If you want to improve kids' behavior at school, why not teach them how to behave better? It sounds ridiculously simple, but it appears to work. Schoolchildren behave better when they understand the rules. That's the starting point for a strategy known as SWPBIS, School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, programs that are becoming increasingly popular in the nation's schools.
The SWPBIS program sets out to teach how to behave in much the same way that other school subjects are taught. Expectations are clearly laid out to the students, so there's no room for guesswork or confusion. Most programs focus on teaching positive behaviors, rather than just discouraging unacceptable ones.
The improvements in prosocial behavior (being more respectful and kind to others, for example) and emotional regulation (such as controlling anger and physical aggression) were strongest for those who were in kindergarten at the start of the trial, suggesting that SWPBIS works best when implemented at a young age.
For SWPBIS to work, it must be embraced by the entire school--teachers, administrators, support staff and of course, the students themselves. And while this can take some time to implement, a study recently published by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests that it can be very effective at changing student behavior for the better.
Children in SWPBIS schools had better concentration. They showed less aggressive and disruptive behavior, more prosocial or positive behavior and better emotional regulation. The improvements in prosocial behavior (being more respectful and kind to others, for example) and emotional regulation (such as controlling anger and physical aggression) were strongest for those who were in kindergarten at the start of the trial, suggesting that SWPBIS works best when implemented at a young age.
Children in SWPBIS schools were also 33% less likely to be sent to the office for discipline than children in the control schools. This effect was seen in girls but not in boys. Unfortunately, there was no decrease seen in the number of suspensions.
SWPBIS programs are currently in place in over 16,000 U.S. schools. Anyone who is interested in learning more about the nuts and bolts of SWPBIS programs or how to set one up at their school can find out at Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports' (PBIS) SWPBIS for Beginners.
An article on the study was published online in the journal, Pediatrics.