Student outcomes are more likely to be achieved when evidence-based practices (EBPs) are implemented with fidelity (McIntosh, Horner, & Sugai, 2009).  Seeing the impact of the EBPs, and associating implementation efforts with achieved student outcomes, can promote momentum and motivation among all implementers (Andreou, McIntosh, Ross, & Kahn, 2015).  Conversely, implementation is likely to lag if implementers perceive the EBP is not leading to student outcomes, or implementation is not worth their effort (Lohrmann, Martin, & Patil, 2013).  This staff buy-in, or the lack thereof, is an example of a barrier to implementation (McIntosh et al., 2014).  It is critical to identify and address barriers to implementation (Horner et al., 2009).  This is particularly true for a school-wide framework such as PBIS.  Barriers to implementation, in addition to staff buy-in, include (a) administrator support, (b) staff capacity to implement, (c) staff turnover, and (d) competing initiatives.

Turri and colleagues (2016) studied 704 schools implementing PBIS to examine perceived barriers to implementation, and the association of barriers with implementation fidelity. Schools were grouped into three cohorts based on how long the schools were implementing PBIS:

  • initial = 0 – 2 years (n = 180)
  • full operation = 2 – 5 years (n = 329)
  • sustainability = 5+ years (n = 195).

Schools’ PBIS fidelity data were compared with data on staff perceptions of barriers.  Perceptual barriers were negatively associated with fidelity among initial and full operation schools, and were most negatively associated with fidelity in full operation.  This might show how difficult it is to maintain momentum and motivation for implementation particularly as novelty fades and new initiatives arise.  However, perceived barriers were not associated with fidelity for schools in the sustainability cohort.  This could be because after five years PBIS became part of schools’ culture, systems, and practices.  This is not to say to that PBIS doesn’t need to be attended to even after years of implementation, but it demonstrates that difficult barriers don’t have to stand in the way of implementation fidelity and improved student outcomes.

Beginning implementation is hard, and sustaining implementation might be harder!  Therefore, ensure educators always (a) see the student impact of their implementation efforts, and (b) associate their implementation efforts with the achieved student impact.  This can promote momentum and motivation, especially during the initial (0 – 1 years) and full operation (2 – 5) years of implementation.  Read more about identifying, addressing, and overcoming barriers to implementation below:


Andreou, T. E., McIntosh, K., Ross, S. W., & Kahn, J. D. (2015). Critical incidents in the             sustainability of school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports. Journal of    Educational and Psychological Consultation, 8, 197-230.

Horner, R. H., Sugai, G., Smolkowski, K., Eber, L., Nakasato, J., Todd, A. W., & Esperanza, J.    (2009). A randomized, wait-list controlled effectiveness trial assessing school-wide    positive behavior support in elementary schools. Journal of Positive Behavior       Interventions, 11, 133-144.