Positive Behaviour for Learning in practice


It is important that all students are taught what is expected of them and have opportunities to practise expected behaviours. A key role of the principal and all school staff is to set high expectations for behaviour and learning across the whole school community and for all students. Having clear expectations for behaviour allows schools to provide consistency in what they teach, acknowledge and correct in terms of student behaviour.

Typically, schools identify, define and describe 3–5 positive, school-wide behaviour expectations for all members of the school community to follow. For example: Be safe, be respectful, be responsible. Students are then explicitly taught the expectations, when and where they should be used and what each expectation looks like and sounds like. Positive Behaviour for Learning (PBL) schools develop a school-wide system for teaching expectations to all students.

When schools use the PBL framework, inappropriate behaviour is seen as a behavioural error and students are provided with support to learn more appropriate behaviours. Logical consequences for behaviour that contravenes school expectations are applied consistently, but with consideration of individual circumstances. Each school develops a Student Code of Conduct, in collaboration with the school community, which sets out school policies and procedures for student support and disciplinary actions.

Successful teachers define, teach, reteach and model the expected behaviours. They provide regular opportunities for students to practise the expected behaviours in the settings in which they will be used. They also actively supervise students, promote the expected behaviour, prevent and correct inappropriate behaviour and acknowledge positive behaviour continuously.

Providing students with positive reinforcement for expected behaviours is one of the quickest and easiest ways to improve classroom behaviour and develop a positive classroom environment. Everyone needs positive feedback to learn and maintain a behaviour or skill. Behaviour is reinforced when we are provided with something we value following a desired behaviour. This may be verbal praise, non-verbal acknowledgement, earning of tokens, provision of tangible rewards, or opportunities to perform a task or participate in an activity.

Effective reinforcement is age-appropriate, contextually-fitting and sincere. Reinforcement is characterised by its effect—in other words, if the desired behaviour does not increase, as a result of the feedback or reward, then reinforcement has not happened.

Examples of reinforcement systems in PBL schools


The aim of whole-school reinforcement is to establish a system which helps staff to recognise students for effort and achievement. All students are able to receive whole-school reinforcers and are never excluded from whole of school celebrations or events organised as part of the whole-school reinforcement system.

  • Students can earn points towards a privilege or preferred activity
  • Students get tokens to donate to an assigned charity or cause
  • Choice of a public award (such as a certificate on parade) or private celebration (such as morning tea with the principal)
  • Privilege cards which can be stamped and traded in
  • Participation in student and teacher challenges
  • Roll of honour
  • Positive postcard or phone call home

Classroom reinforcement

  • Be a classroom leader or helper
  • ‘No homework tonight’ pass
  • Choose class game
  • Choose where to sit
  • Work with a friend

Knowledge of students is critical in selecting reinforcers. What one student finds reinforcing may not be reinforcing for another student and what has worked with one class may not work with another. Teachers consider student interests and developmental levels. Great teachers differentiate behaviour support practices and strategies based on data related to student progress and responsiveness. They also differentiate approaches and support to recognise disability, while not accepting inappropriate behaviour. Teacher interventions aim to increase student functioning and self-regulation in school and beyond.

PBL Demonstration Schools

Each year a small number of schools are selected as PBL Demonstration Schools. Demonstration Schools have shown sustained commitment to implementing PBL with fidelity and have evidence of clear improvements in student outcomes. In 2024, the schools selected as PBL Demonstration Schools are:

  • Cairns West State School (Far North Queensland region)
  • Currimundi Special School (North Coast region)
  • Pimpama State Primary College (South East region)
  • Pine Rivers Special School (Metropolitan North region)
  • Walkervale State School (North Coast region)
  • Woody Point Special School (Metropolitan North region)

All schools that have been implementing PBL for 12 months or more are eligible to apply for PBL Demonstration School status. Interested schools should contact their regional Principal Advisor PBL and refer to the submission guidelines.

Submissions should be completed online by the end of Week 7 in Term 4.​

Last updated 05 April 2024