November 1, 2021

4 Tips to Make School-Wide PBIS More Effective (And Easier): Advice from an Educator

We caught up with Aja Alexander, Dean of Students at Austin Middle School, to learn about how her team accomplished their PBIS goals.
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If you’re already a PBIS school, you know that adopting the PBIS framework takes oversight and management to be effective. But the level of effort in that oversight and management can vary! At LiveSchool, we regularly hear from administrators who make PBIS simple with just a bit of creative thinking. We caught up with Aja Alexander, Dean of Students at Austin Middle School, to learn about how her team accomplished their PBIS goals and implemented LiveSchool as a tool to make school-wide PBIS easy. Here are her tips!

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1. Create memorable behavior expectations

Alexander and her colleagues developed a simple, memorable behavior rubric to form the bedrock of their PBIS program. By reducing the number of behaviors recorded in LiveSchool, they clarified expectations for both students and teachers and made awarding points (and providing real-time feedback) easy and intuitive. 

We really wanted LiveSchool to be easy to use, so we had to work through some kinks. Initially, we had so many things we were looking for from the students. So we narrowed it down to five or six behaviors that fit under our 3 main categories: we want our students to be ready, be responsible, and be respectful. Being able to use our PBIS matrix in LiveSchool’s point system has been phenomenal. It gives students that instant gratification of knowing that they’re behaving within our expectations.

The Takeaway

Keep your behavior rubric simple and memorable to begin -- something that teachers and students can keep in their heads.

2. Add teacher incentives

Teachers make PBIS work in the classroom, so why shouldn’t they be rewarded too? Alexander implemented a teacher incentive program at AMS to motivate teachers to fully engage with their PBIS system and LiveSchool’s tracking app -- and reward them for their hard work.

We award one half-day off every six weeks to the teacher who has the most LiveSchool usage. Second- and third-place teachers get extended lunch, and we provide lunch for the top six teachers.

The Takeaway

Motivate teachers, too. PBIS takes behavior change, and even adults need some motivation to change their behavior.

3. Good communication with educators

Alexander emphasizes that good communication with educators has been key to creating a system that works for everyone and reflects effective PBIS practices. 

What we don’t want is teachers just giving points away to satisfy the need of giving points. We’ve had critical conversations about what the points process should look like in the classroom.

Alexander recommends setting classroom management goals with educators and routinely checking in to offer suggestions and make adjustments to help them hit those goals. 

The Takeaway

Make sure some lightweight coaching is an expectation in your plan; in the early phase, there will be some necessary calibration with the team. 

4. Listen to student feedback on your PBIS system

Alexander and her colleagues know that student buy-in is fundamental to success with a PBIS framework and a digital points + rewards system like LiveSchool, so they coordinated multiple group and individual discussions with their students to learn what types of rewards they were interested in. The staff also collected student feedback during their advisory (homeroom) period, when their students are most active with LiveSchool.

I got student input on their rewards, because we want them to receive items that they actually want to receive. Even if it’s asking them ‘If we had this list of things and you could only pick five, what would you pick?’ Really, it’s just getting them involved with the reward portion of LiveSchool.

The Takeaway

Involve students in your system design! They’ll have ideas on how to make your incentives meaningful, and their input gets them bought in.

How have you used LiveSchool to further your PBIS work? Share with us @whyliveschool on twitter!

Interested in LiveSchool?

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