Your PBIS Behavior Matrix, Points, and Incentives

One of the most challenging aspects of setting up a PBIS program is deciding what behaviors to track and incentives to offer. This question can catch customers off-guard, and sometimes results in behaviors and incentives being chosen arbitrarily. But this topic is one that should be given high priority, and should be thought through well in advance of implementation. After all, this Behavior Matrix will be the framework from which your PBIS program will be based. Of course, behaviors and incentives can be changed at any time, as some level of trial-and-error and fine-tuning should be expected. But it’s good to start out with a strong hypothesis from which to test out your behavior redirection plan.

A good place to start is to think about the negative behaviors you’d like to decrease at your school, and think of a behavior that may help reverse it. For example, if you have a problem with tardies at your school, you could choose to appoint positive points for students who show up early to class. (“Early Birds”) Or if you have a school culture where students are often disrespectful to each other, start tracking “Random Acts of Kindness.” The psychology of this is at the root of PBIS’ success. Instead of reprimanding the negative act, you are highlighting the opposite, positive one, which eventually helps shift the behavior.

Circle of PBIS

The points system is what Hero uses as its economy. You will set points values for positive behaviors, so that each time a student exhibits that behavior, they’ll earn the corresponding number of points. We recommend appointing low (< 10) point values to individual positive behaviors. This will keep students’ balances relatively low, and you will avoid having to appoint incentives with really high point values. That always seems daunting, no matter how easy it may be to accrue those points. We also recommend having all behaviors worth the same amount of points. This is in the interest of keeping it simple, and to avoid making certain behaviors seem more important than others.

In terms of incentives, the first step can be to take a look at your school and see what inherent perks you may be able to offer. Do you have a school store or snack bar that you can offer items from? A parking spot that is closer to campus you can alternate use of? Are your lunch lines long enough that giving out a “Fast Pass” would be coveted? There are lots of creative incentives you can offer your students, many of them at little or no cost.


Steven Whittle, Dean of Discipline at Homestead Senior in Florida, wanted to set up a PBS program that provided plenty of opportunities for his students to have small successes. So Mr. Whittle chose to track behaviors that were attainable every day. Random Acts of Kindness, being an Early Bird by showing up before class, and wearing the Proper Uniform are all acts that will earn a student Hero points at Homestead Senior High. In terms of incentives, Steve acknowledges that something like a monthly pizza party for top performers is not a fiscally feasible solution for them. And, typically, high school kids are harder to incentivize. Unlike some of the younger kids, high school students aren’t as motivated by things like cookies or candy. So, he had to get creative.

One of the most unique and interesting PBS incentives that Homestead has is a special “VIP” section of the cafeteria. This area is blocked off with a bright red partition, and can only be accessed if you have a certain number of PBS points. Inside, there are booths and couches, opposed to the typical bench seating throughout the rest of the cafeteria. But the big draw is that there are games. Two flat screen TVs are mounted to the wall, each with it’s own game console and cart full of video games. And there are more traditional games, too, like checkers and chess, which, surprisingly, the students seem to like just as much. This little area, in the middle of cafeteria bustling with up to 500 students, is a genius idea. Not only does it command a tremendous amount of attention (which means more students wanting to participate), but it’s a brilliantly age-appropriate reward.

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