What is School-Wide PBIS? - Definition & Examples

Instructor: Lisa Howells

Lisa's teaching experience includes various grades and subjects K-8 and postsecondary. Her Master's degree is in Education and Administration.

In this lesson, we will define and outline the key principles of PBIS, positive behavioral interventions and support. We'll also identify the purpose of PBIS and describe how it can be implemented to build a positive school community.


We are likely all familiar with the class clown, or a student who doesn't like to get his/her work done and manages to interrupt learning in the classroom. Now multiply that by ten, including students with behavioral issues and others with learning or attention challenges, and the teacher's job starts to become one of peacemaker, juggler, and/or enforcer. Sound familiar? Situations like this are more common than you might think in today's classrooms, and many teachers are looking for strategies and solutions to support student learning.

Enter, positive behavioral interventions and support (PBIS). PBIS is a systematic program designed to build a positive culture and community in classrooms and schools. The goal of PBIS is to support student achievement and success, while decreasing inappropriate student behaviors. While PBIS is relevant for all students, it can be especially effective for students with disabilities.

Key Components - The Four Cornerstones

There are four cornerstones of PBIS - outcomes, practices, data, systems.

  • Outcomes: academic and behavioral goals the school selects as the focus for implementation

  • Practices: specific, evidenced-based interventions and strategies implemented; 'evidenced-based' refers to practices that are supported by research, tested in a clinical/educational setting, and supported by and relevant to those implementing the practices

  • Data: information gathered to determine needs, barriers, and success of the PBIS implementation

  • Systems: describes the ongoing systems in place that support successful implementation of PBIS

These cornerstones create the framework for implementing PBIS at a school.

How to Begin PBIS

To initiate PBIS, a group of individuals from the school must attend PBIS training. Typically, the group includes teachers, staff, administrators, and special education teachers. They participate in training with a PBIS trainer for a few days.

During this training, the school representatives typically identify 3-5 positive behavioral expectations they would like to implement in their school during the upcoming school year. Following the training, the representatives present those expectations to the whole staff who vote on these expectations. The program suggests it is important to have at least 80% support of the staff to successfully implement PBIS.

Behavioral Expectations

Examples of behavioral expectations could include: respectfulness, responsibility, and safety. Many schools already have character traits the students are familiar with, similar to the positive behavior expectations used in PBIS. It is possible to select a few of these traits and form them into positive behavior expectations for the PBIS program.

Self-Assessment Survey

Once behavioral expectations have been selected, a self-assessment survey is given to all staff. The survey sets a baseline and determines the status of the behavior support systems in the school:

  • Discipline system
  • Non-classroom management - e.g., hallways, playground, buses, and cafeteria
  • Classroom management
  • Systems for individual students with persistent problem behaviors

When the self-assessment survey is completed, the initial training of teachers and staff begins.

The Key to Success

The key to successful implementation of PBIS is getting everyone on board and enthusiastic about the program. This takes careful planning and training of teachers, staff, and students. This training is facilitated by the PBIS leadership team. The individuals that attended the initial PBIS training often function as the PBIS leadership team, but others may also be included.

It is important that PBIS leadership is not limited to the school administrator, but includes the representatives that reflect the whole school community. The PBIS leadership team meets regularly throughout the implementation of PBIS and oversees the various facets of the program.

Training and Implementation

Teacher and staff training takes place outside the school day and, ideally, just before the school year begins. Given the comprehensive scope of the program, a school may begin in phases. For example, they may choose to begin with school-wide areas such as behavior expectations in the halls, on the playground, and/or in the cafeteria.

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