Positive Behavior Support Systems: Applying Key Features in Preschool Settings
Stormont, Melissa, Lewis, Timothy J., Beckner, Rebecca, Teaching Exceptional Children
These are the three behavioral expectations that were adopted by one preschool after they began using systems of positive behavior support (PBS). In order to support early intervention and prevention efforts, many professionals are working to establish systems of positive behavior support earlier, before children enter elementary school settings. This article presents the differences between PBS at the preschool level and at the elementary school level and also discusses how to implement features of PBS in preschool programs.
Early childhood professionals need to be prepared to support the development of appropriate social behavior in young children. Research has clearly shown the developmental path of children who enter elementary school with relatively stable externalizing behavior patterns (e.g., Walker, Ramsey, & Gresham, 2003; Webster-Stratton, 1997). That is, children with early behavior problems are at risk for peer rejection, teacher rejection, limited opportunities for learning appropriate behavior in school, and continued problems in these areas as they get older (Kauffman, 2001; Stormont, 2001; Walker et al). Many contributing factors-including common school discipline practices that exacerbate and perpetuate negative behavior patterns-can contribute to the stability of problem behavior in children (Kauffman; Lewis & Sugai, 1999; Mayer, 1995; Skiba & Peterson, 2000). This finding is especially pertinent for early childhood and primary grade teachers, since research suggests the existence of a window of opportunity for affecting these behavior patterns to reduce the likelihood that they become chronic across the children's school experience. Research indicates that at-risk children who have not learned more adaptive behavior patterns by the end of the third grade are highly unlikely to ever be successful if continuing and comprehensive external supports are absent [Walker et al.).
The research on children who enter school with problem behavior demonstrates poor outcomes for children who develop antisocial behavior patterns and indicates that the previous reactionary and punishment-oriented school approaches have negative effects. Fortunately, school professionals now recognize the need for proactive, supportive interventions that promote appropriate behavior in all students (Lewis & Sugai, 1999; OSEP Technical Assistance Center, 2003; Sugai & Horner, 2001).
Schools across the United States are implementing schoolwide systems of PBS. The main purposes of implementing systems of schoolwide PBS are to "define, teach, and support appropriate behaviors in a way that establishes a culture of competence within schools" (OSEP Technical Assistance Center, 2003, p. 1). Accordingly, the key features of schoolwide PBS are to
* Specifically define appropriate behavior that is expected in school settings (behavior expectations).
* Teach children these behavior expectations in all school settings (classroom and nonclassroom settings).
* Support appropriate behavior through specific feedback in various ways when it occurs.
* Use data to further guide decisions regarding supportive interventions (Lewis & Sugai, 1999; OSEP Technical Assistance Center; Sugai & Horner, 2001).
The extensive research base for these key features includes research on the use of supportive proactive and reactive contingencies, including positive reinforcement, prompts and cues, direct instruction, and data-based decision making (see Colvin, Kameenui, & Sugai, 1994; Kartub, Taylor-Greene, March, & Horner, 2000; Lewis, Powers, KeIk, & Newcomer, 2002; Lewis, Sugai, & Colvin, 1998; Lewis-Palmer, Flannery, Sugai, & Eber, 2002; Nakasato, 2000; Scott, 2001; Taylor-Greene et al. 1997; Taylor-Greene & Kartub, 2000; Todd, Horner, & Sugai, 1999).
An additional component of schoolwide PBS includes establishing a representative team of school professionals who build the capacity within their school to put the key features of schoolwide PBS in place (Lewis & Sugai, 1999). …