Estimated Time to Complete: 2 hours

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is an implementation framework for maximizing the selection and use of evidence-based prevention and intervention practices along a multi-tiered continuum that supports academic, social, emotional and behavioral competence of all students. This module points to key resources related to the PBIS. Use of the framework is strongly encouraged in Ohio and 21 other states (Franchino, 2020). Ohio districts need to offer PBIS training, and they can earn recognition (including on Report Cards) from the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (ODEW).

A large collection of resources is available at the PBIS portal on the ODEW website.

It’s important to remember that the PBIS framework governs an entire school (and preferably all schools in the whole district)—all students and all staff who work with students (e.g., bus drivers, kitchen staff, and nurses, as well as all educators). It’s not a framework for dealing with “problem students” only. That’s a way of thinking (“problem students”) that PBIS rejects.

PBIS shapes student behavior, but as PBIS leader Dr. Tim Lewis noted (in a 2022 talk at the Ohio Deans Compact Conference), it does this principally by changing adult behavior—how educators themselves behave with students. And changing adults’ behavior goes hand and hand with changing how they think about students.

After all, we already expect learning to improve when teaching improves. The same thing applies to behavior. Better teaching includes learning that concerns behavior, sometimes referred to as “social-emotional learning.”

In light of the need for all Ohio districts to engage with PBIS, this OLAC module explains PBIS overall, traces the development of PBIS, and examines empirical research on PBIS. The module points education leaders in Ohio to resources needed to understand PBIS and use it well in their schools and districts.

Module Content

You can download a document that includes all content from the module, with the exception of videos. This resource can support your learning while completing the module or be saved for future reference.

Additional Documents

Getting Started with PBIS in Ohio

Intensive Intervention Myths and Facts

Missouri Schoolwide Positive Behavior Support Handbook

Ohio 2020 PBIS Awardees

Oregon Sustainability Checklist

PBIS What It Is and What It Is Not

Using PBIS in Rural Schools

Discussion Questions

  1. If misbehavior occupies too much time and energy in your school, why do you think so? Is there agreement or disagreement about this view—do some of your colleagues believe that just enough or not enough attention is paid to misbehavior? How do you explain such agreements or disagreements?

  2. Good teaching is said (e.g., Lewis, 2022) to be the best behavior management practice. Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?

  3. PBIS is complex. It requires substantial effort (planning, monitoring, changing practice). It looks toward cultural—or at least organizational—change. It asks educators to concentrate on shaping good behavior across the board. Considering this complexity, why do you think there have there been so many PBIS adoptions? What are the implications of this complexity for sustaining PBIS efforts?

  4. Effect sizes for successful PBIS implementation are modest. Why do you think this is the case? Is it good news or bad news and why?


Introductory Activities

  1. Go to PBIS: What It Is and What It is Not. Spend 10 minutes learning about PBIS. Share what you learned with a colleague the next time your TBT or BLT discusses a behavior issue.

  2. Go to The Positive Behavior Support Handbook and check out Figure 1.1 on page 10, paying particular attention to the column labeled “Prevalence” (which relates to mental health disorders overall) and “Median Age of Onset.” Add up the prevalence figures. What’s the total? What do these tell you about the challenges that school-aged children face? What do they tell you about the challenges that schools face? Of course, there’s overlap because some students experience more than one disorder. Use insights from this activity in discussions with TBT or BLT colleagues about social-emotional learning, trauma-informed practice, and schoolwide practices for managing behavior.

Advanced Activities

Both of these activities require a short PBIS awareness training for the whole DLT. The training should be about 60 minutes in length. To arrange a training session, contact a regional provider (your SST or an ESC with whom you work). If your district has already had such training and DLT members have some interest in adopting PBIS, proceed to the activities below.

Advanced Activity 1. PBIS adoption, as developers and this module and the ODE are clear, needs substantial preparation. PBIS readiness isn’t “rocket science.” There are established protocols to help potential adopters get ready. The Missouri readiness checklist shows the requirements. Some of these requirements are quite difficult, however. Requirement #6, for instance, is that 80% of adults are interested in implementation, and requirement #10 is that the organization is committed to the development of a discipline data system.

Use the checklist to assess the district’s readiness. This activity is not intended to lead to a decision to implement PBIS. Instead, it structures a further consideration of PBIS by DLT members. Note that readiness requires “yes” answers to all 10 questions. Getting to “yes” on all 10 items is difficult, which suggests the need for thoughtful discussion.

Proceed as follows:

  1. Designate a DLT member to moderate the discussion.
  2. Project the checklist so all can see it.
  3. Address the questions from the district perspective (deal with variability among schools, for instance). In particular:
    1. How can the district address question 6 responsibly (i.e., without faking it or pressuring staff)?
    2. What do you need to know in order to answer question 10 (discipline data system) affirmatively?

Advanced Activity 2. This activity is useful regardless of the DLT’s perspective on the current readiness of the district to implement PBIS. The activity involves a needs assessment that reaches into the issue of whether or not 80% of school employees support PBIS implementation (see previous activity). Here’s some advice relevant to the purpose of this activity:

Discovering shared beliefs increases commitment, provides a framework for making decisions, and is often the first step in unifying staff. Time spent examining what staff believe about student discipline and creating a shared philosophy is a wise investment in lasting change. (MO SW-PBS, 2019, p. 20)

So, this activity will help you learn what the adult employees of the district believe about student discipline. It will help the DLT determine issues both of fit and readiness. This is not a small, academic exercise. But it’s not that difficult, either, thanks to members of the PBIS network, who have done a lot of preparation in advance so that districts can pay attention to this important issue.

The Staff Perceptions of Behavior and Discipline Survey (SPBD) is a validated instrument designed precisely for “examining what staff believe about student discipline.” Better still, the system for administration, scoring, and interpreting results is free and online. A DLT (or BLT) member can make the request online and get a survey link to distribute to all staff.

The SPBD developers—who had PBIS in mind, and the need to study staff perceptions—have a 10-step process for organizing survey use. We have a few additional suggestions for the Ohio leadership context:

  1. Make this a DLT activity.
  2. Make a small subcommittee responsible for preparing a slide deck that presents results.
  3. Address these issues:
    1. Discuss what the results mean for district and school culture.
    2. Discuss any changes you would like to see in how staff perceive behavior or disciplinary practices. Explain your reasoning.
    3. Make an inference about what percentage of respondents in the district would favor PBIS implementation—and explain your reasoning.
    4. Based on the results, talk about whether PBIS would be a good fit for the district and why.
    5. If PBIS is not a good fit and you think something needs to change, talk about what the DLT should do to encourage and support that change.

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For more information, visit the Credit Corner. If you’re seeking credit for the Gifted Education Professional Development Course or the Culturally Responsive Practices Program courses, you can find that information on the course overview pages.