Behavior Matters

News from your District Behavior Coach

What is School Wide Positive Behavior Intervention Support?

School-wide Positive Behavior Intervention Support (SW-PBIS) is a framework for creating safe and orderly learning environments in schools, while improving the social-emotional outcomes for students. It is a proactive approach that relies on research based practices, including developing clear behavioral expectations, teaching these expectations, acknowledging appropriate behavior, consistently correcting inappropriate behavior, and using behavioral data to systematically solve problems. SW-PBIS is built on a three tiered model that provides additional behavioral supports to students who are not responding to the tier 1 interventions.

Spotlight on Tier 1 Behavior Interventions

Today's Focus Strategy: Behavior Specific Praise


The power of praise in changing student behavior is that it both indicates teacher approval and informs the student about how the praised academic performance or behavior conforms to teacher expectations (Burnett, 2001). As with any potential classroom reinforcer, praise has the ability to improve student academic or behavioral performance—but only if the student finds it reinforcing (Akin-Little et al., 2004). Here are several suggestions for shaping praise to increase its effectiveness:

  • Describe Noteworthy Student Behavior. Praise statements that lack a specific account of student behavior in observable terms are compromised—as they fail to give students performance feedback to guide their learning. For example, a praise statement such as 'Good job!' is inadequate because it lacks a behavioral description (Hawkins & Heflin, 2011). However, such a statement becomes acceptable when expanded to include a behavioral element: "You located eight strong source documents for your essay. Good job!"
  • Praise Effort and Accomplishment, Not Ability. There is some evidence that praise statements about general ability can actually reduce student appetite for risk-taking (Burnett, 2001). Therefore, teachers should generally steer clear of praise that includes assumptions about global student ability (e.g., "You are a really good math student!"; "I can tell from this essay that writing is no problem for you."). Praise should instead focus on specific examples of student effort or accomplishment (e.g., "It's obvious from your grade that you worked hard to prepare for this quiz. Great work!"). When praise singles out exertion and work-products, it can help students to see a direct link between the effort that they invest in a task and improved academic or behavioral performance.
  • Match the Method of Praise Delivery to Student Preferences. Teachers can deliver praise in a variety of ways and contexts. For example, an instructor may choose to praise a student in front of a class or work group or may instead deliver that praise in a private conversation or as written feedback on the student's assignment. When possible, the teacher should determine and abide by a student's preferences for receiving individual praise. It is worth noting that, while most students in elementary grades may easily accept public praise, evidence suggests that middle and high-school students actually prefer private praise (Burnett, 2001). So, when in doubt with older students, deliver praise in private rather than in public.


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Keriann Poquette

District Behavior Coach & MTSS Coordinator

Central Montcalm Public Schools