AC7000 - Principles of Positive Behavioural Support (PBS)

What will I learn on this module?

This module enables you to develop the knowledge, skills and values required to understand the Principles of the Positive Behavioural Support (PBS) approach to support someone with autism/a learning disability who displays behaviour that challenges. It enables you to meet the requirements of a Northumbria Award and evidence relevant competencies identified in the PBS Coalition Competence Framework (2015) nationally recognised as best practice.
The module helps you to critically analyse the meaning and impact of Learning Disability and Autism, the causes of challenging behaviour and the use of a functional approach to understanding behaviour as a key concept of positive behavioural support. You will explore and critique the theory and context of PBS as a way of improving quality of life and reducing behaviour that challenges. You will develop your understanding of the importance of values-based support for people with a learning disability which acknowledges them as individuals, ensures choice and participation in their own lives and treats them with dignity and respect. You will analyse the factors affecting behaviour to identify why someone may display behaviours that challenge and understand the purpose and development process of behaviour support plans (BSP) to improve quality of life and ensure the least restrictive support strategies are used. The module helps you appreciate the importance of working together with the person, their family and other workers to assess, plan and develop behaviour support plans, understand your own role and contribution to the process and how to support the person and each other.

How will I learn on this module?

This module is provided via a blended learning approach - a mix of e-learning, guided study, face to face and supervised work-based learning. A range of learning resources are available via the e-learning portal including, Skills Plus, a collection of learning resources to help you study and exceptional library services with remote access to materials. You will also have opportunity and be encouraged to debate and discuss PBS in the context of health and social practice with lecturers and peers within classroom sessions. You will learn alongside other students through an interactive and engaging classroom environment, facilitated by academic staff. There is opportunity for you to reflect and review your progress on the module with the module team, with peers, and Module Leader (ML).
Practical workshops help you access and use the, learning resources including e learning and formative assessment exercises and feedback. You will be engaged in critical analysis and appraisal of the evidence base for PBS and share your learning in peer group seminars and discussion. Enquiry and scenario-based learning enables you to develop your understanding of why behaviour occurs and how to minimise that through effective planning and use of active support. You will use reflective learning based upon your own experience of supporting people to develop a better understanding of why challenging behaviour may occur in people with a learning disability and /or autism how behaviour is influenced by many factors including personal values, and how challenging behaviour can be minimised through proactive planning, teaching of new skills and use of active support.

You will apply your learning to undertake a summative assessment which requires you to assess why challenging behaviour may occur in the people you work with, critically analyse the theory and context of positive behavioural support, functional behavioural assessment and behaviour support planning. You will also be required to demonstrate relevant competencies from the PBS Competence Framework (PBS Coalition 2015).

How will I be supported academically on this module?

You will be supported by the module team and PBS regional workplace development and practice managers who will guide your learning and assessment throughout the module. They have been involved in developing the programme, the e-learning materials and assessment exercises, and will provide some of your teaching and feedback on your progress in the classroom and practice-based context. Support can be accessed face to face, by telephone or email. You will also have an allocated personal/guidance teacher who will provide advice and support in relation to academic, procedural, and (where desired and appropriate) personal matters during the programme of study you have enrolled on. You will have access to 24/7 generic IT support available via telephone or online, and support from the programme team in working hours with any specific IT issues related to the e-learning package. You will also have access to the full range of student administration and support services offered by Northumbria University that includes library and learning support outlined fully in the programme handbook.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

Please list below essential key text underpinning the module content and ultimately the learning outcomes:

Principles in PBS Level 6/7
Allen, D. (Ed.) (2002). Ethical Approaches to Physical Interventions: Responding to challenging behaviour in people with intellectual disabilities. Kidderminster: BILD.
Allen, D. (Ed., 2005) Special Issue on Positive Behaviour Support, Learning Disability Review, 10, 1-43

Carr, E. G., Horner, R. H., Turnbull, A. P. and al., e. (1999) Positive Behaviour Support for People with Developmental Disabilities: A Research Synthesis., Washington, American Association on Mental Retardation.

