A Collaborative and Digital Change Initiative at Western Heights High School

Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L) and Class Dojo

Mind Lab: LDC Assessment 1

Alex Le Long - 2016

The Change Initiative: PB4L

Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L) appears to have significant buy in throughout New Zealand within learning areas across the educational sector. The Ministry of Education were asked, as a result of the Taumata Whanonga behaviour summit in 2009, to “look internationally for successful initiatives with a strong research and evidence base” (Ministry of Education [MOE], 2015, p.3) to help improve the behaviours of students throughout the country. Studies done in America by the Positive Behaviour Interventions and Support (PBIS) found the “underlying theme is teaching behavioural expectations in the same manner as any core curriculum subject” (Positive Behaviour Interventions and Support [PBIS], n.d, para 1). PB4L has many different aspects of which School-Wide (SW) is one main focus area. SW is expected to take three to five years to implement the three tiers of behavioural change and intervention systems (MOE, 2014).

Intended Outcomes

A main focus of SW is implementing Tier 1 where schools are expected to work collaboratively to “put in place a core set of behaviour support systems and practices designed to be used consistently by all to encourage positive behaviour” (MOE, 2014, p. 1). To implement this process effectively, a team is put together within the school that is “collaborative, data-driven and problem-solving” (MOE, 2014, p. 1). At Western Heights High School (WHHS) we have a range of different school leaders within this team that have, over the past three years, worked together with the staff to encourage more positive behaviour for learning approaches and holistic thinking towards students. There has been a decrease in negative incidents reported, with a more focussed perspective around major and minor incidents.

The PB4L leadership team have sought to increase the amount of positive behaviours by encouraging staff members to focus on the positive behaviours (Wisdom, Honour, Heights and Success).

MOE (2014) suggests that “the extent to which schools work collaboratively with staff is a key enabler that can support later consistency of practice” (p. 6). The SW team at WHHS ensured that the staff created the values so that they would be more authentic.

Through the implementation of the WHHS behaviours, there has been more buy-in by staff as seen in the data collated through KAMAR, our student management system, where less minor behaviours are being sent through and more positive behaviours have been noted instead.

The Manukura reward system is still ongoing and although it is in its infancy, it has shown to be an increasingly positive way to ensure students are working towards the expected behaviours. The current process unfortunately creates unintentional paperwork and behind-the-scenes work by office staff and kaiako who input the data from the Manukura card onto the KAMAR tracking behavioural system under the selected WHHS code. A more effective digital alternative such as using Class Dojo would ensure that rewards were being tracked immediately and would become more intrinsic rather than extrinsic.

Leadership roles

Within the PB4L School-Wide initiative, the leadership team at WHHS have been chosen for their ability to work collaboratively and for their ability to be forward thinking and positive towards finding new solutions for our school environment. A majority of school leaders are often part of SW teams throughout schools in New Zealand as seen in the NZCER report (MOE, 2014) for the Ministry of Education. In our team we have four curriculum leaders, one head of house, one deputy principal and a range of classroom teachers. As a result of this wide spread in leadership, there is a range of differing leadership styles that work together to create a cohesive and supportive team.

The SW team has three main roles: coach, leader and senior leadership member. Each of these roles have been given to highly respected and inspirational staff members. Working within the need to create whole-school environmental change, a transformational leadership theory (TLT) combined with kaupapa Maori can be identified in the implementation within WHHS. These two theories underpin the implementation of PB4L at our school as students, staff and community need to feel part of the new change and consulted with. Through both transformational leadership and kaupapa Maori, this continues to be a framework embedded and implemented by all stakeholders.

Leadership Theories: Key Principles / Strengths and Weaknesses

Kaupapa Maori is a critical view around Maori based knowledge as not only a philosophy or way of life, but as a practice and way of doing (Moorfield, 2011 & Nepe, 1991 as cited in Keegan 2012). Within kaupapa Maori is the central theme of knowledge being owned by Maori for the benefit of Maori (Walker, Eketone & Gibbs, 2006). Part of this knowledge gathering is the sharing of information such as tikanga which relates directly towards the implementation of PB4L and SW as students are taught new behaviours, often from a kaupapa Maori perspective. As students unlearn behaviours not appropriate in class for learning, they are given the space to practice those positive behaviours within class while guided by their teacher and peers.

