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The Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) Framework: Primary/Universal Supports

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The Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) framework is made up of three areas of prevention: primary (or universal), secondary, and tertiary. This post is the first in a series of three, and examines the first level, primary prevention.


At the primary/universal level, support strategies apply to all staff, students, and areas in your campus setting. These strategies are preventive and proactive. School-wide PBIS (SW-PBIS) first establishes strong prevention through the implementation of organization-wide systems that actively teach and recognize appropriate social skills and behavior, using consistent systems to discourage inappropriate behavior and educate all staff about how to implement and participate in the process.


In addition, staff members are taught how to collect and utilize data for effective decision-making related to the overall culture and climate of their organization and the effectiveness of these universal systems and practices.


Here are some examples of primary/universal support strategies:

  • Administrative leadership
  • Team-based implementation
  • Defined and prominently posted behavior expectations (an example is a matrix of what it looks like and means to come prepared or to show self-control.)
  • Teaching of behavioral expectations (such as “Be Safe, Be Responsible, Be Respectful”)
  • Acknowledgment and positive reinforcement of appropriate behavior (for example, “Thank you for walking rather than running through the hallway.”)
  • Monitoring and correcting behavior errors (for example, ask a student, “What is the school expectation about cafeteria behavior?”)
  • Data-based decision making (examples include observations, tally sheets, school-wide information systems [SWIS])
  • Family and community collaboration (for example, inviting family and community members to a PBIS kick-off event that the students are actively involved in, and sending home regular updates on the progress of implementation.)


Successful implementation of SW-PBIS involves the overlapping of and relationships between systems, data, practices, and outcomes. These elements work together to support social competence and academic achievement, decision-making, and student and staff behavior.

Read more about Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports on our Knowledge Base page.

Nearly all intervention strategies from the Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training program are applicable at the primary/universal level of support for SW-PBIS. For more information, watch CPI’s free on-demand webinar, Positive Connections: CPI and Positive Behavior Support, and read “Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and the Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® Training Program [PDF]," an alignment that demonstrates how CPI’s Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training can be integrated within the three-tiered logic model of PBIS.

Two of the most outstanding sources for more information are the Association for Positive Behavior Support  and the OSEP Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS). Both of these organizations provide information on the latest PBIS advances and best practices.


How do these elements translate to your work setting? How have you integrated, or how would you like to integrate Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® skills and concepts at the primary/universal level of SW-PBIS?

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