Teachers’ Perceptions on the Use of Positive Behavior Interventions

Subject: Psychology
Pages: 14
Words: 3828
Reading time:
16 min
Study level: PhD


Students’ behavior is increasingly becoming disruptive as exposure to emerging practices such as cyberbullying, violence, use of digital media among youths, and fighting among others continue to rise (Hinton & Buchanan, 2015). As such, the primary role of educators is to establish secure and conducive environments for learning. An extant body of research shows that disruptive and challenging behavior among students tops among the foremost concerns for school administrators and teachers (Pas et al., 2015). One of the driving factors for this challenge is limited knowledge in managing emergent disruptive behavior of students, especially in the twenty-first century. Scholars have devised positive behavior interventions and support (PBIS) instruction tool as an appropriate model to create a safe environment that is conducive to learning environment and acceptable behavior in the classroom (Hinton & Buchanan, 2015). Establishing a behavior analysis plan with the help of PBIS can help teachers to monitor and elude disruptive, unruly, and unacceptable practices among students while fostering a safe learning environment (Pas et al., 2015). This paper aims at investigating the teachers’ perceptions on the use of positive behavior interventions and support tools in dealing with challenging students’ conduct.

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Problem Statement

The modern learning environment witnesses a myriad of student behavioral problems that pose a huge challenge to teachers (Pas et al., 2015). The management of student behaviors influences teachers’ motivation besides affecting adversely the entire school culture and climate (Hinton & Buchanan, 2015). Implementation of the school-wide positive behavior interventions and support with students has been deemed as an effective strategy to handle behavioral challenges in schools (Yukl, 2012). This study aims at investigating the perceptions of teachers regarding the implementation of PBIS in the school. Key focus of the study is to identify the degree of satisfaction and motivation of teachers brought about by the use of positive behavior interventions and support programs (Yukl, 2012).

PBIS is utilized as an effective tool to model and instill the desired students’ behaviors (Wright & McCurdy, 2011). Particularly, the instructional tool is used to address undesired behavioral practices among students through additional levels of remediation as necessitated on an individualized basis. One of the top priorities of school administrators has been the community perceptions of the institution. In this vein, undesired student behaviors including bullying, violence, cyberbullying, and stereotyping continue to pose challenges to the upholding of the good image of schools. As such, teachers’ perception of the implementation of PBIS to handle these challenges is a major concern for school administrators in their attempt to maintain a positive reputation and community perceptions. Researchers suggest the potential of using PBIS to deal with students’ negative behavior as an approach to create and sustain positive community perceptions (Yukl, 2012).

The study focuses on examining the perceptions that teachers hold towards the use of PBIS within the school context and its effect on eluding negative learners’ behavior as well as building viable school culture and climate. Teachers take the frontline in the implementation of PBIS (Wright & McCurdy, 2011). To this end, their feedback is critical for the anticipated objectives of the PBIS to be attained (Young, Caldarella, Richardson, & Young, 2011). The school administrators in improving and upholding the school’s culture and climate (Wright & McCurdy, 2011) can utilize teachers’ feedback regarding the perceived significance of PBIS. Young et al. (2011) note that if the school administrators, then the fidelity of the interventions undervalues teachers’ contribution and feedback anticipated for implementation will not be done at the best level for the desired outcomes. This pitfall, in effect, will affect the school culture and community perceptions adversely (Wright & McCurdy, 2011).

Background and Justification

Schools and districts in the United States are under building pressure to demonstrate improved students’ performance while preventing negative behaviors responsible for violence in learning institutions among other undesired behavioral practices (US Department of Education, 2011). Besides, there has been an increased passage of legislation requiring districts and schools to address cases of bullying and school dropouts (US Department of Education, 2011). Consequently, the present study is justified as it attempts to gather information regarding teachers’ perceptions of the PBIS in relation to the attainment of legislative goals, fostering positive community perceptions, and school administrators’ objectives (McIntosh et al., 2010). These factors are major driving forces for the development of school-wide behavioral handling programs including the positive behavior interventions with students, which aim at building a positive environment within the school as well as dealing with negative behaviors exhibited by learners (Thompson & Webber, 2010).