The main strength of a kaupapa Maori leadership style is that it aligns closely to that of a transformational leadership style as both types of leaders maintain and uphold the mana of those they are working with, in order to inspire growth. A weakness is that not everyone connects with things Maori and as such, there can be a disconnect between those who understand aspects of Maoridom and those who do not.

Bernard Bass, largely known as the founder of transformational leadership theory, based his work on “James Burns book on political leadership”  (Mora, 2012, p. 187). Bass mentions that “authenticity and ethical behaviour are closely associated with transformational leadership” (Hoojiberg & Choi, 2000, p. 298).

TLT has the ability to help change organisations from the ground up as all stakeholders are consulted and action is taken in order to create change for the betterment of the organisation and as individuals. Daft (2008) states that TLT can “bring about significant change in both followers and organization” (as cited in Rolfe, 2011, p. 55). Bass states that there are four aspects of transformational leadership theory: charismatic leadership - the amount of faith, respect and inspiration generated by the leader; inspirational leadership;  intellectual stimulation - degree of attention and support given to followers;  and individualised consideration - enabling the followers to think about the way they do things (Hoojiberg & Choi, 2000; Bycio, Hackett & Allen, 1995).

There are many strengths within TLT, namely the ability to motivate and inspire a wide range of people within an organisation and the focus towards achieving a shared vision. Oreg and Berson (2011) state that “transformational leadership behaviors may have a role in facilitating employees’ acceptance of change” (pp. 632-634). However, it is not always easy to understand a person’s true intent and followers and leaders alike can lose their own motivation and become bitter and resistant towards change in an organisation. As such, transformational leaders need to have the full support and respect of their followers and work together towards a shared goal in order to gain any type of success.

Leadership Success: Influences and Effectiveness of Leadership Theories, Styles and Attributes

Rolfe (2011) suggests that “TLT leaders are visionaries, catalysts, motivators, and goal-oriented, futuristic leaders who invoke group respect, shared vision, and improved culture” (p. 56). The SW team at WHHS lead our staff forward in any professional development sessions around PB4L and help us work collaboratively towards a shared vision and goal of better learning behaviours for our students with a strong data-driven analysis to show that we are changing our teaching practice over time.

Burns (1978) states that a transforming leader is one who “(1) raises the followers level of consciousness about the importance and value of designated outcomes and ways of reaching them; (2) gets the followers to transcend their own self-interest for the sake of the team; (3) raises the followers level of need on Maslow’s (1954) hierarchy of needs, from lower level concerns for safety and security to higher level needs for achievement and self-actualization” (as cited in Mora, 2012, p. 187). This is true for all three of the SW leaders as they consistently model appropriate behaviours and ways of doing along with continuously being available and interested in helping others gain a stronger understanding of the undercurrents within PB4L.

Mora (2012) summarizes that transformational leaders are capable of motivating “their followers beyond self-interest and using more than extrinsic motivators” (p. 187). There is the possibility of becoming more cohesive as a school environment with both kaupapa Maori and TLT where students, community and staff work together to create an increasingly positive learning environment within Western Heights High School. Seeing students holistically and working around behavioural issues as a school community will ensure that this kaupapa Maori practice continues to become embedded as a natural response for a majority of teachers. Kaupapa Māori ensures that all voices are heard and all aspects of the discussion are taken into consultation in order to find a collaborative approach to move forward.

A Digital Perspective: Class Dojo and PB4L

Sam Gibson and Julian Reid used Class Dojo with their Year 10 cohort at Tarawera High School (Tomorrow’s Learners, August 2015, para 4) and shared last year at #educampBOP how effective Class Dojo is as a tracking system of their PB4L values - Manaakitanga, Ako, Ngakau-pono and Awhina. Their MANA PB4L school values are the basis of their  entire school environment and are embedded in the school culture as seen in their website, with their motto, “Where MANA flows” (Tarawera High School, n.d, para 1). The simplicity of their school motto, colours and proximity to the river and its use within their motto helps show how committed the school and community is towards changing learning behaviours within their students. By using Google Forms as their PB4L value tracking card and inputting the allocated points onto Class Dojo when the behaviour happens is not only time saving for all involved, but it makes that transaction with the student immediate and helps to create a stronger, more transparent bond with students in the classroom.

