PBIS Implementation Guide for School Principals & Administrators

PBIS, or Positive Behavioral Intervention Supports, is a research-based, proactive strategy that creates the behavioral systems and structures needed for all students to grow academically and socially. The goal of PBIS is to provide a safe and supportive school environment by creating school-wide consistency and meeting the unique needs of students at varying levels of behavioral and social emotional development. As principals and administrators, we set the tone for our schools that dictates how well our staff implements schoolwide programs like PBIS. What we model, value, prioritize, and focus on becomes the vision and focus for the entire school population. 

Download our PBIS training brochure to learn how to implement your program schoolwide

The book, “Implementation Research: A Synthesis of the Literature,” proposes frameworks for understanding effective implementation processes of programs like PBIS. This guide follows five stages of effective implementation:

School Principal & Administrator’s Guide to Implementing PBIS

  1. Exploration Stage
  2. Installation Stage
    • Create a PBIS Multidisciplinary Team Representative of your Entire Staff
    • Create a Strategic Plan for Positive School Culture
    • Staff Training
  3. Initial Implementation Stage
    • Engage Families with Cultural Data
    • Coach and Model Expectations in Classrooms
    • Conduct Culture Walkthroughs
  4. Implementation Stage
    • Establish Culture Coaching Cycles
    • Establish Culture Professional Learning Communities
    • Reinforce Staff for Exemplary Implementation
  5. Sustaining Stage
    • Monitor and Evaluate Strategies
    • Differentiate Coaching Structures and Supports
    • Coach the Coaches

Exploration Stage

This stage is the brainstorming and initial assessment phase where a culture audit is conducted to assess the needs of the school. After analyzing data, leaders collaboratively create a vision for what cultural excellence will look like, set specific and measurable culture goals, and start to create a strategic PBIS plan aligned to the goals and needs of the school. This is also where administrators start to create the conditions with staff by getting buy in and building excitement. 

Key Leader Actions During Exploration Stage:

  • Establishing a Vision
  • Creating a Climate for PBIS

Installation Stage

The installation stage is where administrators create a PBIS team who will use data from the school’s culture audit or assessment to create schoolwide expectations and a strategic plan. Administrators hold professional development sessions to train staff members in different areas around mindsets, knowledge, systems, techniques, and technology.

Key Leader Actions During Installation Stage:

  • Executing Vision
  • Norming School-Wide Procedures
  • Creating a Climate for PBIS
  • Facilitating Leadership
Note: This is the most demanding and critical stage in terms of time and planning in order to implement PBIS successfully. If your plan is incomplete or teachers do not know how to implement the plan, it will fail quickly.

Initial Implementation Stage

This is the “work through the kinks phase” where the school starts using the PBIS system, determines what is and is not working and why, then makes adjustments.

Key Leader Actions During Initial Implementation Stage:

  • Norming School-Wide Procedures
  • Engaging Families
  • Supporting Team with Implementation
  • Promoting Coaching Structures

Implementation Stage

The Implementation stage is where the school gets into a groove. The PBIS system and plan are being implemented effectively and leaders continue to build the efficacy and skillful practice of their teachers. The school maintains course and tweaks what is needed in response to data.

Key Leader Actions During Implementation Stage:

  • Creating Peer Collaboration Opportunities
  • Developing Coaching and Feedback Cycles
  • Supporting Team with Implementation
  • Creating Data-Driven Culture

Sustaining Stage

In the Sustaining Stage, all three tiers are being implemented successfully. Academic, social, and behavioral goals are on track to being met or have been achieved and new goals are being added. Leaders are working to empower, differentiate, and adapt.

Key Leader Actions During Sustaining Stage:

  • Revising Policies and Adapting New Strategies
  • Supporting Coaches and PBIS Team
  • Training New Staff Members
  • Differentiating Professional Development for Returning Staff