Keiser and Schulte (2009) note that creating a positive school climate while building a sense of community is key component to producing a successful school environment for all stakeholders. A socially-emotionally balanced school also has a positive impact on student performance. According to Keiser and Schulte (2009), increasing academic performance, enhancing social and emotional skills, and even retaining quality teachers are all related to a positive school climate. In regards to teacher perception and expectations of his/her students, Richardson (2010) stated in her study that classroom chemistry, school climate, and individual teacher-student relationships all play a role in how far we as teachers can push the limits and take chances in our classrooms.

According to Allodi (2010), the social climate in educational settings is shaped by the relationships between teachers and students. Allodi (2010) continues to state that it is the quality, quantity, and directions of these relationships that influence the social climate, affecting further students’ self-concept, motivation and performance.

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In a study conducted by Keiser and Schulte (2009), the school climate at two elementary schools, one urban and one suburban were compared by measuring 179 fourth and fifth-grade students’ and 65 teachers’ perceptions of their schools’ ethical climate. It was also noted that while students from both schools reported positive perceptions of school culture, the perceptions of school culture for urban teachers were significantly less positive as compared to their suburban counterparts in student-to-teacher/learning environment and student-to-student interactions. They were significantly less positive as compared to the urban students (Keiser & Schulte, 2009).

To guard against the abandonment of an implemented positive behavior support program or intervention, it is imperative that the implementation process be sustainable and done with fidelity (McIntosh et al., 2010). As stated by McIntosh et al. (2013), fidelity must be maintained as factors associated with sustainability of a program may shift and change throughout time so that the practice (implemented program or intervention) continues to be effective long term (McIntosh et al., 2010).

It is important to note that PBIS has been in place in many schools (Young et al., 2011). However, the difference in archival policies and period that these programs have been in place, presents difficulties in gathering actual information regarding discipline issues including office referrals for undesired students’ behavior (Hinton & Buchanan, 2015). Since teachers are the first handlers of students’ behavioral issues through reports or directly witnessing incidents, they are the best respondents for the present study (Crone & Hawken, 2010). Besides, they play a vital role in the implementation of the PBIS and determine the success of these intervention programs (McIntosh & Frank, 2010). Teachers who have worked at their present school for a couple of years hold the best position to provide information regarding their experiences and perceptions regarding the use of PBIS (Hinton & Buchanan, 2015). This study aims at identifying potential areas for further research that expands outside the context of Southern Eastern Florida schools.

Deficiencies in the Evidence

Although changing the culture and climate of a school through positive behavior support for teachers would improve the schools’ environment, the question remains how teachers’ perceptions and reactions affect the culture and climate of a school. In researching the topic, many articles and studies were found that addressed the student’s perceptions; however, only limited studies and articles focused on the teacher’s role in developing and implementing positive behavior interventions that can help model students’ behavior as well as build safe environments conducive for learning. Limited evidence has also been revealed emphasizing the benefit of positive behavior interventions in improving students’ performance and boosting positive community perceptions on schools.


This study will directly affect teachers and indirectly affect all stakeholders like the school community, school administrators, students, parents and the surrounding community will benefit from creating a positive school culture and climate. The study helps to provide information to the district regarding the school’s position in the implementation of the PBIS as a mechanism for addressing behavioral challenges as required by the State’s legislation.

Purpose of Study

The purpose of this study is to investigate the perceptions of teachers on PBIS programs as key role players in their implementation. PBIS aim at developing a viable school culture that leads to positive students’ behavior and building safe learning environments (Pas et al., 2015). Since such interventions have been in place for most schools, investigating whether teachers have positive or negative perceptions will provide critical information on their usefulness in modeling students’ behavior and enhancing safety in learning environments (Juvonen & Gross, 2008).

In addition, the study will provide insight to school administrators on the true teachers’ perceptions on the usefulness of PBIS, and indicate the need for adjustments, collaborations, and/or adoption of other mechanisms altogether (Hinton & Buchanan, 2015). Many times the school administrators anticipate results from programs guided by professionals with little involvement of the teaching staff members (Hinton & Buchanan, 2015). Thus, conducting a study to investigate the perceptions of teachers regarding PBIS will help shed light on the attitudes towards this practice.

