Skip To Main Content


Positive Behavior Interventions and Support

Positive Behavior Support is best described as an organizing structure rather than a program. It provides a framework for identifying school rules, teaching students the expected behavior in order to follow those rules and socially reinforcing students for making positive choices. The process involves restructuring all learning environments for the purpose of equipping students for behavioral success in school and in life. Since Turlock Unified School District began implementing Positive Behavior Supports, we have seen a substantial drop in suspension rates across the District.

A Positive School Climate is accomplished through instruction of agreed upon Positive Behavior Expectations which are taught, acknowledged, and corrected by all staff and welcoming school culture. Most students will succeed when a positive school culture is promoted, informative corrective feedback is provided, academic success is maximized, and pro-social/emotional skills are taught and acknowledged.

Key Terms in PBIS


Discipline means to instruct, to train in accordance with the rules, an activity or exercise to improve a skill. Equipping students for behavioral and social success is a school-wide responsibility which requires the commitment and efforts of all adults — not just a select few that are perceived as “disciplinarians.”


A consequence is the relation of a result to its cause. Every day thousands of consequences occur at school — a class is acknowledged for being ready to work when the bell rings, a teacher banters with a student who disrupts instruction, a staff member corrects (or fails to correct) a student who is out of dress code. In order to effectively respond to human behavior — both staff and student — it is critical to possess a clear understanding of how consequences work, how to apply them with intention, and how to evaluate their effectiveness. It is also important to understand that “consequences” and “interventions” are not synonyms.

There are four types of consequences:

The true nature and effectiveness of a consequence can only be determined by evaluating the outcome. That is why it is impossible to make statements such as a “suspension is a punishment.” Depending upon the student, a suspension may function as a penalty (losing the privilege of coming to school), a punishment (receiving the stigma of being sent home from school), a negative reinforcement (successfully avoiding having to go to school), or a positive reinforcement (gaining free time at home). It is critical that educators be adept at thoughtfully implementing and evaluating the effectiveness of the consequences they deliver.

  • Penalty (to LOSE something DESIRED)
  • Punishment (to RECEIVE something UNDESIRED)
  • Negative Reinforcement (to AVOID something DESIRED)
  • Positive Reinforcement (to GAIN something DESIRED)


Behavior interventions are specific actions taken for the purpose of changing the behavior of either an individual or a group of people. Schools may intervene in three ways:

Increase the Explicitness and/or Frequency of Instruction

The more behaviorally at-risk a person, group, or school is, the more explicit the instruction, acknowledgement, and correction of clearly defined expectations and skills must become.

Modify the Environment

Environmental factors and dynamics which inadvertently support and/or promote misbehaviors may be addressed in a number of ways. Examples of environmental modifications include: changing school-wide policies/practices such as dress code, or the use of electronic devices, implementing new procedures, changing schedules, etc.

Address the Function

Misbehaviors may be addressed by identifying and addressing the purpose (function) of the behavior. This requires understanding what students are able to gain or avoid by using the misbehavior.

Using PBIS to Correct Minor Misbehaviors

Objectively Describe Behavior

Terms like “non-compliance”, “willful defiance”, “disruption” are vague and subjective. By referring to Minor Misbehavior in terms of expectations or social-emotional skills, staff will be able to communicate more specifically; thus allowing for more targeted interventions.

(Document on Aeries Student Discipline Behavior, Intervention, and Parent Contact.)

  • Non-Compliance = Failure to Stay in Designated Areas, Failure to Comply to Dress Code, Failure to Follow Instructions, etc.
  • Disruptive = Failure to Enter the Classroom Quietly, Failure to Stay on Task, Failure to Use Appropriate Voice Tone, etc.
  • Defiance = Failure to Stop/Look/Listen to Staff, Failure to Accept Feedback/Consequence, Failure to Report to Designated Area

Immediate Response

The person who witnesses a Minor Misbehavior is expected to intervene “on the spot” (i.e., as soon as possible) within the environment in which the misbehavior occurred. Sending a student to talk with an adult who was not involved in the specifics of the incident is seldom effective in changing behavior — especially for individuals who demonstrate a pattern of misbehavior.

Teach Behavioral Expectations, Social Skills, and Procedures

On-going behavior instruction of the expectations, social skills, and procedures should occur in every classroom and location at a neutral (scheduled) time. Behavior instruction includes:

Once an expectation, social skill, or procedure is taught, enforcement continues throughout the remainder of the day/week/year. Enforcement includes: providing pre-correction, cueing and prompting students to demonstrate pro-social behaviors, re-teaching skills when necessary, and consistently acknowledging/correcting student behavior in explicit terms.

