MET:Positive Behaviour Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and Response to Intervention (RtI)

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Response to Intervention - looking at how RtI and PBIS can be incorporated into a systems approach to managing student behaviour. started Jan. 18, 2010 Bob Esliger Section 65C

PBIS: Looking at the features of SWPBIS and how to implement it. Started January 17th, 2016 - Gloria Ma 65B

Positive Behaviour Interventions and Supports (PBIS)

PBIS is a school-wide system for managing student behaviour with roots in applied behavioural analysis, instructional design, mental health and educational reform. PBIS is used interchangeably with SWPBS (School-Wide Positive Behaviour Supports).

Positive Behaviour Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is research-based and promotes a set of desired behaviours that foster a safe, caring and inclusive learning environment as well as a system for reinforcing those desired behaviours. Schools use PBIS data for future planning (Sugai & Horner, 2002). PBIS schools consistently report a decrease in disciplinary referrals and decreased time spent dealing with negative student behaviours. PBIS is an effective behaviour intervention that has a positive impact on school climate.

PBIS has been an area of educational research for 15 years. It is grounded in psychological and sociological theory and began as a joint initiative between the University of Oregon and the US Federal Department of Education. Currently, PBIS is used in the United States, Canada, and many other countries (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, n.d.).

Features of School-Wide Positive Behaviour Support (SWPBS)

There are 3 core features of school-wide PBIS according to Sugai & Horner (2002):

1. Integration of Four Critical Elements

A) Outcomes

SWPBS needs to be driven by the consideration of outcomes such as academic achievement and socioemotional development that are significant to stakeholders of the process. Some of these stakeholders include students, teachers, and families.

B) Research validated practices

Another critical element is the use of evidence-based practices and curricula that will benefit the outcomes of students and teachers. New practices should be carefully considered based on effectiveness and efficiency.

C) Data-based decision making

Data collection is a critical aspect of SWPBS as it is applied at the individual, classroom and school levels involving multiple individuals in the education context (e.g. teachers, students, administrators and support staff). Collecting data is important when it comes to evaluating the effectiveness of current and new practices as well as to guide the new steps of the SWPBS process.

D) Context of systems

SWPBS though occurs in the school, there are a multitude of contexts within the school that influence the effectiveness of practices. Some include, school committees, mission statements, code of conduct, resource supports for families, and administrative leadership.

2. Multi-Systems Perspective

A multi-systems perspective means that SWPBS needs to consider 4 systems central to its success:

A) School-Wide

To implement PBS, School-Wide Discipline Systems need to be in place where a statement of purpose is clearly defined with expectations and examples. Regular data collection should be scheduled to determine effectiveness of the system.

B) Classroom

Teachers and support staff are expected to teach expectations and behaviours through direct teaching, supervision, and the provision of feedback. Classrooms should be arranged in ways that support the statement of purpose of the School-Wide Discipline System to ensure consistency of its effectiveness.

C) Non-Classroom

Students must also be directly taught on the school-wide expectations in other non-instructional school settings like the hallways, the lunchroom, the library, and the washrooms.

D) Individual Student

Individual student systems of PBS will need to be included for those who are unresponsive to general school- and classroom-wide systems.

3. Continuum of Behaviour Support

PBS considers the fact that the intensity of behaviour support will increase due to the increase in behavioural challenges of the student. As PBS is a primary prevention step, more intensive behavioural supports may be needed for students with more intense behavioural challenges. For more information, see section on RtI.

Response to Intervention (RtI)

Many provinces and districts are implementing Response to Intervention (RtI). RtI is a multi-tiered approach that assists struggling learners by monitoring their academic and behavioural progress and by adding further evidence-based practices if warranted. RtI increases the learner's chances for success and decreases dependance on special education services. In addition, RtI addresses the needs of children whose needs are not severe enough to make them eligible for a BC Ministry of Education designation.

Response to Intervention (RtI) is defined as “the practice of providing high-quality instruction and interventions matched to student need, monitoring progress frequently to make decisions about changes in instruction or goals, and applying child response data to important educational decisions” (Sherman, 2006, p. 2.2-4). As a problem-solving approach, RtI considers environmental factors that apply to a student’s difficulty, and offers timely services/interventions. Response to Intervention (RtI) focuses primarily on addressing academic problems. It has a progressive framework for both disability identification and early intervention assistance for the “most vulnerable, academically unresponsive children” in our schools (Fuchs & Deshler, 2007, p. 131).