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Definition of Terms

Cyberbullying: This is a newly coined concept that embodies the use of digital technology including social media such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, and Google+ among others (Juvonen & Gross, 2008). Students use these social media sites to share confidential information about targeted colleagues to mock them publicly. These acts have devastating effects on the target individuals. The electronic devices utilized for cyberbullying include computers, cell phones, and the Internet (Juvonen & Gross, 2008).

Effective PBIS: Tiered instructional tools used as interventions programs aimed at addressing negative students’ behaviors including cyberbullying, violence, victimization, and stereotyping (Gorgueiro, 2008). The implementation of the interventions as part of the school’s PBIS aims to achieve desired behavior outcomes of students (Gorgueiro, 2008).

Fidelity of Implementation: This is a planned and consistent implementation of evidence-based instructional designs coupled with the teachers’ integrity (Juvonen & Gross, 2008). The proactive team-based mechanism addresses shared problems such as dropouts, bullying, victimization, and anti-social behavior among others (Sugai & Horner, 2002; Wright & McCurdy, 2011).

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS): These are school-based processes aimed at creating safe learning environments and building positive school culture and climate through establishing school-wide expectations (Wright & McCurdy, 2011). The programs use specific interventions to deal with and prevent undesired behaviors among students.

Students Outcomes: These are the anticipated behavioral changes in the context of a learning environment. Reduction in negative behaviors such as cyberbullying, and disruptive practices in the classroom is the desired outcome for PBIS (McIntosh et al., 2010). In addition, reducing disciplinary actions stemming from office referrals and school suspension and/or expulsion, and dropouts are vital for students’ outcomes. The overall desired outcomes include increased school attendance and improved academic performance (Wright & McCurdy, 2011).

Office Discipline Referral (ODR): This is a document in the form of writing provided to school administrators regarding undesired student behavior of students (McIntosh & Frank, 2010). The submission calls for action in response to the negative behaviors. Office referrals serve the purpose of data reporting on the occurrence of negative behavior and related problems in schools (McIntosh & Frank, 2010).

Teachers’ perceptions: For the present study, teachers’ perceptions are the viewpoints regarding the effectiveness of PBIS, their level of involvement, and satisfaction with the implementation of school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports programs (McIntosh & Frank, 2010). In addition, teachers’ perceptions can be taken to refer to the understanding of satisfaction, and experiences about PBIS (Gorgueiro, 2008).

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Literature Review

This chapter presents wealthy information regarding the presence of negative behaviors from students, the extent of office discipline referrals, and the usefulness of PBIS in alleviating cases of indiscipline. The chapter will further define some forms of undesired students’ behavioral problems including aggression, cyberbullying, and their prevalence and effects on the learning environment. Finally, yet importantly, the chapter will examine existing knowledge on the teachers’ perceptions regarding the implementation and effectiveness of PBIS in creating a safe learning setting.

The changing school’s external environment plays an important role in shaping student’s behavior (Simonsen & Sugai, 2013). Students are not shielded from the influence of technological changes such as the revolution of digital media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Flickr among others. The emergence of these social sites of the Internet has heightened the spread of diverse cultures globally (Simonsen & Sugai, 2013). For instance, the practice of cyberbullying, which is a negative students behavior takes place online. Students have been shown to use social media avenues to spread rumors and share multimedia of their colleagues as a means of bullying them. A growing body of research shows that cyberbullying has the potential to harm student lives as some end up committing suicide following the humiliation that accompanies the practice.

Other negative student behavioral practices include physical bullying, violence, female student victimization, stereotyping, and school dropouts. Individual students, the school at large, districts, and the nation can feel the impact of negative behaviors. Individual student effects include suspension and/or expulsion from school, teacher’s demotivation and stress (Simonsen & Sugai, 2013). The school administrators face the challenge of handling office discipline referrals as making decisions to justify the suspension of students exhibiting negative behaviors consumes time among other resources. When cases of undesired behaviors escalate, the school administrators can easily attract criticisms and reputation compromise (Simonsen & Sugai, 2013).

