SuperEval Blog

Social-Emotional Learning

Understanding the Benefits of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) in Your School District

September 16th, 2021

Three boys in school

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is an area of student development which has become a priority across the country. CASEL defines SEL as “the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions” (CASEL, 2021).

The past year has brought many changes and challenges to students, teachers, parents, and school administrators. The pandemic has disrupted education norms and many students are coming back to school this year having undergone challenges such as stress, trauma, social isolation, and mental health disorders to name a few. Students who have experienced trauma are starting the school year potentially unequipped to healthily deal with adversity, peer conflict, and social challenges. This is where Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) can help.

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)

PBIS is an implementation framework for educators and child development experts. It is designed to optimize the identification and use of evidence-based intervention and prevention practices that enable students’ best academic, emotional, social, and behavioral development and outcomes (Biro, 2021). PBIS initiatives are predicated on classrooms where teachers create safe, consistent spaces that enable optimal social-emotional learning and development for all students. In addition, PBIS represents a commitment to fostering cultural and behavioral supports that enable positive preventative behaviors rather than punishments.

How does PBIS relate to SEL?

PBIS is a framework for teaching SEL skills. Both SEL and PBIS are premised on the “well-demonstrated, inextricable link between social and emotional development and academic and life success” (Biro, 2021). SEL and PBIS complement each other. However, SEL focuses more on developing lifelong social and emotional competencies while PBIS focuses more on teaching positive behavior choices in the moment.

The Critical Reason why PBIS is Effective in the Classroom

The ability to foster positive social interactions, understand and regulate one’s emotions, stay in dialogue, and not turn to silence or violence when faced with a challenge are all developmental skills that young people must actively learn. The skill development should ideally start in elementary school and be reinforced as adolescents and even into adulthood.

Without active, structured learning in the classroom and at home, young people are left to assess social, behavioral norms, and customs independently. Moreover, when students are exposed to negative influences from such varied sources as social media, pop culture, and peers or adults who lack SEL competence, it can perpetuate the kinds of negative social behaviors that can disrupt classrooms and impede optimal academic outcomes.

PBIS leverages prompting, modeling, practicing, and encouraging positive expected social skills in various settings and scenarios.

What are the Benefits of Focused PBIS Initiatives?

In addition to the primary benefits of PBIS, which is that students optimally develop socially, emotionally, and behaviorally, the successful use of PBIS has also been proven to:

  • Reduce the need for major disciplinary actions.
  • Reduce aggressive student behavior and improve school safety.
  • Regulate students’ emotions.
  • Improve academic engagement and ultimately academic achievements.
  • Minimize antisocialism.
  • Mitigate substance abuse.
  • Reduce bullying and victimization
  • Increase teacher job satisfaction and reduce attrition.

The Three-Tiers of the PBIS Framework

There are three tiers in the PBIS framework that reinforce positive student behaviors, social understanding, and academic outcomes. The three tiers are as follows:

  • Primary Tier – Focuses attention on creating and maintaining school-wide support. Typically implements basic behavior expectations such as showing respect, keeping one’s body under control, and properly respecting one’s personal property. This tier also emphasizes a school-parent alliance.
  • Secondary Tier – Focuses attention on creating and maintaining classroom-level support. This tier focuses on the 10 to 15 percent of students in a school with underlying issues that result in disruptive behavior. The goal is to identify why a student struggles and offer appropriate group support, adult supervision, and increased academic and social support.
  • Tertiary Tier – Focuses attention on creating and maintaining individual systems of support. This tier is the most individualized and provides intensive support for the smallest segment of students who need the most behavioral coaching and positive reinforcement.

Schools that adopt PBIS should place equal emphasis on all three tiers to achieve optimal outcomes and program success.

For more information on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, visit the Center on PBIS.

Graduate Course Available for Educators:
Social-Emotional Learning: Essential to Student Success™

If you’re looking to give your teaching staff more information about SEL and PBIS, our partner PLS Classes also offers the above graduate course which can be taken for college credit or professional development. In this course, participants focus on the importance of integrating social-emotional learning in the classroom to foster skills that support success.

Photo by Allison Shelley for EDUimages


Biro, N. (2021, May 15). What are the differences between Sel and PBIS. Kickboard. Retrieved September 16, 2021, from

Fundamentals of sel. Casel. (2021, September 10). Retrieved September 16, 2021, from

Leave a Reply