RtI and PBIS are both linked to differentiated instruction. Each approach delimits critical factors and components that are present at the universal (Tier 1), targeted group (Tier 2), and intensive (Tier 3) levels.

Tiers in RtI - Comparing Academic and Behavioural Systems

The RtI Model is developed in tiers or levels. The most common model has three-tiers, meaning there are three different levels of intervention which are based on the needs of the students. The level of intervention increases when a student does not respond to the instructional strategies provided in that tier.

Due to British Columbia's philosophy of inclusion, the first consideration for placement for any student is in the regular classroom. The majority of instruction is provided in the regular classroom.

Given the cost and increasingly short supply of special education services, reducing over-reliance on such services releases resources to redistribute among regular classes, thereby providing services for the majority.

  • Tier 1 - Universal - More about Tier One
    In Tier 1, the goal is to provide research-based instruction universally to all students in the school. During Tier 1 instruction, the goals (benchmarks) are established and student progress is checked regularly to ensure they are achieving at expected levels. The tools used to monitor progress come from curriculum-based tests designed by the teacher.

    It is expected that every teacher will modify instruction or provide classroom accommodations in Tier 1 to help struggling students. The focus in Tier 1 is on sound instructional practice and on-going assessment for learning or formative assessment.

    Whenever a student is not achieving at a level commensurate with his/her peers, a team, such as a "School-Based Team" refers the student for a Tier 2 RtI intervention which would provide additional support.

  • Tier 2 - Targeted - More about Tier Two
    In Tier 2, a Problem-Solving Model, long advocated by the National Association of School Psychologists, can be used to help students who are struggling academically and behaviourally.

    The Problem Solving Model includes four steps:
    • problem identification
    • problem analysis
    • intervention development/implementation, and
    • intervention evaluation/modification.

    In Tier 2, the student would receive interventions that have been shown to help similar students and progress is closely monitored.

    A student may receive additional instruction from other teachers (e.g. literacy resource teacher) and/or related services (e.g., school psychologist, speech and language pathologist). If students do not respond to this intervention, they are referred for a comprehensive cognitive/behavioural assessment to determine eligibility for special educational services and possible Individualized Education Program (IEP).

    Before any student is identified as having a disability and being in need of special education services and a formal IEP, the S-BT would have determined that the student has learning challenges that “adversely affects his/her educational performance,” and that attempts to individualize instruction have been without success in resolving the student’s learning challenges. The information gathered through RtI and the "School-Based Team" (S-BT) would be used to determine next steps.

  • Tier 3 - Intensive - More about Tier Three

    When a student does not respond to Tier I and Tier 2 interventions, there may be a disability requiring intensive Tier 3 special education instruction.

    Before a student is eligible to receive special education services, the school must collaborate with the multi-disciplinary team at a "School-Based Team" (S-BT) meeting and decide if the student meets the criteria for a BC Ministry of Education designation.

    In RtI, Tier 3 special education services are not significantly different from Tiers 1 and 2. The special education services in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) are to be “based on research” while progress continues to be monitored closely. What is different is the degree of intensity: a Tier 3 student is likely to receive individualized instruction to help overcome his/her learning/behavioural difficulties.

    Although special education was once regarded as a “place,” the BC Ministry of Education's special education policy regarding inclusion describes special education in terms of the various services that are made available to students rather than a place where struggling learners are sent.

RTI Stop Motion Animation

Link to animation.

PBIS (Positive Behaviour Interventions and Supports & Responsiveness to Instruction (RTI)

A student's individual needs must be met before he/she can achieve academic and/or behavioural success. A two-pronged approach combining RtI and PBIS has been proven, through practice and research, to best meet the diversity of student needs.




What is it?

Systematic approach for supporting academic needs of all students.

Systematic approach to support the social and emotional needs of all students.

What are the primary areas?

Universal screening, early intervention, progress monitoring.

Universal screening, early intervention, data monitoring.

Who benefits?

Students, parents and staff.

Students, parents and staff.

How does it support instruction?

Creates natural pathways for academic support of struggling students.

Reduces problem behaviour which increases student instructional time.

How does it impact behaviour?

Reduces academic frustration which minimizes class disruptions.

Promotes pro-social behaviours which lead to a positive school climate.

What areas of school functioning are impacted?

Instruction, curriculum, individualized learning.

School-wide culture, strategies for at-risk and high-risk students.

How do you measure success?

Improvement in student achievement.

Demonstration of pro-social school behaviour.