Emerson, E., McGill, P. and Mansell, J. (Eds.) (1994/1999). Severe learning disabilities and challenging behaviours: Designing high quality services. London/Cheltenham: Chapman & Hall/Stanley Thornes.
Gore, N.J., McGill, P., Toogood, S., Allen, D., Hughes, J.C., Baker, P., Hastings, R.P., Noone, S.J. and Denne, L.D., 2013. Definition and scope for positive behavioural support. International Journal of Positive Behavioural Support, 3(2), pp.14-23.

Hastings, R.P., Allen, D., Baker, P., Gore, N.J., Hughes, J.C., McGill, P., Noone, S.J. and Toogood, S., 2013. A conceptual framework for understanding why challenging behaviours occur in people with developmental disabilities. International Journal of Positive Behavioural Support, 3(2), pp.5-13.

LaVigna, G. W. and Donellan, A. M. (1986) Alternatives to punishment: Solving behavior problems with non-aversive strategies, New York, Irvington.

Lucyshyn, J. M., Dunlap, G. and Albin, R. W. (Eds.) (2002). Families and Positive Behavior Support: Addressing Problem Behavior in Family Contexts. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.

McGill, P., Clare, I. C. H., & Murphy, G. H. (1996) Understanding and responding to challenging behaviour: From theory to practice. Tizard Learning Disability Review, 1, 9-17.

Centre for the Advancement of Positive Behavioural Support:

North East and Cumbria Positive behavioural Support Community of Practice:

The Challenging Behaviour Foundation:

The PBS Academy:

United Response:

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:

1. Critically analyse the discourses and experience of learning disability and autism and impact on behaviour
2. Appraise the theory and context of Positive Behavioural Support as an overall approach to improve a person’s quality of life and reduce behaviour which challenges.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:

3. Critically analyse the impact of behaviours that challenge on the person and others and relate how our own attitudes, beliefs and experiences influence how we understand and respond to behaviour which challenges

4. Appraise the contribution of proactive and reactive interventions in supporting behaviour change and their use within behaviour support plans

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):

5. Articulate and demonstrate the value base required for support that acknowledges people as individuals, ensures choice and participation in their own lives and treats people with dignity and respect

How will I be assessed?

Formative exercises
There will be learning exercises and short tests of knowledge and understanding as you progress through the e- learning package. Immediate corrective feedback will be given from on-line tests. You will be invited to share your learning from learning activities tasks within seminars and group learning sessions; peer and tutor feedback will be provided
MLO’s assessed – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

Summative assessment
1. Use a 3000 essay to critique the theory and context of PBS as a way of improving quality of life and reducing behaviour that challenges in those with learning disability and/or autism, demonstrating understanding of the core concepts of the approach and influencing factors.
Tutor assessment, feedback & feedforward

Teacher assessment, feedback & feedforward
(MLO assessed -1,2,3,4, 5)

2.Workbased assessment of identified competencies within the PBS Coalition Competency Framework (2015)
These will be assessed by the regional PBS workforce development manager
Pass/ refer grade
(MLO’s assessed – 3, 4,5)


In order to undertake this module, you must be supporting a person at risk of/displaying behaviour which challenges and/or supporting staff that do.


To achieve the Postgraduate Certificate in Leading Positive Behavioural Support, you must successfully complete this module and modules AC0798, AC0799

Module abstract

This module is for staff working with people with a learning disability/autism and or challenging behaviour, or those supporting other staff with this. It enables the development of relevant knowledge, skills and understanding of the Positive Behavioural Support (PBS) approach, currently regarded as best practice in supporting people who display, or are at risk of displaying, behaviour that challenges. You will understand how to enable people to have a good quality of life and learn the importance of behavioural analysis in designing, implementing and evaluating effective PBS plans utilising the least restrictive ways to support someone and reduce the likelihood of behaviours that challenge occurring. Learning and teaching is provided using a blended delivery approach accessible even if you are distant to the university. A practice-based PBS regional workplace development and practice manager will support you and contribute to assessing your learning in practice

Course info

Credits 20

Level of Study Postgraduate

Mode of Study 1 year Part Time (Distance Learning)

Location Coach Lane Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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