Responding to Behaviour Concerns: An Examination of Tier 1 and Tier 2 Supports

Responding to Behaviour Concerns is the fifth of the 10 Key Components to Responsive Behaviour Support.

When our students are having a difficult time and the flow of the classroom is being disrupted, we need to first consider that our students may be experiencing trauma, mental health issues, triggers or regulation difficulties. In the heat of the moment, we need to set a reminder for ourselves that this student is trying to communicate something they are not able to articulate or they are reacting to an inward struggle that is manifesting outwardly.

A teacher’s role is never simple. They are expected to wear many hats with a lot of students. In addition to teaching, assessing and differentiating for each student, teachers also need to attend to a multitude of social emotional needs that sometimes exhibit themselves in the form of behaviour challenges. While delivering lessons on a daily basis, teachers are constantly considering many different strategies and techniques to manage challenging behaviour.

How do you respond to the behaviour concerns in your classroom?

In the book Envisioning a Collaborative Response, one of the recommendations is to establish a continuum of support. A continuum of supports is a collection of strategies, accommodations and interventions that are created by a district or school that matches the level of student need to the level of student support. According to Hewson and Hewson a "comprehensive continuum of support, developed and refined over time, helps to inform the collective question, "so now what do we do? "and ensures the tiering of supports, not students." When we consider how to respond to behaviour concerns in the classroom, it only makes sense then to consider developing a continuum of behaviour support. Collaboratively designing a menu of behaviour supports allows for a collection of ideas for teachers to discuss and choose from during collaborative team meetings as well as access to resources.

What does this structure look like when we are talking about students with behaviour challenges?

In order to effectively respond to student needs, there are a variety of Tier 1 and Tier 2 supports for school staff to consider. It is the responsibility of the classroom teacher to establish responsive, proactive strategies to prevent problem behaviour and promote positive behaviour. The term differentiation is not only about teaching them at their grade level. Rather it is about meeting students where they are at socially and emotionally and responding appropriately.

Tier 1 supports are described as classroom instruction that includes foundational classroom practice to support students. When tier 1 supports are deployed with fidelity, they should reduce the number of students who require costly and timely resources at tier 3 and 4 and maximize the school resources to meet the needs of more students more effectively. Interventions in this tier honour the work that teachers do to set up positive learning environments for all students. Typically, school staff collaborate on the development and implementation of behaviour supports at Tier 1. This common approach positively impacts a classroom environment and allows teachers to share ideas, strategies and resources during collaborative team meetings.

When looking at Tier 2 with a responsive behaviour support lens, it is important that we consider supports designed to be targeted for students who have access to Tier 1 supports but may not be responding to them. These supports are more intensive and individualized since a smaller number of students are at risk for engaging in more serious problem behaviour and need more support.

Take a look through these Examples of Tier 1 and Tier 2 Supports and consider building your own toolbox of supports.

If you should require any additional information on any of these examples, please reach out to barb.pears(at)

Classroom teachers are the ones ultimately responsible for responding to behaviour concerns so we want to be sure that we are equipped with a solid tier 1 and tier 2 toolbox. The goal is to create a Continuum of Behaviour Support that is approached collaboratively and avoid reactively responding to behaviour concerns as they arise.

My next blog will provide you with an overview of Responding to Re-Occurring Behaviours and the supports that are accessed through Tier 3 and Tier 4 supports.

Author: Barb Pears