Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

Essentials for Implementation: Six Years of School Wide Positive Behaviour Support in New Zealand

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

Essentials for Implementation: Six Years of School Wide Positive Behaviour Support in New Zealand

Article excerpt

Effective behaviour management is dependent on teacher skill, positive and preventative school and classroom interventions, clear expectations, and a consistent systems-wide approach. Managing student behaviour in schools has become a priority for the Ministry of Education (MOE) as it seeks to address the increasing rates of suspension, stand-down, and exclusion (MOE, 2010b). To address this priority, the MOE has introduced a comprehensive plan called Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L), a strategy which encompasses amongst other things a nationwide implementation in up to 400 schools of Positive Behaviour Support which they have termed Positive Behaviour for Learning-School-wide (PB4L-SW).

The MOE has provided national PB4L-SW trainers for schools to establish Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) frameworks, with the aim of implementing PB4L-SW in 400 schools by 2014/2015. PBS is not a new initiative in New Zealand; several schools have implemented this framework for the past six years as part of an initiative between Special Education and local schools across the central south area in the North Island. The present study focuses on two of these schools. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the themes that emerged relating specifically to the implementation of PBS in the school.


Traditionally, behaviour systems in New Zealand tend to be punitive, with the focus on disciplining students after the behaviour has occurred. For instance, when students misbehave, it is common that their name will be written on the board and then ticked after each subsequent offence. Upon receiving three ticks, they are removed from the classroom and depending on the severity of the behaviour, experience some consequence for their behaviour. With increasing concerns about behaviour in schools and increased rates of stand-down and suspension, this approach does not seem to foster sustainable long-term positive behaviour change in schools. Thus, change is needed in the way many New Zealand schools respond to behaviour.

This punitive approach to behaviour management is generally ineffective in facilitating desired student behaviour or teaching students appropriate ways of behaving (Nelson, Martella, & Marchand-Martella, 2002). Consider, for example, a child learning to read at school. If the student was having difficulty, the child would not be disciplined or punished. This would not make sense. Rather the child would receive reading instruction with an increase in the expectation and the introduction of new skills as the child progressed. Similarly when a child behaves inappropriately at school, the student may not have learned appropriate social skills to interact in a positive way. As such, the student should be taught new and more acceptable ways to behave, rather than be disciplined or punished. Positive behavioural support takes the view that behaving in a socially appropriate way is a skill learnt like any other skill in our schools.

Over the past 10 years public schools in the United States have moved from using reactive punishment, as the primary response to problem behaviours, to a proactive and positive approach that addresses the needs of the entire school, as well as individual students (Mayer, 1995). The goal of PBS is to promote a pro-social positive climate that increases positive behaviour and academic achievement (Horner & Sugai, 2000). School staff who implement PBS regularly teach, review and reinforce agreed upon expectations for all students, rather than focus on the punishment of students who do not comply with school rules. The following section provides a brief overview of PBS.

Whole School Positive Behaviour Support

PBS is a framework which enables schools to design and implement a whole school approach that focuses on teaching positive behaviour, communicating clear behavioural expectations, and creating a whole school culture which supports responsibility for behaviour. …

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