Information on this page about the interventions is based on the book, Prevent-Teach-Reinforce: The School-Based Model of Individualized Positive Behavior Support, Second Edition by G. Dunlap, R. Iovannone, D. Kincaid, K. Wilson, K. Christiansen, and P. S. Strain. 

What is the strategy? Why does it work?

For peer modeling, same-aged peers work with the target student and model desired academic/social responses and/or provide targeted support to the student to engage in tasks or activities that are typically contexts in which the student exhibits challenging behavior. Video models of peers engaged in desired behaviors can be used to teach replacement behaviors. Face-to-face peer modeling involves training a peer to support the target student by modeling situationally-appropriate behavior in order to prompt the student to imitate the behavior. Peer support provides the student with peer guidance to engage in a task (e.g., showing an example or model of how to do the task, encouraging student to do the task, and providing feedback). Peer modeling and support has been shown to increase desired behavior and decrease challenging behavior, specifically for students whose challenging behavior functions to access peer attention. This intervention is also effective in increasing academic engagement and skill acquisition. For many students, peer attention and peer modeling is a powerful motivator.

Functions and antecedents the peer modeling intervention works for


  • the function of challenging behavior is to obtain peer attention
  • the student has deficits in social skills
  • the student is not engaged in academic instruction when working independently, performs better when engaged in peer partner activities
  • proximity to certain peers increases likelihood of desired behavior
  • frequency or intensity of challenging behavior increases during certain times or activities, and/or when in close proximity to certain peers

Steps for Implementation

  1. Refer to PTR Hypothesis to determine contexts in which challenging behavior functions as a means for accessing peer attention.
  2. Decide method of peer modeling/support to be used in each context.
    • Ex: peer video-taping of desired behaviors, real-time peer modeling (e.g., assigning a peer partner), or providing academic/behavioral support through collaborating with a peer.
  3. Determine behaviors to be modeled and write a script for the peer(s) to follow
    • For real-time peer modeling, script should include: specific behaviors, when peer should model (e.g., during contexts in which challenging behavior occurs and prior to student engaging in any challenging behavior), what peer should say/do when modeling, how to prompt student to imitate if student doesn’t respond after desired behavior is modeled, and how to give feedback and reinforcement.
    • In peer model video recordings, the teacher should be present to reinforce behaviors being modeled (e.g., “I like the way George is holding his pencil.”).
  4. For peer collaboration/support, determine nature of support that best matches PTR assessment information related to context of challenging behavior occurring and provide a script/plan for peer to follow while providing support.
  5. Select peers who will serve as models/supporters.
    • Peers should be caring, empathetic, and preferred by student.
  6. Schedule time to directly teach script/plan to peers.
    • Initial teaching should occur without the student.
    • Explanation, rationale, modeling, role-playing and feedback are used during teaching sessions.
    • Depending on peers’ age, several teaching sessions may be necessary. Teaching sessions for younger peers (e.g., kindergarten-2nd grade) should be short (e.g., 5-15 minutes) and may need to be repeated 2-3 times.
  7. Schedule time to practice with student.
    • Set up a simulation that is like the context in which modeling/support will be provided.
    • Provide feedback to student and peers as they practice the intervention.
    • If using video recording, be present when activity begins in which the student is to use modeled behaviors.
    • Decide on comments that will be delivered to student to encourage imitation of modeled behaviors (e.g., “I bet you can keep working on that task as well as Anna did in the tape.”)
  8. Determine date of implementation.
    • Initially, be present when intervention is being implemented so that peers can be prompted to use strategies at appropriate times.
  9. If video-recordings are to be used, determine when and how student will view videos.
    • To prevent challenging behavior, ideal time to view videos is prior to the environmental event/context in which challenging behavior occurs. Students can watch videos on computers/tablets with headphones.
    • Initially, student may need several scheduled times for reviewing videos. This can be gradually faded.

Important Considerations

  • Make sure peers are involved in the development of the script to ensure that the language and physical behaviors being modeled are age-appropriate and natural for the peers to perform.
  • Selection of peers is critical for the success of this strategy and enhancing the target student’s buy-in.
  • Videos should not be of long duration. Videos that are 3-4 minute in duration are ideal.
  • Provide rewards to the peers who are providing the modeling or support.

How to implement this strategy in multiple ways (examples & resources)

Skills that can be targeted through peer modeling: 

  • Attending Skills (Eye Contact, Responding to others)
  • Language and Communication Skills
  • Conversation Skills
  • Play Skills
  • Social Etiquette (Greetings, Manners, Compliments)
  • Nonverbal Communication and Body Language
  • Perspective Taking
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Giving and Following Directions
  • Reading Social Cues & Social Problem Solving

Peer Modeling – Video-record peers modeling specific desired behaviors in the contexts that are occasions for the target student’s challenging behavior.

Peer Support – Arrange for the peers to work in a cooperative activity rather than independent work. Cooperative activities should consider the skills of the peers and assign roles/responsibilities so that each peer has an opportunity for input, participation, and successful outcomes

Evidence-Based Practice Brief Packet: Peer-mediated Instruction and Intervention – Includes an overview of the practice, explains the evidence base, outlines step-by-step-guides, implementation checklists, data collection sheets, tip sheets, parent guide, and additional resources.

Peer Monitoring Webinar (41:14) – This webinar in the Strategic Behavior Intervention Series explains the core components of peer mentoring programs, steps to implementation, how to overcome potential pitfalls, and related resources.

Peer model early childhood examples/explanation video (3:53)

Secondary Peer Modeling videos playlist – Videos of examples and nonexamples of social skills being modeled by peers

10 Practical Principles for Peer Supports: Getting Students Ready to Help – Implementation tips for preparing secondary students to become peer supports

Incorporating Peer Modeling into AAC training – This article provides ideas and examples of using peer modeling to support the learning needs of students using AAC devices.

Peer Support Handbook: Guidance for Peer Mentors – This student handbook from the West Linn-Wilsonville School District offers information for peer mentors, such as strategies and examples of ways to support students with disabilities. It includes guidance on incorporating AAC devices, tips for maintaining safety and confidentiality, and a sample Peer Mentor Agreement form.

Peer Training – This resource offers guidance on training peers to support young students with disabilities. It includes tips for choosing peer models/supports, two video demonstrations of peers being trained, and a list of various peer support strategies accompanied by examples. (From the Evidence-Based Instructional Practices for Young Children with Autism & Other Disabilities project)

Peer Support Planning Tool – Download a template for planning peer support interventions from the Kentucky Peer Support Network Project.

Supporting Research

Carter, E. W., Asmus, J., Moss, C. K., Biggs, E. E., Bolt, D. M., Born, T. L., Brock, M. E., Cattey, G. N., Chen, R., Cooney, M., Fesperman, E., Hochman, J. M., Huber, H. B., Lequia, J. L., Lyons, G., Moyseenko, K. A., Riesch, L. M., Shalev, R. A., Vincent, L. B., & Weir, K. (2016). Randomized evaluation of peer support arrangements to support the inclusion of high school students with severe disabilities. Exceptional Children, 82(2), 209–233.

Kourassanis, J., Jones, E.A. & Fienup, D.M. (2015). Peer-video modeling: Teaching chained social game behaviors to children with ASD. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 27(1), 25–36.

Laureati, M., Bergamaschi, V., & Pagliarini, E. (2014). School-based intervention with children. Peer-modeling, reward and repeated exposure reduce food neophobia and increase liking of fruits and vegetables. Appetite, 83, 26–32.

Presley, J. A., & Hughes, C. (2000). Peers as teachers of anger management to high school students with behavioral disorders. Behavioral Disorders, 25(2), 114–130.

Richards, L. C., Heathfield, L. T., & Jenson, W. R. (2010). A classwide peer-modeling intervention package to increase on-task behavior. Psychology in the Schools, 47(6), 551–566.

Sani-Bozkurt, S., & Ozen, A. (2015). Effectiveness and efficiency of peer and adult models used in video modeling in teaching pretend play skills to children with autism spectrum disorder. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 50(1), 71–83.

Urlacher, S., Wolery, M., & Ledford, J. R. (2016). Peer modeling of commenting during small group direct instruction for academic behaviors. Journal of Early Intervention, 38(1), 24–40.

Werts, M. G., Caldwell, N. K., & Wolery, M. (1996). Peer modeling of response chains: Observational learning by students with disabilities. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 29(1), 53–66.