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By Steve Bissonnette, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Education TELUQ University

Behavioural disorders and learning disabilities (LDs) often occur together. Consequently, teaching students with learning difficulties requires that both the effective teaching of content and behaviour management be taken into consideration. Click here to access the article Effective Behaviour Management for Students with LDs and Behavioural Disorders and learn more about the connection between LDs and behavioural disorders, and effective classroom interventions.


Developing caring schools involves creating a safe, orderly, predictable and positive environment that promotes education and learning. By implementing the Positive Behavioural Interventions and Supports (PBIS) system, Canadian schools can foster the development of such positive environments.

The Positive Behavioural Interventions and Supports (PBIS) system, which has been implemented in more than 28,000 U.S. schools, is a Response to Intervention (RTI) model applied to behaviour. This RTI model proposes a set of educational practices and strategies at different tiers of intervention in order to effectively prevent and manage student misbehaviour (Bissonnette, Gauthier and Castonguay, 2016).

PBIS proposes three tiers of intervention within its RTI model. “Each tier of intervention is characterized by the size of the group that it is targeting and by specific intervention modalities.” (Desrochers, Laplante and Brodeur, 2015, p. 294). In Tier 1, PBIS implementation begins with the introduction of universal preventative measures within the school and in each classroom. The recommended universal measures include the following:

  1. Deploying proactive interventions,
  2. Introducing corrective interventions,
  3. Taking into account guidelines associated with successful system implementation.

The introduction of these different interventions in PBIS Tier 1 is generally sufficient to allow most students (± 80%) to adopt the desired behaviours. However, a certain percentage of students (± 20%) will require interventions in Tiers 2 and 3 in order to meet behavioural expectations, as they are not successful with Tier 1 supports alone.

In the following section, we will describe the PBIS-recommended Tier 1 interventions, which we have previously presented in a number of publications (Bissonnette, 2015; Bissonnette, Bouchard, St-Georges, Gauthier & Bocquillon, 2020; Bissonnette et al., 2016).

Proactive Interventions

In Tier 1, PBIS proposes four proactive interventions to prevent undesirable behaviours:

1. Identifying Values

A behaviour management team, also called a steering committee, is formed with the support of a specialist with experience in PBIS. This team works together to identify a few values (e.g., respect, responsibility, etc.) that the school will promote with the students, staff members and parents.

2. Creating a Behaviour Matrix

The team transforms each of the chosen values into observable and positively stated behaviours for all areas within the school. For example, the team may discuss what the value of respect would look like in classrooms, laboratories, hallways, locker areas, the schoolyard, etc. This discussion will inform the creation of a behaviour matrix that will then become the school’s code of conduct (see Figure 1). Next, these behaviours will be systematically and explicitly taught by school staff.

Figure 1. Example Behaviour Matrix

Example behaviour matrix that outlines the ways students are expected to behave in all areas of the school

Click here to access a downloadable version of the Example Behaviour Matrix.

3. Explicitly Teaching Expected Behaviours

With the support of the PBIS specialist, the steering committee develops lesson plans for the school staff so that all students are explicitly and consistently taught the expected behaviours. In each area of the school, the students then receive explicit teaching (through modeling, guided practice and independent practice) of the expected behaviours in relation to the different values adopted by the school. The values and the expected behaviours are displayed in each of the areas of the school to remind students of the desired behaviours.

Explicit instruction is an evidence-based practice proven to support students with LDs. To learn more about the research behind explicit instruction, click here to access the article Explicit Instruction: A Teaching Strategy in Reading, Writing, and Mathematics for Students with Learning Disabilities.

Click here to access the article Planning and Teaching with Explicit Instruction, which provides guidelines for implementing explicit instruction in your classroom.

4. Developing a Reinforcement System

The steering committee develops a reinforcement system to recognize, value and encourage the students who adopt the behaviours that were taught. As highlighted by Massé, Desbiens and Lanaris (2006), if a newly adopted behaviour is not subsequently reinforced, noticed or approved by the teacher it will most likely not be repeated.

Even when proactive interventions are successfully implemented in the school, some students will still misbehave, which will require corrective interventions.

Corrective Interventions

In Tier 1, PBIS proposes the following three corrective interventions aimed at putting an end to undesirable behaviours:

1. Developing a Classification of Behaviours

With the support of the PBIS specialist, the steering committee classifies the problem behaviours observed at school. The observed behaviours are classified into two categories: minor behavioural concerns and major behavioural concerns. A minor behavioural concern is a behaviour that is disruptive for the student engaging in the behaviour or for some students around him/her, whereas a major behavioural concern is a behaviour that interferes with the proper functioning of the class or the common area of the school where the student happens to be. Students who are misbehaving in a major way must be temporarily removed from the area where they are located, and measures must be put in place to adequately monitor and support them.

Figure 2. Example Classification of Behavioural Concerns

List of behaviours classified into minor and major behavioural concerns. Minor behavioural concerns are further broken down into those that are personally detrimental to the student and those that interfere with the learning of others. Major behavioural concerns are further broken down into behaviours that disrupt classroom order and those that are harmful or illegal.

Click here to access a downloadable version of the Example Classification of Behavioural Concerns.