As the community lead for Class Dojo in New Zealand during 2015, I was fortunate to share my own knowledge and understanding of the way that Class Dojo can help improve behaviours in the classroom with teachers at my school and around the country. I continued using the app in my own classes where I would allocate points based on the Wisdom, Honour, Heights and Success PB4L school values and had increased success in changing the behaviours of my students. Students became more intrinsically motivated and saw the points as a recognition of their focus towards their learning and over time students learnt to be more aware of the way that their behaviours affected others negatively and positively within the class. As a result, the immediacy of awarding points for positive behaviours for learning through Class Dojo has significantly reduced the time where I am dealing with disruptive and low level disturbances within each learning session, as the majority of those students are now seeking attention by eliciting positive, rather than negative, learning behaviours.

If Class Dojo were to be used effectively by the full staff at WHHS, a change in the way we look at collating data would need to occur. An emphasis on using technology more often during class as well as more professional development for teachers on the use of technology integration in class is critical.


As the roles of the SW team progress past the implementation of Tier 1 towards Tiers 2 and 3, we will see more transformative leadership taking place as more staff buy in will be necessary to create an even larger embedded focus of restorative practice and more personalised solutions for those students with severe learning behavioural needs. Staff will need to become active in seeking personal transformational change (Poutiatine, 2009) and will need to be further supported by the PB4L SW team to ensure that the change initiative becomes self-sustainable.

For true sustainability of this initiative, “the goal of any behaviour programme should eventually be that students are able to independently manage their own behaviours in ways that allow them to learn and develop positive social relationships” (Savage, Lewis and Colless, 2011, p. 32). By including students in the SW team thereby enabling them to become empowered leaders within the school, a stronger kauapapa Maori focus will be implemented where students own the knowledge and share it with each other to increasingly improve the positive behaviours for learning while at school.

Reference List

Ministry of Education. (2015). Positive Behaviour for Learning: 2015 Overview. Wellington, New Zealand: MOE. Retrieved from http://pb4l.tki.org.nz%2Fcontent%2Fdownload%2F656%2F2571%2Ffile%2F16037-PB4L%25202015%2520Overview.pdf 

Positive Behavioural Interventions and Support. (n.d.). SWPBIS for Beginners. Retrieved from https://www.pbis.org/school/swpbis-for-beginners

Ministry of Education. (2014). PB4L School-wide Evaluation: Preliminary findings. (New Zealand Council of Educational Research [NZCER] report). Wellington, New Zealand: Sally Boyd, Rachel Dingle & Nicole Herdina. Retrieved from http://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/147508/PB4L-School-wide-Evauation-Preliminary-Findings.pdf

Paula Rolfe. 2011. Transformational Leadership Theory: What Every Leader Needs to Know. Nurse Leader, 9 (2), 54-57. http://dx.doi.org.libproxy.unitec.ac.nz/10.1016/j.mnl.2011.01.014

Tomorrow’s Learners. (9 August 2015). How technology supplements our Positive Behaviour For Learning (PB4L) approach. Retrieved from http://tomorrowslearners.com/tech_and_pb4l/

Tarawera High School. (2016). Developing MANA: Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L). Retrieved from http://www.tarawera.school.nz/developing-mana/pb4l/ 

Peter J. Keegan. 2012. Making sense of kaupapa Maori: A linguistic point of view. New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies. 47 (2), 74-84.

Robert Hoojiberg & Jaepil Choi. 2000. From selling peanuts in Yankee stadium to creating a theory of transformational leadership: An interview with Bernie Bass. The Leadership Quarterly. 11 (2), 291-306. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1048-9843(00)00037-0 

Shaul Oreg & Yair Berson. 2011. Leadership and Employee’s reactions to change: The role of leaders’ personal attributes and transformational leadership style. Personnel Psychology. 64, 627-659.

Cristina Mora. 2012. Transformational leadership in education: Concept analysis. Transylvanian Review of Administrative Sciences. Special Issue, 184-192.

Peter Bycio, Rick D. Hackett & Joyce S. Allen. 1995. Further Assessments of Bass’s (1985) Conceptualization of Transactional and Transformational Leadership. Journal of Applied Psychology. 80 (2),  468-478.

Michael I. Poutiatine. 2009. What is Transformation?: Nine Principles toward an understanding transformational processes for transformational leadership. Journal of Transformative Education. 7(3), 189-208. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1541344610385249 

Catherine Savage, Juliet Lewis, & Nigel Colless. 2011. Essentials for implementation: six years of school wide positive behaviour support in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Psychology. 40 (1), 29-37.