The entire school can suffer negative community and sponsors’ perceptions when negative behavior reaches alarming levels. The States’ legislation requires that schools apply whatever strategies to uphold positive behavior of learners besides creating a safe learning environment (Simonsen & Sugai, 2013). The heightened awareness of negative students’ behavioral practices such as cyberbullying and violence has necessitated pedagogical experts to devise school-wide positive interventions and support (SWPBIS) tools in an attempt to help them handle the challenge.

Bullying, which takes varied forms, is the most common type of victimization witnessed in schools. It has recently reached alarming levels; hence, attracting health concerns (Hinton & Buchanan, 2015). The impacts of behavioral problems among students cannot be neglected. For this reason, schools need guidance on the effective programs to implement, as wells as the appropriate strategies to incorporate in alleviating negative student behaviors. PIBS refers to the school-based application of behavioral approaches and interventions aimed at effecting behavior change in learning environments (Curtis et al., 2010). It is a noncurricular model flexible enough to be adopted in varied school contexts including elementary, high school, and higher learning levels (Hinton & Buchanan, 2015). The model applies a three-tiered, public health system-wide structure to implement a continuum that integrates academic programs and behavioral change strategies. The universal (Tier 1), selective (Tier 2), and indicated (Tier 3) systems are utilized to enhance outcomes for students (Hinton & Buchanan, 2015). These outcomes include the abandonment of negative behaviors (positive behavior change), and the reduction of office discipline referrals as well as reducing of the number of suspended students out of negative behavior.

The PBIS framework is grounded in behavior analysis, besides its overarching basis on person-centered values, systematic instruction, lifestyle change, and response reduction (Crone & Hawken, 2010). The system relies on the ideology of respect for and the understanding of students in conjunction with the teachers’ role in instilling and nurturing appropriate behavior (Hinton & Buchanan, 2015). Further, PBIS works on the assumption of acknowledging ecological context drivers including curricular and social elements of the learning environment (Feuerborn, Tyre, & King, 2015). The successful implementation of PBIS is dependent upon several prerequisite factors including antecedent behavior, consequence, and context.

A growing body of literature suggests that PBIS has brought positive changes within all school levels including elementary, middle, high schools across the United States (Hinton & Buchanan, 2015). Nevertheless, researchers have identified some challenges affecting the successful implementation of PBIS in schools. According to Hinton & Buchanan (2015), two challenges emerged including the mobilization of teacher perceptions and behavior and managing the resources required for sustaining the programs (Young et al., 2011). These challenges have been cited as important earmarks of the critical stages of PBIS implementation (Swain-Bradway, Pinkney, & Flannery, 2015). Mobilizing how teachers align with and incorporate their tasks and roles is one of the identified challenges affecting the workability of PBIS (Osher et al., 2010). Hinton & Buchanan (2015) reveal that changing teachers from isolated content to integrated implementation is a tough task. In this regard, scholars call for the use of systems that promote widespread adoption and sustainability of new practices such as PBIS programs (Swain-Bradway et al., 2015). Failure to utilize systems that ensure continued commitment to the program, the staff members can easily revert to old practices (Hinton & Buchanan, 2015).

Most schools have been shown to operate in discrete systems that are likely to bar staff members from forming accurate view of the wholesomeness of the culture and climate prevailing in the institutions (Swain-Bradway et al., 2015). As such, the view of student behavior may be limited to small groups in which the teachers are affiliated or campus location (Eber, Sugai, Smith, & Scott, 2002). Therefore, due to the discrete nature of most schools, teachers may not be in a viable position to gather accurate data regarding the widespread behavioral practices among students. Hence, gauging the prevailing school climate that warrants the use of PBIS is not easy for the staff members (Swain-Bradway et al., 2015).

