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PBL or positive behaviour for learning: what’s it all about?

Identifying the tools for parents and teachers to model positive behaviour for learning.

Dad and son gardening

Key points

  • Every child and young person deserves support.
  • It is more powerful to reward the right behaviour.
  • Students need to trust adults to keep the same rules all the time.
  • Behaviour is learned. Young people need to be ‘taught’ the right behaviour.
  • Schools and parents need to agree on clear rules and give students time to learn them.

You may have heard the term ‘PBL’ or ‘positive behaviour for learning’ mentioned at your child’s school. PBL is about promoting positive behaviour across the school to create a safe and supportive environment for every child.

How does it work?

Schools identify three to five positive expectations that everyone – students, teachers, staff and parents – is asked to follow.  Schools communicate the behaviours needed to meet these expectations, when and where they should be used, and what they look and sound like, so everyone is aware of how they are expected to behave.

How do expectations fit in?

Schools agree on a small number of expectations like ‘Be respectful’, ‘Be a learner’ or ‘Be responsible’.  For example:

If a school chooses ‘be respectful’ as one of its expectations, it will link positive behaviours (or rules) to that expectation. The expectation and its associated behaviours are recorded something like this:

PBL table example

What happens in classrooms?

Teachers are encouraged to have between three and five rules in the classroom and to discuss them with students, including what each rule looks like and sounds like. The rules are displayed where the students can see them and are used to teach students the social and emotional skills they need to succeed at school.

Communicating positive behaviours

Schools will use as many ways as possible in and outside the classroom to communicate the positive behaviours they expect. This could include posters in classrooms, discussions about positive behaviours at school assemblies, reminders on school signs and noticeboards, or information about the positive behaviours in school newsletters.

Recognising positive behaviours

Teachers and school teams are encouraged to praise good behaviour.  They might show their appreciation by:

  • giving high fives or a thumbs up
  • providing specific praise
  • awarding points or tokens
  • allowing access to a preferred activity
  • earning special privileges
  • giving time with preferred adults or peers.

What happens when a student does not behave in a positive way?

Because we know that behaviour is learned, both parents and schools need to teach young people the skills they need, and give them positive feedback when they do the right thing.  A small number of students will need some one-on-one support to help them learn the social and emotional skills they need.  Generally, classroom teachers will provide feedback in private, in a calm way, and by being clear about the kind of positive behaviour they would like to see.

How do we know it works?

This positive approach to behaviour support leads to higher engagement among students, lower numbers of behaviour incidents, and higher school attendance. All of this helps create a safe and supportive learning environment for kids.

Schools and parents working together

The PBL approach brings together teachers, staff, students, and parents to develop a positive, safe and supportive learning environment. Everyone benefits when schools and parents engage in a positive and respectful way to support students. You can find out more about the PBL approach here.

Last Updated: 02 August 2020