Used together, RtI and PBIS foster student achievement through the consistent application of strategies that make schools effective and efficient. By integrating of both processes, schools are able to support the full continuum of academic and behavioural needs, (Charlotte-Mecklinburg Schools, n.d.).

What RtI is NOT

RTI is not an instructional program, nor is it intended to place students into special education. RtI cannot be implemented in isolation. It is neither an initiative of special education or regular education. RtI is an instructional decision-making system that applies to “every” and “all” students and programs within a school. RtI is not:

  • a pre-referral system
  • an individual teacher
  • a special seating arrangement in a classroom
  • shortened assignments
  • a particular method or instructional approach
  • a classroom
  • a special education program
  • a separate, stand alone initiative
  • a parent-teacher conference
  • a suspension
  • a retention
  • “More of the same” general classroom instruction

Response to Intervention (RtI) and the relationship to Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Assistive Technology (AT)

Student performance data is viewed differently in terms of Assistive Technology (AT), Universal Design for Learning (UDL), and Response to Intervention (RtI).

Edyburn (2009, p.17) stated that a teracher's concern regarding a student's performance may result in referral of that student for an Assistive Technology (AT) assessment. Data would be collected regarding the student's current level of performance. The student would also be assessed regarding his/her performance while utilizing assistive technology devices. A device may be purchased based on the outcome of the assessments. Assistive technology assessment protocols tend to be informal and do not integrate with school-wide performance data; for example, the WATI Assessment. It remains necessary that some forms of AT remain outside of the RtI model due to their individualized nature; however, this continues to be studied.

In Response to Intervention (RtI), data is collected on a regular basis and evaluated. Universal screenings are administered to all students who are identified as having learning difficulties. Progress monitoring tools are used to collect data and this data is graphed. Performance is evaluated in terms of progress toward goals. Assessment protocols are commercially available from the National Center on National Student Progress Monitoring and are designed to provide data at the school, classroom and student levels. Instructional technology has application in each RtI tier because it can support and engage struggling learners by providing immediate feedback, knowledge-building and problem-solving through a host of technology supported interventions, tools, materials and applications (Edyburn, 2009, p.17).

In Universal Design for Learning (UDL) student performance data is not usually collected or evaluated. Therefore, there is no assessment system to measure and report on student progress in a universally designed learning environment. However, UDL is an excellent Tier 1 strategy since it will enhance access and performance for all students. Data from student screenings will assist instructional designers build learning supports that have the potential to prevent academic failure. Therefore, the shortcomings of UDL's inability to provide student performance data are overlooked in favour of its contributions in the area of class-wide interventions (Edyburn, 2009, p.17).

Technology Supported Interventions and Tools

Implementation Resource Documents

See Also

Stop Motion Artifact

Implementation of SWPBIS by Gloria Ma


Batsche, G., Elliot, J., Graden, J.L., Grimes, J., Kovaleski, J.F., Prasse, D., Reschly, D.J., Schrag, J., & Tilly, W.D., III (2005) Response to intervention: Policy considerations and implementation. Alexandria, VA: National Association of State Directors of Special Education.

Charlotte-Mechlenburg Schools. (n.d.). Positive Behaviour Intervention and Support (PBIS) . Retrieved February 6th, 2010, from

Charlotte-Mechlenburg Schools. (n.d.). Response to Intervention (RtI). Retrieved February 9th, 2010, from

Edyburn, D. L. (2009). Response to Intervention (RtI): Is there a Role for Assistive Technology? Special Education Technology Practice. January/February 2009. Issue 11.1 (pp.15-19). Whitefish Bay,WI: Knowledge by Design, Inc.

Fuchs, D., & Deshler, D. D. (2007). What we need to know about responsiveness to intervention (and shouldn’t be afraid to ask). Learning Disabilities Research & Practice , 22, 129–136.

Illinois Education Association (IEA). (2010). Retrieved March 03, 2010, from National Education Association, Illinois Education Association:​resources/​response-to-intervention/​overview-of-the-rti-process/.

OSEP Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. Educational and Community Supports. University of Oregon, OR. Retrieved January 25th, 2010, from

Response to Intervention Triangle (electronic image). Retrieved January 12, 2010 from

Sherman, G. (2006). Report on Response to Intervention (RTI): The practice of providing high-quality instruction and interventions matched to student need. Retrieved February 20, 2010, from the National Association of State Directors of Special Education and the Council of Administrators of Special Education:

Sugai, G., & Horner, R. (2002). The evolution of discipline practices: School-wide positive behaviour supports. Child & Family Behavior Therapy , 24(1/2), 23–50.