African american coach speaking at team meeting
In PBIS, coaching keeps schools from falling into the problems associated with training in isolation. Coaches support schools throughout their PBIS implementation to make professional development content fit with local, school, and classroom settings. When planning for systems to support implementation across the tiers, leaders (state, district, and school) benefit from identifying adequate coaching capacity to support systems, team/group and individual change.

What is Coaching?

Coaching refers to a school’s ability to organize personnel and resources to help build capacity, develop skills, and become confident to implement evidence-based practices with fidelity. Effective coaching requires a diverse set of skills to work with people and teams. The specific skills needed depend on the level of work and the outcomes you’re looking for. The goal of coaching in PBIS is to build local capacity, enhance PBIS fidelity across tiers, and improve student outcomes.

There are three main types of coaching essential in schools:

Coaching Individuals

This type of coaching focuses on teaching school personnel specific skills and how to apply those skills in context. Coaches provide support and give feedback to ensure use, confidence, and acceptable implementation on trained skills.

Coaching Teams or Groups

Coaching at this level focuses on helping teams develop their collaboration and facilitation skills, establish team operating procedures, understand group dynamics, and solidify data-driven decision making processes.

Systems Coaching

Coaching around systems focuses on building organizational support for PBIS. This happens by creating high quality, consistent, sustainable support systems so school personnel can implement PBIS practices well. Coaches work with schools to build policies, practices, and resources to support PBIS. This level of coaching requires fluency with implementation science and frameworks.

Why Address Coaching?

Coaching bridges the research-to-practice gap. Training supported by on-going coaching results in teachers implementing 80-90% of new practices.[1]In addition to coaching for individual change, coaching offers a way to support change in teaching and learning across systems.[2]

Foundational Elements

Coaching for Competence and Impact says coaching serves three key functions:

  • To ensure intervention fidelity
  • To ensure implementation fidelity
  • To develop organizational systems to promote professional judgement and sustainability

Ensure Intervention Fidelity

Coaches help school personnel build upon their skills in the classroom to implement interventions as they are intended to be used.

Ensure Implementation Fidelity

This involves coaches self-assessing their process and determining how effectively they support school personnel during implementation. Coaches look for answers to questions like:

  • Did we deliver coaching the way we intended?
  • Did the training result in improved skills and knowledge?
  • What kind of impact has coaching had on this school’s fidelity?

Develop Organizational Systems to Promote Professional Judgement and Sustainability

Coaches help administrators and school personnel understand the core components of PBIS as well as the systems, features and infrastructure required for successful and sustained implementation. They guide implementation and help teams figure out how to make PBIS fit the school’s community, context, and culture. While the team focus on how to build confidence, coaches make sure necessary professional development and organizational changes occur to support PBIS implementation.

Coaching Across Tiers

Within a tiered framework, coaching involves supporting individual, group/team, or systems change across schools, districts, and states.

Examples of coaching across tiers:

  • State coaches may work with district leadership teams to support system change and provide individual-level coaching to district personnel.
  • District and school coaches may work with administrators on an individual level as well as the Tier 1 team to facilitate systems change across the school.

Assessing Coaching

Coaching capacity can be assessed in various ways including self-assessment, direct observation, and reviewing coaching products. When identifying a coach, it is important to assess their understanding of the coaching roles and responsibilities as well as their knowledge of the core features of PBIS.

The Coaching Self-Assessment, provides an organizer for reviewing the roles and responsibilities of a PBIS coach.

Get Started with Coaching

Regardless of the coaching type – individual, group, or system – it is important coaches start with a working knowledge of PBIS foundational components. There are also common coaching practices that are universal:

  • data-driven decision making
  • relationship building
  • trust building
  • effective communication
  • collaboration skills

In addition to fluency with PBIS foundational components and coaching practices, coaching at the state or district level requires developing fluency with implementation science and frameworks. The National Implementation Research Network (NIRN) is a good starting point to build knowledge in this area.


In addition to the sections on this website under the PBIS menu, there are three resources to help understand coaching basics.

Implementation Blueprint

This guide walks leadership teams through the steps for assessing, developing, and executing PBIS action plans. It defines PBIS and how schools can build local capacity for sustainable, culturally- and contextually-relevant, and high fidelity implementation.

PBIS as Evidence-Based Practice

This resources provides citations defining PBIS, current evidence supporting implementation at each tier, and a summary of current and future directions in the field.

District Coaching Practice Brief

This brief quickly defines coaching at the district level. It includes a graphic representation of how the role fits within a district structure and outlines the functions a district coach is expected to conduct.

[1]Joyce, B. & Showers, B. (1982). The coaching of teaching. Educational Leadership, 40 (1), 4-10.
[2]Sugai, G., & Horner, R. (2006). A Promising Approach for Expanding and Sustaining School-Wide Positive Behavior Support. School Psychology Review, 35(2), 245-259.

See More/Less


Resources in this section include assessments, blueprints, examples, and materials to aid in implementing PBIS.


Publications listed below include every eBook, monograph, brief, and guide written by the PBIS Technical Assistance Center.


Presentations about their experiences, published research, and best practices from recent sessions, webinars, and trainings


Recordings here include keynotes and presentations about PBIS concepts as well tips for implementation.