  • Introducing the expectation, social skill, or procedure by name: Computer Expectations, Working Independently, Entering the Classroom, etc.
  • Providing a reason or rationale for learning and demonstrating the skill
  • Explicitly outlining the behavior steps
  • Practicing the behavior, followed by specific feedback
  • Monitoring and supporting students to skill mastery — a behavior has not been learned until it can be demonstrated in all settings, even under stressful conditions

Identify Contributing Environmental Factors

Environmental Factors — also referred to as behavioral antecedents, triggers, or predictors— are conditions present or missing in the environment which may contribute to student misbehavior. The following Environmental Factors should be considered when evaluating the dynamics of student misbehavior:

Because each location on campus has a unique set of variables and dynamics, it will require intentional observation and reflection in order to understand and identify the Environmental Factors which may be contributing to student misbehavior.  Each investigation should start with staff conducting a self-reflection of the environment for which they are responsible (office, common area, classroom, etc.). If assistance is needed to perform this task, invite additional staff to observe and provide feedback (grade level or academic team cohorts, academic coaches, counselors, administrative staff, etc.).

  • Instructional practices (academic/behavioral) — curriculum, strategies, activities
  • Physical setting — location on campus, size, noise level, temperature, number of students, arrangement of desks/tables, ease of movement, traffic patterns, organization of materials/equipment
  • Social setting — staff/students present or absent, interaction patterns surrounding the student
  • Social interactions — communication styles, power structure/hierarchy, allotment of peer/staff attention
  • Scheduling factors — procedures, routines, timelines, events
  • Degree of independence/participation (academic/social) — active listening, engagement, seat work, paired tasks, group work

Modify the Environment Based on Identified Environmental Factors

Interactions — increasing positive to negative ratio (staff to staff, staff to student, student to student), increasing opportunities for communication, modifying voice tone/volume/cadence, modifying the level/amount of expected participation (independent, paired, or group activities)

Utilize Pre-Correction Techniques

Pre-correction is the intentional front-loading of students for behavioral success. Pre-correction is used to inform students that an opportunity to demonstrate a specific expectation, social skill, or procedure will occur in the immediate future. An example of pre-correction is: “Class, in a minute the bell is going to ring and we are going to Line Up for an Assembly. When the bell rings, put all materials in your desk, stand up, push your chairs in, and wait quietly behind your chair until I dismiss your table to line up.” The more at-risk a class or student, the more explicit the pre-correction should become.

Clarify How the Behavior Did Not Meet Expectations

Students who demonstrate behavioral errors should be provided a specific description of how the misbehavior differed from the expectation. The content of this interaction should be limited to the facts surrounding the specific misbehavior.  Example: “Mary, while the class was Working Independently you blurted out something like, ‘Does anyone have an extra pencil? Mine’s broken!” Then you left your seat and walked to the pencil sharpener making comments to other students along the way. Remember, we have a procedure for sharpening pencils: raise your hand and wait for me to call on you, ask if you can use the sharpener, once I have given you permission you can then go directly and quietly to the sharpener, sharpen your pencil, return to your seat, and refocus on your assignment.”

Re-teach and Practice the Expectation, Social Skill, or Procedure

Classes, groups, and/or individual students who fail to demonstrate expectations, skills or procedures, should be provided additional instruction and practice. Example: “Class, right now everyone should be Working Independently on their math assignment. Who can raise their hand and tell me what Working Independently looks like? That’s right. Working Independently means: focusing your attention on the assigned task, ignoring all distractions both inside and outside the classroom, and raising your hand if you require assistance. Now let’s go ahead and practice that skill. I expect everyone to be Working Independently for the next 5 minutes.”

Establish a Behavior Cue/Prompt

Cues and prompts are used to support individual students who are known to have difficulty demonstrating a specific behavior or when the earliest signs of a misbehavior are observed. Cues and prompts may be visual, verbal, or a combination of both.

  1. Cue: a single gesture or word to remind a student to use a specific expectation, skill, or procedure. The teacher, for example, may point to the “Things to Do When I’m Done with My Work” poster, or may say something like, “Remember, TOD (Things to Do).”
  2. Prompt: a series of gestures and/or directions which guide the student through the process of demonstrating an expectation, social skill, or procedure. Prompts are more explicit than cues. A teacher, for example, may say, “Remember, when you have completed the assignment to look at the “Things to Do When I’m Done with My Work” poster, select an item, and begin immediately.”