2. Identifying Possible Interventions for Managing Behavioural Concerns

The steering committee expands the classification of behaviours to include a list of possible interventions and consequences for each of the problem behaviours listed. The committee then assigns these possible interventions to the minor and major behavioural concerns that have been observed.

3. Creating a Decision Tree

Once this work has been carried out, it will now be possible to create a decision tree, i.e., a procedure diagram that clearly indicates for all school staff “who manages what”. In a decision tree, minor behavioural concerns are usually managed by the teachers and supervisors, while the major behavioural concerns that require students to be removed and provided with specific care are handled by the school’s administrative team and auxiliary services. Establishing systematic procedures allows for consistent and effective behavioural interventions in the school.

It should be emphasized that the effectiveness of Tier 1 proactive and corrective interventions relies on meeting implementation guidelines.

Guidelines Associated with Successful PBIS System Implementation

There are much greater chances of the PBIS-recommended Tier 1 interventions being successfully introduced when guidelines associated with the system implementation are taken into account (Bissonnette & St-Georges, 2014). The following guidelines are necessary for a successful PBIS implementation:

  • Staff support (minimum 80%) for the system implementation in the school and classrooms;
  • Leadership of the school administration, and its formal recognition by school staff;
  • Up to date data regarding the major behavioural concerns and disciplinary actions (ie. classroom expulsions);
  • Development of a behaviour management team (steering committee) to implement, monitor and regulate the system;
  • Monthly steering committee meetings to analyze the compiled behavioural data and to identify solutions to any problems encountered;
  • School support by an experienced PBIS specialist to provide staff with the required information and training.

Note that, in addition to the Tier 1 interventions, further and complementary measures are provided in Tiers 2 and 3. These measures are intended for students whose needs could not be met by the Tier 1 interventions alone. Click here to learn more about the interventions offered in Tier 2 and click here to read about the supports available at Tier 3.

Studies conducted in U.S. schools have shown reductions of 50% or more in the number of major behavioural concerns, one year after the implementation of the PBIS system and the related Tier 1 interventions (Irwin et al., 2004). These studies also showed that schools were able to maintain their results in subsequent years, as a result of a change in stakeholder practices and the school’s disciplinary culture. Canadian schools have obtained comparable results (Bissonnette et al., 2016):

The implementation of the Positive Behavioural Interventions and Supports (PBIS) system (Soutien au comportement positif or SCP in French) in the Commission scolaire des Laurentides began in 2012, and its effectiveness was demonstrated from the first trial year. Four years later, over 90% of students are exposed to the recognized effects of this behaviour management system. For the first primary school cohort exposed to this system, we observed a 53% reduction in classroom removals[1] over a four-year period. We also observed a 62% reduction in major events[2], as well as an 89% decrease in bullying incidents[3] over the same period (Déry, 2016, p. VII).

[1] Consequence given to a student whose behaviour is disrupting the proper functioning of the class by preventing the teacher from teaching. This consequence is the removal of the student from his/her learning environment (classroom) for a specified period.

[2] Any behaviour that is dangerous for the student or others, that is illegal or that disrupts the proper functioning of the school.

[3] Any behaviour, words, action or gesture, whether intentional or not, of a repetitive nature, expressed directly or indirectly, including in cyberspace, in a context characterized by unequal relationships of power between the people involved, resulting in feelings of distress, with the intent to harm, injure, oppress or ostracize someone.


A caring school is a safe, orderly, predictable and positive environment that promotes education and learning. PBIS, a Response to Intervention model applied to behaviour, proposes a set of educational practices and strategies at various tiers of intervention, in order to effectively prevent and manage student misbehaviour, thereby contributing to the development of caring schools. Hopefully, Canadian students will benefit from such a model.



Bissonnette, S. (2015). Pour gérer efficacement les comportements en milieu scolaire : Le Soutien au Comportement Positif. Les Cahiers de l’Actif, 472, 207-224.

Bissonnette, S., Bouchard, C., St-Georges, N., Gauthier, C., & Bocquillon, M. (2020). Un modèle de réponse à l’intervention (RAI) comportementale : Le Soutien au Comportement Positif (SCP). Enfance en difficulté. Accepted for publication.

Bissonnette, S., Gauthier, C., & Castonguay, M. (2016). L’enseignement explicite des comportements. Pour une gestion efficace des élèves en classe et dans l'école. Montreal, Canada: Chenelière Éducation.

Desrochers, A., Laplante, L., & Brodeur, M. (2015). Le modèle de réponse à l’intervention et la prévention des difficultés d’apprentissage de la lecture au préscolaire et au primaire. Perspectives actuelles sur l’apprentissage de la lecture et de l’écriture/Contributions about learning to read and write - Actes du Symposium international sur la litéracie à l’école/International Symposium for Educational Literacy (SILE/ISEL) 2015: Les Éditions de l’Université de Sherbrooke.

Déry, A. (2016). Préface. Dans S. Bissonnette, C. Gauthier, & M. Castonguay, L’enseignement explicite des comportements. Pour une gestion efficace des comportements en classe et dans l’école, p. VII. Montreal: Chenelière Éducation.

Irvin, L. K., Tobin, T., Sprague, J., Sugai, G., & Vincent, C. (2004). Validity of office discipline referral measures as indices of school-wide behavioral status and effects of school-wide behavioral interventions. Journal of Positive Behavioral Interventions 6, 131-147.