How PBIS and Classroom Management Work Together

We want organized and well-run classrooms, but we also want rooms where the students are incredibly motivated to learn.
By 
Jordan Pruitt
 | 
June 8, 2022

As a school administrator, you undoubtedly see many different teaching styles.

Some have it all together. They are organized down to the last detail, and their kids know how the room operates and how to be successful in that operation. They rely on planning and logistics to facilitate lessons and thus learning. 

Some may seem a bit more carefree in their planning, but their students are motivated. They use that motivation to ignite the learning in the room! Ever on the brink of chaos, but the students are on board so it works. 

Both of these styles can work well. As an administrator you may find yourself asking, why can’t we have both? 

We want organized and well-run classrooms, but we also want rooms where the students are incredibly motivated to learn. Keep reading to learn how this can be accomplished by integrating PBIS and classroom management.

What is PBIS?

Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is a proactive approach to behavior in your building. The PBIS Tiers are designed to differentiate between the level of support your students need. 

PBIS is certainly effective as a school-wide behavior and discipline system, but ideally, your teachers should be using the language in their classrooms. Do their expectations align with the school's expectations? They should! 

For example, your school’s PBIS matrix should include classroom expectations that teachers monitor, reinforce, and reward. Make certain your school-wide expectations are brief and broad so they can be applied to every scenario. 

While the PBIS matrix is school-wide, you can still leave a level of autonomy available for individual classrooms. 

PBIS in the Classroom

At my school we use “Be Safe, Be Responsible, and Be Respectful.”  In our matrix, we define what this means in every situation except for the classroom. 

We print and laminate posters for our teachers to fill in what it means to “Be Safe, Be Responsible, and Be Respectful” in their classrooms. 

This has a couple of benefits. One, it allows the teacher to erase and edit as the lessons or classes they teach require them to do so. 

A science teacher (like myself) may want to add some specifics to the “Be Safe” column on a lab day for instance. Or if you have teachers floating, you may want to change what “Be Responsible” means between the English class and the Digital Literacy class that requires a heavier technology lift for students.

The other benefit of having teachers fill these in is you create staff buy-in to the positive approach to behavior and discipline you are trying to promote. Buy-in is everything!

What is Classroom Management?

Classroom Management is a very broad term for the range of skills and techniques classroom instructors use to keep students organized, on task, on pace, and safe. 

In other words, how does a teacher create the best possible environment for the learning process to take place? 

This should be a major part of the lesson planning process. Particularly for new teachers, it is vital you consider the logistics and layout of the lesson just as much as the content being delivered. Teachers need to maximize student engagement with each lesson, so they  need to plan ahead to remove barriers to success and anticipate problems as they arise. 

The best practitioners of classroom management strategies have a plan and are flexible enough to change the plan when they see the ship start to take on water.

 They may notice that Part B of the incredible lab they planned is going to cause chaos as your students transition between activities. Maybe the teacher pivots that portion from a lab into a demonstration for the group. This can change from lesson to lesson, class to class, and year to year. 

Teachers need to be organized and prepared but also not afraid to tweak their plans as necessary. After all, they are dealing with a new group of variables every class period: students.

PBIS and Classroom Management

How Are PBIS and Classroom Management Similar?

A great PBIS program is one that clearly states what is expected of students, monitors how well they meet those expectations, and then rewards them via school-wide events or classroom rewards for meeting their behavior goals. 

A great classroom management plan is an organized and flexible approach to running a classroom that allows students the best chance of meeting the standards in the lesson. 

You should see some clear parallels here as both approaches seek to improve learning by improving behavior.

How Are PBIS and Classroom Management Different?

The difference between the two lies in the approach. With PBIS we are striving to improve learning by reducing behaviors through motivation. 

With classroom management, we are striving to improve learning by reducing behaviors through planning and logistical solutions. 

Implementing Both

There is no reason your teachers can’t deliver quality instruction in organized classrooms to motivate students. These should not be competing philosophies at all and should all be a part of your school’s discipline strategy

The key to tying PBIS into a teacher’s classroom management plan lies in expectations. By moving from a rules-based system to an expectations-based system you are making a subtle change that can have a very large change in the results. 

When your staff researches classroom management tips, I suggest they utilize your school-wide expectations in place of any rules they wish to implement in the room or the lesson. By using the agreed-upon expectations they provide consistency for your students, eliminate loopholes in their plan, and help to build positive school culture. 

The best practice for administrators should be to model what they want to see in classrooms by practicing what they preach in their faculty meetings. Have a slide show? Put what it takes to have a successful meeting on the first slide but broken down by your school-wide expectations. This can help create a more productive environment as well as serve as professional development for your behavior management plan.

Your Turn

The perfect learning environment may not be what we imagine it to be. If you picture a perfect classroom, you may be picturing the perfect lesson plan, room layout, or hall monitoring program. Or you may be picturing a group of well-behaved students. What you should be picturing is engagement. 

The goal here is to create the best environment you can for your students, so they are engaged in learning and the school community. Keeping students quiet isn’t necessarily the same thing as teaching them. As a former science teacher, I often said that the best learning happened right on the verge of chaos. It may be a little messy at times. But the goal is learning, not just compliance.

Learn more about the author, 
Jordan Pruitt
 

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