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Social-Emotional Learning

How to Integrate SEL and PBIS (Q&A Ep. 6)

Maurice Anderson
Maurice Anderson
How to Integrate SEL and PBIS (Q&A Ep. 6)



With critical issues such as exclusionary discipline on the rise, many of the school districts we support are focused on understanding the root causes of behavior through a Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) system. Measuring students' social-emotional learning (SEL) skills is one way to get a full picture of what students need in order to address behavior. 

So how exactly does social-emotional learning fit into a PBIS framework? Watch the video below (or on YouTube) to learn how to integrate SEL and PBIS to promote positive behavior and academic achievement in the classroom.



Q: How can our district incorporate SEL into a PBIS framework?

Before we dive into an answer, let’s make sure we’re on the same page about what these acronyms mean.

PBIS, which stands for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, is a framework that districts use to promote and celebrate good behavior in the classroom. SEL, or social-emotional learning, is the process of helping students develop the skills and mindsets they need to succeed in school and life—for example, skills like emotion regulation and social awareness.

While PBIS and SEL are great on their own, they’re even better when implemented together. Our research shows a strong positive correlation between behavior and SEL—meaning that kids with higher SEL skills tend to behave better in school.

Now, let’s talk about how to integrate SEL and PBIS in your district.  

The biggest point to remember is that SEL is a great way to understand the root causes of behavior issues. With PBIS, many districts are shifting towards a more proactive and preventative approach to student behavior. A goal of PBIS is to catch behavior problems before they become more critical issues—and SEL can help us do that.

Your first step is to gather data on students’ social-emotional learning skills and competencies using an SEL assessment. This data will give you a good idea of students’ overall social-emotional strengths, as well as the less developed skills that you can address at the Tier 1 level through SEL instruction or curriculum. Consider incorporating PBIS interventions for Tier 1 to address student behavior through systemic change.

Download the Panorama Social-Emotional Learning Survey. 

SEL data can also help you identify students who may need more targeted supports at the Tier 2 and 3 levels. We know that SEL "skill gaps" may show up as behavior issues for some students, resulting in lost instructional time out of the classroom. To prevent that, it's important to help students develop the underlying social and emotional skills they need to succeed behaviorally and academically.

For example, let’s say we have a group of 25 students whom we’ve classified as “Critical” or “At Risk” for behavior. When we cross-reference this behavior data with SEL data, we see that these students are also scoring lower on the SEL topic Emotion Regulation, which reflects how often a student can control their emotions when they need to. 

These students are telling us that they’re having trouble managing their emotions. This would be a great group to bring together for targeted support with a counselor. Over time, we can progress monitor with data to see if the additional SEL instruction is moving the needle on behavior.

I hope this gives you some new ideas on how to integrate PBIS and SEL. To learn more about the connections between behavior and SEL, download our research brief.

Read this blog post to learn how West Allis-West Milwaukee School District promotes positive behavior through intentional SEL.

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