Positive Behavior Support FAQ

Common Positive Behavior Support
Questions Answered:

Positive behavior support is a proactive management strategy that creates the behavioral systems and structures needed for students to grow academically and socially. Its goal is to provide a safe and supportive school climate by meeting the unique needs of students at varying levels of behavioral and social/emotional development. At the core of positive behavior support is the belief that all students can exhibit appropriate behavior when provided with the proper supports.

When a school implements positive behavior supports, it teaches student expectations and character development with the same intentionality as academic content. Positive behaviors are reinforced through individual and group reinforcers, such as tangible rewards or recognition, with a focus on maintaining a high ratio of positive interactions to negative ones.

More individualized plans built using research-based intervention strategies are created for students who have difficulty meeting the expectations with basic supports. These positive behavior support plans involve identifying the challenging behavior and its purpose, teaching replacement behaviors and coping strategies, reinforcing and rewarding positive behaviors, and minimizing the causes of the negative behaviors.

As a principal, there are various ways to support teachers in the implementation of positive behavioral supports:

  • Model positive behavior support techniques during interactions with students.
  • Support grade level or other school-based teams in developing consistent behavior expectations that are clearly communicated to and modeled for students.
  • Create a common language around behavior, both positive and negative, for the school community.
  • Provide professional development for teachers in research-based interventions, such as positively framing desired behaviors, using proximity, etc., with a focus on deliberate practice of the skill(s).
  • Encourage teachers to observe peers who are already faithfully implementing positive behavior supports.
  • Promote the use of data and consistent feedback (from coaches, peers, and students) to promote a solutions-oriented staff culture that is flexible and adjusts practices when necessary.

The goal of positive behavior supports is to provide a safe and supportive school climate by creating consistency across a school and meeting the unique needs of students at varying levels of behavioral and social/emotional development.

Positive behavior support examples that succeed in achieving this goal include:

  • Establishing clear behavioral expectations and reinforcing positive behavior.
  • Prioritizing character development through explicit instruction and modeling of behaviors.
  • Rewarding students with tangible incentives and/or preferred activities to reinforce appropriate behavior.
  • Opting for nonverbal cues, such as hand signals or cards, to remind students of expectations in a less invasive manner.
  • Using proximity control to encourage a student to continue meeting expectations or fix behavior to meet them.
  • Set achievable goals for targeted behavior(s) that gradually build mastery over time (ie. In week 1, student will display behavior 60% of the time. In week 3, student will display behavior in 70% of the time.)
  • Involving the student, parents, and other key stakeholders in the creation of a support plan to increase investment and ensure faithful execution.

Positive behavior intervention plans are designed to be proactive rather than reactive in improving a student’s behavior and in teaching the lifelong habits necessary to be successful in both school and life. With a targeted, research-based approach to behavior support, a student can more easily navigate the challenges of replacing negative behaviors and take more ownership of the process as well.

Purposeful intervention plans also provide more support and guidance to teachers through the introduction of research-based intervention strategies that are more likely to promote growth and success. With a plan that includes all key stakeholders, a student receives strong, consistent support that reinforces positive behaviors in all settings, helping all involved to feel more successful and motivated.

To develop a positive behavior support plan, collect data through behavior reports, observations, and interviews to determine the most common behaviors a student exhibits. From the data, determine the most frequent behaviors that need to be addressed, such as “Responds negatively to verbal feedback about negative behavior”. 

Once you’ve determined the two most common behaviors, script the replacement, or desired, behaviors that the student should exhibit. For example, “Accept feedback about behavior by fixing addressed behavior with 1 or less reminder”. Directly teach and model the desired behavior for the student and train teachers and other staff in preferred support strategies, such as nonverbal cues or proximity, to use when student needs support in meeting expectations.

Create a method to collect behavior data for the student to determine the effectiveness of the positive behavior support plan over time. Data can be collected through various methods, such as using points based trackers, charting merit totals, or recording observational data.

Some best practices to follow when creating positive behavior support plans:

  • Set goals for the student that can be met relatively quickly to encourage effort and teach that student that s/he can be successful behaviorally. Goals can be readjusted for rigor as the student meets them.
  • Include all stakeholders in the process. Involving the student, teachers, parents, coaches, and other important staff (i.e. bus drivers) increases investment and encourages faithful implementation of the plan. 
  • Gather info from multiple sources about the student’s behaviors across various settings, like the classroom, home, and school bus, which is helpful in determining the most important behaviors to target. A target behavior should happen frequently and across various settings to be addressed in an intervention plan. 
  • Target only two to three behaviors at any given time, making the plan more manageable for both students and teachers. Once a behavior is mastered, according to collected data, a new target behavior can be added to the plan.


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