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School-wide Positive Behavior Support

What is Needed to Address These Challenges?

To shift from a reactive and aversive approach to managing problem behavior to one that is preventive and positive, schools must

  • Work for and with all students, since every child entering school needs behavior support.
  • Give priority to empirically validated procedures and systems that have demonstrated effectiveness, efficiency, and relevance.
  • Integrate academic and behavioral success for all students.
  • Emphasize prevention in establishing and maintaining safe and supportive school climates.
  • Expand the use of effective practices and systems to district, county, regional, and state levels.
  • Increase collaboration among multiple community support systems (i.e., education, juvenile justice, community mental health, family, and medical).
  • Build a school environment where team building and problem solving skills are expected, taught, and reinforced.

What is School-wide Positive Behavior Support?

School-wide Positive behavior support (SW-PBS) is comprised of a broad range of systemic and individualized strategies for achieving important social and learning outcomes while preventing problem behavior with all students. SW-PBS is not a specific "model" but a compilation of effective practices, interventions, and systems change strategies that have a long history of empirical support and development and individually have been demonstrated to be empirically effective and efficient. In addition, SW-PBS has relevant applications to educating all students in schools, not just students with disabilities.

SW-PBS is the integration of four elements

  • Operationally defined and valued outcomes,
  • Behavioral and biomedical science,
  • Research-validated practices, and
  • Systems change to both enhance the broad quality with which all students are living/learning and reduce problem behaviors.

First, SW-PBS emphasizes operationally defined and valued outcomes for all students. Specified academic and social behavior outcome indicators are linked to annual school improvement objectives, local and state initiative priorities, and individual academic goals and objectives. Data are used to describe, choose, and evaluate goals/outcomes. Valued outcomes include increases in quality of life as defined by a school’s and/or individual student's unique preferences and needs and by positive lifestyle changes that increase social belonging.

Second, SW-PBS is based on a clearly established behavioral and biomedical sciences that can be applied to address problem behavior in schools. The approach is based on conceptual principles from behavioral and biomedical research.

  • Behavior is learned and can be taught.
  • Behavior is lawful and predictable.
  • Behavior occurrences are affected by environmental factors that interact with biophysical characteristics of the individual.
  • Understanding the relation between physiology factors and environmental variables is a critical feature when supporting students with behavioral, social, emotional, and mental health issues.
  • Assessing and manipulating environmental factors can predictably affect occurrences of behavior.
  • Data collection and use for active decision-making are important for continuous intervention, program, and system improvement.

Third, SW-PBS emphasizes research-validated practices, interventions, strategies, curriculum, etc. to achieve goals and outcomes. Data are used to guide which practices should be selected and/or adapted to achieve goals/outcomes. The selection and use of evidence-based practices are given priority.

Fourth, SW-PBS gives priority to systems change considerations that support the effective and efficient selection and implementation of practices by school personnel (e.g., teachers, school psychologists, administrators). These organizational working considerations operationalize policies and guiding principles, operating routines, resource supports, and administrative leadership. Internal behavioral expertise and capacity are developed, and data-based decision making is emphasized to improve the selection, adoption, outcomes, and durability of practices.

Together these four elements provide schools with the opportunity to efficiently organize scarce resources and support the adoption of effective practices. Implementation of a school-wide approach to SW-PBS requires investments in the features represented in the following figure:

This graphic depicts the six features in which a school-wide approach to PBS requires investment.  The graphic is composed of six ovals linked together in a circle.  In the middle of the circle are the words, 'PBS Features.'  The oval at the top says 'Local Context and Culture,' and is linked clockwise to a series of ovals reading 'Prevention Logic for All,' 'Evidence-Based Practices,' 'Natural Implementers,' 'Systems Change and Durability,' and 'Science of Human Behavior,' which links back to the first oval.

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