Positive Behaviour Support

Positive Behaviour Support - GDip


This practice-based programme gives you the knowledge and skills that appeal to employers such as the NHS, local authority adults' and children's services, schools and the voluntary and private social and healthcare sector.  It focuses on sound assessment and understanding of the reasons for challenging behaviour, teaching constructive ways to support the individual and people around the individual. This programme is an undergraduate course (level 6 or stage 3)



Our Graduate Diploma in Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) comprises four modules, some unique to PBS students and some shared with Tizard students on our Autism Studies programmes. You attend campus for one workshop at the start of each academic year and an additional exam workshop toward the end of the year.

Our programme produces graduates competent in the assessment of challenging behaviour and the co-production of strategies likely to result in better support. It provides you with the knowledge of clinical and person-centred best practice, preparing you for a career in education and adult services in highly specialist and leadership roles.

The programme will attract parents, teachers and health professionals, social care specialists, support workers, team leaders and service managers, as well as those eager to further both their knowledge and practice, and career opportunities. 

About the Tizard Centre

The Tizard Centre is part of the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR) and has excellent links with health and social care organisations, and other relevant establishments.

The Centre is at the forefront of learning and research in autism, intellectual disability and community care, and in 2013 received a Queen’s Anniversary Prize in recognition of its outstanding work in these areas.

The Centre has strong links with health and social care organisations, and other relevant establishments. Our primary aims, through research, teaching and consultancy, are:

  • to find out more about how to effectively support and work with people with learning disabilities
  • to help carers, managers and professionals develop the values, knowledge and skills that enable better services
  • to aid policymakers, planners, managers and practitioners to organise and provide enhanced services.

The Tizard Centre is recognised as leading the field in deinstitutionalisation and community living, challenging behaviour, quality of staff support, sexuality and autism, and has had a significant impact on national policies in these areas. We are committed to addressing issues arising from social inequality

National ratings

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research was ranked 2nd for research power in the UK. The School was also placed 3rd for research intensity, 5th for research impact and 5th for research quality.

An impressive 94% of our research-active staff submitted to the REF and 99% of our research was judged to be of international quality. The School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of world-leading research, gaining the highest possible score of 100%.

Course structure

Students study research methods, conduct a student research module, study functional analysis and recent developments in policy, research and practice.


The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This list is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.  There are no optional modules on this pogramme.

Modules may include Credits

This module provides an opportunity for final stage students to study emergent research, policy and practice topics. It is likely to include areas in which teaching staff are active and to offer the students the opportunity to develop their understanding of research, policy and practice in key areas. Students will have the opportunity to attend our existing short courses where relevant (e.g. Talking Mats, Person-centred active support, The SPELL Framework). Topics are likely to include:

• Skilled support

• People with autism or IDD and the criminal justice system

• Autism & Women

• Mental Health & Autism or IDD

• Hate crime and victimisation

• Staff culture

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The module will ensure students are 'research aware' by teaching them about quantitative and qualitative research. It explores the purposes of research and methods, as well as the ethical, political and pragmatic issues research focused on autism & intellectual and developmental disabilities has experienced and continues to seek to address. It will teach students how to effectively carry out literature reviews, observations and participant research. The importance of critical analysis, reliability and validity is explored in depth. The module emphasises the knowledge needed to access and interpret research literature and data in the field.

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The occurrence of challenging behaviours amongst children and adults with a diagnosis of intellectual and developmental disabilities has produced a large body of research literature, policy and professional advice. Challenging behaviour has profound impacts upon people affected by it physically, psychologically, socially and economically. This module, as part of the Positive Behaviour Support programmes, provides information on the causes and characteristics of challenging behaviour, and outlines assessment and intervention methodologies. The module explores some legal and ethical issues arising from assessment of challenging behaviour, in particular the use of experimental conditions (analogues) during brief functional analysis. Observational methods will be taught, reliability methods considered, and the collection and presentation of data explored.

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The module will offer students teaching on:

• Developing a research question

• Design of research projects

• Ethics and social validity

• Research methodologies, including

o Library-based research

o Observation

o Interviews

• Data analysis and presentation

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Teaching and Assessment

It requires around 1,200 hours of study. Students cannot undertake this programme full time whilst working full time, unless seconded by their employer to do so. This course is a level 6, stage 3 programme of study. 

The Graduate Diploma in Positive Behaviour Support is taught by blended learning, a combination of exciting workshops and interactive web-delivered materials, case studies and real-world assignments. Expert practitioners on best practice and the latest research teach and lead the programme. You will work individually and collaboratively with other students, be supported by Tizard Centre tutors, and participate in group activities, discussions, as well as sharing your experience with others. An inherent part of this programme is the development of research skills.   

Programme aims

This programme aims to:

  • Deliver content reflecting  best clinical practice  and national standards to support effective work with   people  with   intellectual   and  developmental   disabilities   whose  behaviour  others   find challenging.
  • Offer flexible methods of learning that will appeal to students from diverse backgrounds.
  • Produce  graduates  with the knowledge  and skills to take up employment  in education or adult human services, undertake further studies, and display the transferable skills necessary to demonstrate personal responsibility and decision-making  in local and national leadership roles.
  • Prepare students to support children or adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their support networks  using Positive Behaviour  Support i.e. a behavioural  approach  integrated with an "ordinary life" philosophy.
  • Enable students to work in constructive, inclusive, and ethical ways with people who are often marginalised and vulnerable as well as with staff or families often lacking support.
  • Provide students with a sound knowledge base and opportunities to develop analytical skills that can be applied in human service provision for children, young people and adults.    
  • Encourage participation in Higher Education of people from diverse backgrounds  some of whom may not have 'traditionally' recognised qualifications.
  • Support  the  development   of high-quality  and  appropriate  services  for  children  or adults  with intellectual and developmental disability and challenging behaviour  by preparing students to fulfil the  need  for  specialist  workers  locally,  nationally  and internationally  in  a  key  sector  of  the economy.
  • Promote good practice in those supporting individuals whose behaviour challenges those around them through the systematic application of knowledge derived from theory and research.
  • To develop a critical understanding of research methodologies
  • To conceptualise, design and carry out research investigations
  • To develop an understanding of the ethical application of functional analysis

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You gain a knowledge and understanding of:

  • The  policy  and  legal  contexts  of education  and human  service  provision  for  individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities  whose behaviour  is described  as challenging.
  • Evidenced-based   intervention   options   in  designing   support   systems   for   individuals  with intellectual and developmental disabilities whose behaviour is described as challenging (with particular reference to positive behaviour  support).
  • The collection,  analysis and interpretation  of quantitative  and qualitative data relating to quality of life of individuals  whose behaviour  is described  as challenging.
  • Ethical approaches  to research.
  • Recent developments  in positive behaviour support research, practice and policy
  • How functional analysis can be used ethically to understand the development  and maintenance of challenging  behaviour.

Intellectual skills

  • The ability to review and critically comment upon academic literature.
  • The  ability to critically  analyse  data  in relation  to method,  reliability  and validity.
  • The  ability to  use  assessment  information  to  develop  strategies  for  problem  solving  and improving people's quality of life.
  • The ability to synthesise information from various sources to draw conclusions  on how best to support individuals.

Subject-specific skills

You gain the following subject-specific skills

  • The use of recognised strategies and techniques to support the provision of high quality support within services, educational or family settings.

Transferable skills

You gain the following transferable skills:

  • Working with others: Develop interpersonal and team work skills including the abilities to work collaboratively, negotiate, listen and implement change. 
  • Improving own learning: Be reflective, adaptive and collaborative in their learning; explore personal strengths  and weaknesses;  review working environment;  develop skills in time management  by delivering  academic  work on time and to the required  standard. 
  • Problem   solving:   Identify   and   define   problems;   explore   alternative   solutions   and discriminate between them.
  • Information  Technology:  Produce  written  documents;  undertake  online  research;  study and learn independently using library and internet sources.
  • Numeracy:  Use descriptive statistics in the analysis of quantitative  data; represent  data visually.

Study support

All teaching takes place at the Tizard Centre. Postgraduate research students have a shared office space with a computer and telephone.

Acclaimed active department

The Tizard Centre runs an annual seminar series where staff or guest lecturers present the results of research or highlight recent developments in the field of social care. The Jim Mansell Memorial Lecture invites public figures or distinguished academics to discuss topics that could interest a wider audience. The Centre also publishes the Tizard Learning Disability Review (in conjunction with Emerald Publishing) to provide a source of up-to-date information for professionals and carers.

The Tizard Centre provides consultancy to organisations in the statutory and independent sectors, both nationally and internationally, in diversified areas such as service assessment, person-centred approaches, active support and adult protection. The Centre also teaches a range of short courses, often in conjunction with other organisations.

Dynamic publishing culture

Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Among others, they have recently contributed to: Journal of Mental Health; Journal of Applied Research and Intellectual Disabilities; American Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities; and Journal of Intellectual Disability Research.

Global Skills Award

All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.  

Entry requirements

Students must have either completed the Diploma in Higher Education of Positive Behaviour Support or else have a recent, relevant degree.

All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, and professional qualifications and experience will also be taken into account when considering applications. 

International students

Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country. 

English language entry requirements

For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages. 

Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.

Research areas

Current research areas include: social inequalities and community care; intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Staff research interests

Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.

Dr Jill Bradshaw: Lecturer in Learning Disability

Staff attributions; communication and personcentred active support; communication environments; total communication approaches; augmentative and alternative communication.

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Professor Julie Beadle-Brown: Professor in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Autism and social impairment in learning disability; the implementation of active support in services; the effect of grouping people in services; personcentred approaches; exclusion of people with challenging behaviour from services.

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Tony Osgood: Lecturer in Learning Disability

Positive behaviour support for challenging behaviour; behaviour analysis; person-centred planning; autism and asperger’s; organisational influence on human services outcomes.

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Professor Rachel Forrester-Jones: Professor in Social Inclusion; Director of the Tizard Centre

Community care outcomes (mental health, learning disabilities); social networks and social support relating to all client groups, including university students; social inclusion; social environments; supported employment; death, bereavement and spirituality.

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Dr Nick Gore: Senior Lecturer in Learning Disability

Relational Frame Theory; acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT); challenging behaviour; supported employment.

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Professor Peter Langdon: Professor of Clinical and Forensic Psychology

Adapting, developing and evaluating psychological therapies for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities; forensic mental health problems including sexual offending and their treatment; information processing models; use of technology in psychological therapies.

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Dr Michelle McCarthy: Reader in Learning Disability

The sexuality of people with learning disabilities, in particular women with learning disabilities, and sexual abuse; sexual and reproductive health; the menopause for women with learning disabilities.

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Professor Peter McGill: Professor of Clinical Psychology of Learning Disability

Applied behaviour analysis; challenging behaviour; positive behaviour support; family support.

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Professor Glynis Murphy: Professor of Clinical Psychology and Disability

Effectiveness of cognitive behavioural treatment for men at risk of sexual offending; effectiveness of treatment for people with untreated phenylketonuria (PKU); symptoms of abuse for people with severe learning disabilities; capacity to consent to sexual relationships; early development of self-injurious behaviour; effectiveness of early intervention in autism.

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The 2018/19 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

Positive Behaviour Support - GDip at Canterbury:
UK/EU Overseas

For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact information@kent.ac.uk

General additional costs

Find out more about general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent. 


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