Ci3T: Behavior is a Primary Concern of Teachers

Apr 28 2022

Key Takeaway

When implementing a tiered model of prevention, such as the comprehensive, integrated, three-tiered model, it is important to attend systematically to the elements that can positively impact the success of the model. Strong value-driven leadership, data-based decision making, and professional development in the theoretical and practical aspects of a positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) system must be consistently integrated. —Erin Madonna

Ci3T Model and Teacher Perceptions 

In this study, Menzies et al. (2021) explored teacher perceptions of the comprehensive, integrated, three-tiered (Ci3T) model of prevention through interview-based focus groups. Ci3T has a foundation in applied behavior analysis (ABA) and is designed to address student needs in three learning domains, academic, behavior, and social-emotional well-being, through data-based instruction and intervention. Within the model, behavior management is designed to be proactive and positive, rather than reactive, aversive, or punitive. 

The primary purpose of this study was to investigate teacher perceptions of the Ci3T model and its implementation. The researchers realized a prevailing theme was emerging in teacher interviews around challenges implementing certain aspects of Ci3T, namely the PBIS plan. 

Teachers highlighted struggles with applying proactive management strategies, a reluctance to transition away from punishment-based management strategies, and organizational elements which both improved or limited the successful implementation of Ci3T in their contexts as central to their experiences.

“As demonstrated in this study, closer attention to teachers’ beliefs about the theoretical underpinnings of the model, and cultural norms in conflict with it, might have resulted in smoother adoption of the PBIS components” (Menzies et al., 2021).


As Menzies et al. analyzed the entirety of the interviews, they recognized that misconceptions of ABA and professional beliefs around behavior management were complicating a high-fidelity adoption of PBIS. 

“Disturbingly, there seemed to be an understanding among the participants that the word ‘consequences’ was code for punishment, in its most negative and everyday sense, and it was deemed a very effective strategy for managing behavior” (Menzies et al., 2021). In ABA, a consequence is simply what occurs after the behavior and is not synonymous with punishment. 

The concept of holding students accountable through corrective measures, largely encompassing punitive responses, was echoed through interviews with teachers and indicated a strong desire to stick with systems that were perceived to have worked previously (clip charts, etc). 

Teachers were encouraged to instead use explicit instruction as a way to teach expected behaviors and positive reinforcement of prosocial behaviors when they occurred as methods for improving problem behaviors. 

Positive Outcomes and Impact

Despite reluctance, there were some signs that positive results were beginning to impact teacher implementation of Ci3T. It seems that when teachers had training to understand the Ci3T model or were able to experience small successes, their perceptions of the new system became more positive.

When considering the factors that aided the adoption of Ci3T, the researchers found that “using data to inform decisions and leadership from the site administrator were essential elements in changing teachers’ perceptions about the utility of the Ci3T model.” The educators perceived that the Ci3T model was more likely to be implemented with fidelity and social validity when they had the support of their leadership in administration. 

In the schools where leadership presented a clear vision of Ci3T and championed the belief that it had the potential to positively impact the culture of the school, teachers expressed more positive perceptions and seemed more invested in shifting their behavior management approach. 

Furthermore, key to a culture shift was the attention paid to data and its role in informing instructional choices. When an educator is able to see a positive trend in the behavioral data for their class as a result of implementing proactive strategies, they become more willing to commit to leaving punitive measures in the past. 

Summarized Article: 

Menzies, H. M., Oakes, W. P., Lane, K. L., Royer, D. J., Cantwell, E. D., Common, E. A., & Buckman, M. (2021). Elementary Teachers’ Perceptions of a Comprehensive, Integrated, Three-Tiered Model of Prevention. Remedial and Special Education, 42(4), 207–219.]

Summary by: Erin Madonna — Erin philosophically aligns with the MARIO Framework’s deeply rooted belief that all learners are capable, and she firmly believes in MARIO’s commitment to the use of evidence-based practices drawn from the field of current multidisciplinary research.

Researchers Holly M. Menzies, Wendy P. Oakes, Kathleen L. Lane, and Mark Buckman participated in the final version of this summary. 

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