How to Create a PBIS Behavior Matrix & Incentives for Distance Learning

PBIS Behavior Matrix for Distance Learning

The transition to online education requires teachers, staff and students to adjust their thinking around the learning experience. The good news is that some of the practices and procedures that were implemented in the classroom can also work in the virtual environment. The rules and expectations around behavior, student engagement and communication still apply.

In order to effectively implement behavior and incentive plans in a virtual space, each teacher has to assess the goals of using these tools. To plan for the new environment, using a matrix for behaviors can be helpful in explicitly naming the expectations. Developing a matrix allows the teacher to clearly define and model the expected behavior. The virtual environment will be an adjustment and requires structure in order to be effective. 

How to Create a PBIS Behavior Matrix & Plan for Incentives

 Identify the school-wide behavior expectations

Any schools who have used PBIS before can use similar expectations in a virtual setting. In fact, that consistency is critical for students as they transition to virtual learning. Teachers should make it clear what the expectations are for learning even if the environment changes. Define each of the expectations as it relates to virtual learning and provide clear details as to what it looks like. 

→ Manage your school culture programs via distance and remote learning, check out our PBIS Playbook and PBIS Behavior Tracking Template

 Identify virtual learning activities

Virtual activities like using video and audio to participate are directly related to student behaviors. If you are expecting students to enter the virtual classroom in a certain way, or if there are rules for the students during instruction or group time, use details of the type of learning moment for students to meet behavior expectations. Within the matrix give examples of what the expectation looks like. In order to reinforce the behaviors, be prepared to model each class period what those look like until it becomes routine. 

Example of labeling the matrix:

When in class… Teacher-led Instruction  Individual Reading Time 
Respect  Use the chat to ask for help
Keep your video on mute 
Keep your video on but keep the sound on mute

 Use the matrix

Unlike the classroom which can have the behavior matrix displayed for everyone at all times, the virtual learning space may require some creativity. Use the student folders, emails and general learning community spaces (social media, corresponding learning pages, etc.) to display the matrix. Each teacher with the support of caregivers should consistently remind students of the positive behavior expectations and model it when appropriate. Do not be afraid to reference the matrix to reinforce expectations. 

 Assign incentives 

Similarly to identifying the expected behaviors, also identify the opportunities for incentives and recognition when students meet behavior expectations. Students are motivated when they are aware of what goals they are working to attain and that there is a reward. In the virtual setting use the matrix for incentives to correspond with the behaviors. 

Example matrix:

When meeting expectations… Teacher-led Instruction  Individual Reading Time 
Weekly Reward Friday praise shoutout
Digital stickers
Earn a new bookmark
Monthly Reward Teacher-Student virtual snack break  Pick the class fun read during the next month

 Be flexible

Creating the matrices for distance learning may be an interactive process. As you gain experience in the virtual learning space, it is ok to adjust expectations and think about new incentives to motivate and praise students. This is definitely a new adventure for a lot of educators and it’s ok to shift. As you implement the matrices, ask for feedback from colleagues and others to ensure your instructions are clear and that they are user friendly for students.

A huge value in building matrices is that it provides a visual for students and families to reference. Developing a matrix that is colorful and branded with the school logo, can be posted in the digital folders for students, and sent via email to parents is a way to involve the entire community in the implementation. In a physical classroom this might be hanging from the wall or kept in student folders and that is also an option in the virtual setting. 

Although students and teachers will be engaging via screen that does not take away from the value in one-to-one interactions. What is important for students to understand is that our behavior in a virtual environment can also have positive and negative outcomes. To lay out clear expectations and incentives for students, schools should adjust and communicate their behavior matrix as well as create a PBIS incentive calendar.