the room, striking Susan in the forehead. One of your best students, Susan is now upset and looks to you for justice. When you pause, she lifts up her paper, displaying the prominent A, and makes a face at James, who becomes enraged.

Positive behavior support (PBS) is a general term for educational practices that promote positive student behaviors and avoid rewarding negative student behaviors. The idea is that students consistently do what works for them. When students exhibit the same challenging behavior, it is because that approach has previously produced the desired results. The purpose of PBS is to identify the reasons for the challenging behavior, teach alternate approaches, reward positive behaviors, and minimize factors that trigger the challenging behavior.


Define the Behavior and Determine the Cause

Specify exactly what the behavior is and define the environment under which the behavior happens. Observe and talk to the students to find out why they're behaving this way, and what they want. Try to establish a connection between the environment and the behavior. Once you have a reasonable picture, you can begin to make changes.

Improve the Environment

Every student has special needs of some kind, and some students cannot handle an environment that fails to accommodate theirs. For example, an easily-distracted student surrounded by environmental stimuli is a trouble spot waiting to happen. Students who have trouble hearing or seeing may act up because they're frustrated about not being able to effectively interact. Watch for irritating stimuli, such as strong aromas or uncomfortable proximities, which may impact high-sensitivity students.

Reduce Uncertainty

Students can become very uncomfortable when they don't know what is going on. Use schedules, calendars, announcements, reminders, regular routines, and specified criteria to keep a high level of communication and predictability surrounding the student experience.

Provide Autonomy

Giving students choices conveys the feeling that they are in some way in charge of their lives. Offer them behavioral choices with higher satisfaction potential than their current choices.


Variety and individuality are important keys to interest and engagement, so it's important to alter instructional approaches to meet individual needs. For example, if a student's focus is kinesthetic, introduce a tactile or movement aspect to the presentation/exercise.

Form a Brotherhood

Create teams of students to work with each other by mentoring, tutoring, helping out, being a classroom buddy, and caring. Often, those who present challenging behavior feel isolated and vulnerable. Bullying and acting up are based in fear and insecurity. Give the students a support system that they can always rely on, whether or not you're involved, by creating ties between them.

Provide Rewards

Adjust the systems in the classroom so that behaving appropriately - not just being the smartest or most effective - is rewarded. In other words, make it profitable to follow the rules by using encouragement, advantages, privileges, and admiration to make the students feel special when they're trying to do the right thing.

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