PBIS has a proven record for improving school climate at schools across the country. Still, introducing PBIS to a school can produce a fair share of resistance. Educators may fear that PBIS will leave them with no effective means of behavior management. Administrators may be reluctant to upend the traditional system of discipline. You may even get some pushback from the students themselves because PBIS may be different from their known experience with school interactions. There are plenty of PBIS myths out there that keep schools from implementing PBIS. We’re here to tell you not to let those faux barriers get in your way. Let’s take a look at the biggest PBIS myths.
Top PBIS Myths
Myth: There are no consequences in PBIS – schools abandon discipline and teachers aren’t allowed to punish misbehavior.
Fact: PBIS is a change in focus – giving additional attention to positive behaviors in order to encourage their development. Over the years, zero-tolerance policies have proven to be considerably less effective at reducing negative behaviors and improving school safety. PBIS, on the other hand, focuses on the recognition of positive behavior. With its three-tiered system of implementation, PBIS uses expectations to help minimize interruptions and reduce office referrals. There is still a place for discipline within the PBIS framework. However, the goal is to focus on setting and implementing expectations to build a productive school climate. Discipline definitely has its place in PBIS and is applied very precisely in relation to infractions.
Myth: PBIS rewards students for what they are supposed to be doing.
Fact: Many students haven’t developed the foundational skills they need in order to be successful. Emotional regulation, social skills, and behavior are all learned. Some students come from disadvantaged circumstances, have experienced trauma, come from different cultural backgrounds, or have developmental issues. For many, school is where they develop appropriate social and emotional skills. PBIS helps to establish behaviors that students will carry with them throughout their lives. Awarding points is a tangible way to reinforce positive behaviors as they occur.
Myth: The “Positive” in PBIS just means handing out treats and other goodies whenever kids behave. Rewards are just bribery.
Fact: While on the surface it might seem to focus exclusively on rewards, the “Positive” in PBIS actually refers to the intentional building of a productive and progressive school climate. Acknowledgment is a significant factor in this process, and it enables students to connect their actions with the recognition they receive. Over time, this positive recognition helps to create a positive environment in which all students can flourish. Successful schoolwide implementation of PBIS helps to create positive teacher-student relationships. As far as bribery is concerned, consider this: a bribe is a benefit offered in exchange for illegal action. Positive behaviors are above-board and fully desirable actions, both in a school setting and within the larger community. The rewards used in PBIS are positive reinforcement for appropriate behavior in the school setting. Students who do not behave appropriately do not receive points.
Myth: PBIS is just one more task for already overloaded educators
Fact: Adding PBIS to a school can seem burdensome on the surface, but it’s actually a path toward alleviating burden. When properly implemented, PBIS can profoundly change the climate and culture in a school. Employing best practices will help you to get your initiative off the ground and provide a solid foundation for moving forward. A schoolwide PBIS framework, implemented with fidelity, will help reduce discipline referrals and give teachers more time to teach.
Myth: PBIS doesn’t work with older students.
Fact: While many might consider PBIS to be specific to elementary or middle school students, PBIS can and does work in ALL school levels. PBIS will naturally look quite different at the preschool level as compared to PBIS in high school. Incentives and rewards might be different depending on the school level, but student response to recognition of positive behavior is universal. Setting expectations and acknowledging behavior when those expectations are met is something all students can understand.
Myth: Once you stop rewarding a specific behavior, students stop doing that particular behavior.
Fact: A PBIS initiative is not static – it continually grows and adapts as the school year progresses. The key to improving behavior schoolwide is to begin with a strong schoolwide behavior matrix. Once you have identified behavioral values for your school, you must spell out what these values look like in different settings. This allows you to focus on and reward for specific behaviors over the course of the school year. As a result, your students carry the behaviors established and encouraged by PBIS into the larger community.
Myth: PBIS is just a “program” that we’ll try for a while and then move on to something else.
Fact: It’s likely that your veteran teachers have seen numerous behavioral programs come and go. They’ll have the same expectations of PBIS. PBIS is often referred to as a “program” or “system” because those terms are easy to understand. But PBIS isn’t a “program” – it’s a framework built on behavioral philosophies and processes designed to improve school climate. Schools that commit to a PBIS initiative, encourage staff buy-in, and use the data to fine-tune their efforts will find that it’s much more than a “program.”
Myth: There is only one way to implement PBIS.
Fact: PBIS looks very different from school to school, even among schools in the same district. The central principle of any PBIS framework is an emphasis on positive behavior. What that framework looks like varies by school. In fact, each school must develop its own behavior matrix and determine the appropriate responses to misbehaviors. Rubber stamping PBIS across several schools doesn’t address the unique challenges each school faces.
Myth: Setting up a store for rewards is expensive and time-consuming.
Fact: There are many ways to set up and stock a school store. Not all rewards need to be tangible – something as simple as being line leader for the day costs the school nothing and can be a huge boost to student motivation. There are plenty of incentives that are free or low cost, and often local businesses partner with a school to reward kids for good behavior. Redeeming points for rewards can be simple, too, especially if you automate your rewards program with PBIS Rewards.
Myth: Families don’t understand PBIS.
Fact: For some families, PBIS is nothing like what they know from their own schooling history. Many parents and guardians are familiar with a punitive system of discipline that only seeks out and punishes misbehavior. They may be concerned that poor behavior won’t be addressed in a school using a PBIS framework. Just like anything that’s different from the expected norm, PBIS needs to be communicated to families from the very beginning. It’s important for schools to educate families on the expectations implemented in day-to-day activities. In addition, schools need to reassure families that discipline is still very much a part of the behavior system, even if the path it takes looks nothing like what they may remember. One of the best ways to illustrate the power of PBIS is by making a positive phone call home. It’s a great way to recognize a student! They’ll be excited for their family to hear about their progress and their family will get a glimpse into what PBIS is all about.
Myth: PBIS is not equitable.
Fact: PBIS is designed to be a schoolwide framework, which allows anyone and everyone in the building to participate. In order for PBIS to be truly schoolwide, each school must develop its own behavior matrix and determine the appropriate responses to misbehavior. Recognition and discipline apply consistently to every student in the school, not just to those in individual classrooms. PBIS helps every student learn and grow academically, socially, and emotionally!
Ready to Implement PBIS in Your School?
The PBIS myths we’ve addressed above are some of the most common objections to implementing PBIS in a school. But PBIS is a powerful tool to improve school climate, as thousands of schools across the nation have discovered.
Whether you want to implement PBIS in your school or take your PBIS framework to the next level, PBIS Rewards can make it easier. Want to know more? Request a demo to see how PBIS Rewards makes PBIS in schools easy and fun for everyone!