Date of Award



© 2018 Cynthia M. Kennedy

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Grania Holman

Second Advisor

Corinna Crafton

Third Advisor

Sarah Boudreau


School-wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (SWPBIS) is a systems-approach to teaching and reinforcing behavioral expectations within schools. Based on a three-tier public health model, SWPBIS encompasses universal, strategic, and tertiary tiers. This study focuses on early phases of SWPBIS Tier 3 implementations in five elementary schools, and seeks to examine how school principals use SWPBIS Tier 3 to effect transformative change for all students, including at-risk students. Using an ethnographic collective case study methodology, perceptions and attitudes of the participants are utilized to understand how principals use leadership to enact change in their schools with respect to SWPBIS. The conceptual framework is based on organizational change theory of John Kotter.

Principal participants in this study were interviewed using a semi-structured format to collect responses to ten probes, and field observations took place at each of the site schools. In addition, reports from previously collected data using the School-wide Evaluation Tool and Tiered Fidelity Inventory were consulted to establish multiple sources of data. Structural coding, and causation coding in the form of a SWOT analysis, as well as a member check process, were used to triangulate results.

This study shows that much future research is needed to understand effective implementation of SWPBIS Tier 3 interventions and supports. While this study was able to make connections between the conceptual framework of John Kotter’s eight steps to organizational change, if Kotter’s theory is sustained long-term in initiatives such as this remains to be discovered. Two findings clearly resulted from this study. The need for professional development for stakeholders, and consistency in implementation, emerged as common themes with respect to SWPBIS Tier 3. Both of these factors are well-established in the literature with respect to SWPBIS Tier 1 and Tier 2. High-quality and ongoing professional development for teachers and interventionists is often cited as a critical feature of successful implementations of SWPBIS in schools. Also, existing research supports the idea that consistency is key when undertaking a longitudinal initiative such as the three tiers of SWPBIS.


Ed.D. Dissertation

Cynthia’s presentation on this topic for the UNE CGPS Virtual Research Symposium 2019 can be found here: