December 20, 2017

Improving Access to Classroom PBIS Data

Learn the story behind LiveSchool's IES research grant and the new LiveSchool Insights system.
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Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is a research and data-based approach to understanding and improving student behavior. Used by nearly 8,000 schools around the country, PBIS aims to establish “the social culture and behavioral supports needed for all children in a school to achieve both social and academic success.”

An important component of PBIS is to use data continuously for decision making. Yet at many schools, it’s a challenge for administrators to gather the information needed to understand behavior at the student, classroom, and school levels.

LiveSchool set out to address this problem. In April 2017, LiveSchool received a grant provided by the Department of Education’s Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) program, which looks for innovative technologies with the promise to improve student outcomes. LiveSchool used the grant to develop and study a set of tools called LiveSchool Insights to help teachers and administrator access the PBIS data they need.

In this post, we’ll learn about LiveSchool Insights, the feedback received from participating schools, and next steps.

The Data Gap

In PBIS-implementing schools, there are a range of data that administrators are expected to monitor to support teachers in effectively implementing PBIS. However, LiveSchool found that realistically, this doesn't always happen. The lack of solutions can mean manual data entry and paperwork, which makes it less likely that data is continuously monitored.

One important indicator, for example, is the ratio of positive to negative feedback, or praise to correction, that students receive. PBIS research is clear that for every corrective piece of feedback, teachers should be giving at least three pieces of praise and reinforcement. This helps ensure students have self-esteem, are feeling positive, and don’t feel like their teachers are picking on them.

That’s what the research says, but hard for administrators to actually track this data because they can’t possibly be present in every class.

LiveSchool’s existing software tracks positive and negative feedback, providing an opportunity to address this challenge. The LiveSchool team developed Insights, a series of interactive dashboards to give administrators access to Tier 1 PBIS data. Data points include:

  • Praise-to-correction ratios of teachers
  • Student behavior trends, including top behaviors
  • Students receiving the most – and least – praise

With easy access to data, the LiveSchool team hoped that administrators would be more empowered to target coaching and supports for teachers.

Gathering Feedback

To test the usefulness of these new dashboards in real school environments, LiveSchool reached out to their PBIS-implementing school customers to see if they’d be interested in participating in the pilot. Their participation would include using the dashboards for several months and participating in focus groups and surveys to provide feedback to the research team.

LiveSchool was able to gather 340 administrators across 89 schools to participate in the pilot program, which ran from August to October. At the end of the pilot, LiveSchool analyzed focus group and survey responses, as well as back end data on how frequently teachers and administrators used the Insights dashboards. Specifically, LiveSchool wanted to understand a few key factors:

  • Usability: Are the dashboards usable? Can users figure out how to find the data they need?
  • Feasibility: Are the dashboards feasible to use in a real-world school setting?

LiveSchool found the usability of the new Insights dashboards to be high – users were consistently able to complete prompts in a focus group setting to access PBIS related metrics about students, teachers, and their school.

The team also wanted to understand teachers' perspective towards LiveSchool Insights. They found that teachers were generally open to sharing their data, provided they received help in return. Some teachers expressed feeling like they “existed on an island,” where their students’ progress or challenges were not easily visible to administrators. For these teachers, it was a huge plus for admins to see what’s going on.

Overall, the new dashboards proved feasible in a school context. 62% of administrators reviewed Insights data over the grant period, and the average administrator accessed data over 30 times. Teachers and administrators expressed that the data was also beneficial for identifying patterns of behavior for specific students, like which behaviors were most common.

Despite the positive feedback, the LiveSchool team did identify some real challenges facing administrators in using the dashboards regularly. Unsurprisingly, time is a precious resource for school administrators, and there was a strong interest in a next set of tools to assist in monitoring and supporting teachers’ PBIS practices in the classroom:

  • 93% said it would be valuable for teachers to receive direct notifications and tips
  • 95% said it would be helpful to get emails identifying teachers who need more coaching
  • 100% said it would be helpful to receive a report summarizing praise to correction ratios

Based on this feedback, the LiveSchool team is moving towards next steps in their research and development.

Next Steps

Most administrators have a lot on their plate, leaving them with little extra time to take meaningful action with this data, such as coaching teachers regularly. In the next phase of LiveSchool’s research and development, the team aims to address this need with a more extensive system for supporting teachers.

At the end of Phase I, LiveSchool experimented with an approach of using automatic notifications sent to administrators and teachers based on their individual data trends. Notifications included reminders to track student points, summaries of teacher positive/negative ratios – or, a simple “great job!” if a teacher was consistently awarding praise.

Example LiveSchool Insights Notification

LiveSchool is currently moving toward Phase II, which would extend the system piloted in Phase I with four key components:

  • Notifications. In-app, text, and email notifications will deliver timely “smart alerts” based on a teacher’s own data.
  • Videos. Integrated video training that are short, practical, and show what PBIS best practices look like in real classrooms.
  • Customizability. Recognizing that each school is different, administrators will be able to set thresholds and frequencies to fit their school culture.
  • Reporting. Administrators will be able to monitor the system and step in where their personal relationships can be most impactful.

For updates on LiveSchool’s Phase II grant proposal, or with questions about LiveSchool’s research efforts, email

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