The achieve success of the PBIS implementation and sustainability, understanding the teachers’ perceptions is of paramount importance. The relationship between teacher perception and the administrative role of the implementation model drives the present study. PBIS involves the integration of inclusive frameworks aimed at fostering improvement across all the stakeholders of learning institutions including staff, members, students, administrators, and the community. According to Osher et al. (2010), it is an extension from classroom behavior management to the school-wide, environmental and school climate change impacting students and staff members (Osher et al., 2010). Educational experts supporting the adoption of PBIS argue that positive behavior frameworks should be geared towards reducing problem behaviors portrayed by individual students or occurring in classroom contexts and the school-wide environment (Keiser & Schulte, 2009). Integrating assimilated support systems that involve all the stakeholders including families, the school, classrooms, and communities can help to elude behavior problems that arise within learning settings (Osher et al., 2010).

The underlying goal of using PBIS is to guide teachers in modeling students to become positive and form a responsible society through the instruction of socially desired behavioral practices. For PBIS to yield desired outcomes, Osher et al. (2010) outline three core elements including prevention, multi-tiered support, and databased decision-making. Other scholars identify key aspects that are standard prerequisites for the successful implementation of PBIS. These core concepts include integrated practices, databased systems pointing out desired outcomes, and most importantly a seamless combination of these elements and procedures across all environments within the learning institution setting. The school culture forms the focal point of student behaviors and community perceptions (Bradshaw, Mitchell & Leaf, 2010). Therefore, PBIS should focus on the social and academic breakthrough based on the entire school’s climate as it emphasizes solving the problem behaviors of students.

The implementation of PBIS is achieved with the use of several vital tools in a bid to prevent undesirable behavior problems that can impede academic growth and success (Dutton, Varjas, Meyers, & Collins, 2010). These tools put student needs at the center. Thus, all frameworks of PBIS implementation tools must be measurable to determine the level of appropriateness. The most common tool utilized in PBIS implementation is the School Evaluation Tool (SET) (Wheatley et al., 2009). SET is used to measure the fidelity implementation of all the PBIS frameworks. With the use of data gathered from some sources, SET determines the level of success of PBIS frameworks. The data can be obtained through staff and students’ interviews, evaluation observations, and a comprehensive review of other data sources. A research-validated implement evaluates the features of PBIS programs in a school. The evaluation is used to determine several aspects regarding the PBIS (Wheatley et al., 2009). Such aspects include the level of implementation in a school setting, its effect, level of training and technical assistance efforts offered directly to the fidelity implementation, and assessment of the correlation of the PBIS with positive behavior change and school culture.

Training of staff members regarding the use and implementation of PBIS is a critical factor influencing teachers’ perceptions of the program. Untrained staff members tend to become frustrated as they vie PBIS team members as not addressing the actual problems affecting negative student behavior. To this end, training the teachers on the elements and the importance of PBIS is vital to its successful implementation (Snyder et al., 2011). Further, research indicates that providing training to the staff members regarding the environmental influences of negative behaviors and prevention measures for the students can help to shed light on the program goals and components (Thompson & Webber, 2010). Moreover, revealing the success factors and processes of PBIS to the teachers can enhance more commitment and focus on the importance of PBIS adoption. Given that PBIS is a data-dependent framework, teachers who have limited skills in data management can have negative perceptions of the program (Sherrod, Getch, & Ziomek-Daigle, 2009).

In this vein, providing adequate training on data collection and other handling techniques to the teachers can help build positive perceptions. In effect, positive perceptions will easily correlate with positive behavioral outcomes owing to teacher commitment to fidelity implementation (Feuerborn et al., 2015). The core team members of PBIS including the staff members must possess adequate knowledge on all features and elements to allow for fidelity implementation across the continuum (Scherer, 2003). Teachers must be competent on how to handle school data, teaching and rewarding acceptable behaviors exhibited by students (Feuerborn et al., 2015). In addition, Fallon, McCarthy, & Sanetti 2014) maintain that plans should be devised on how to support staff’s efforts geared toward behavior change management guidelines, which form a critical step in the exploration phase of PBIS implementation.

Research Questions

The present study will be guided by the following research questions:

  1. How do teachers’ perceptions and reactions affect the development of school culture and climate?
  2. To what extent are the staff members’ perceptions influence the successful implementation of PBIS?
  3. What effect does prior training of teachers regarding elements of PBIS impact on the views on the fidelity implementation?
  4. What relationship exists between teacher perception of the administrators’ role in PBIS and the implantation process?

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