What is The Pyramid Approach to Education®?

The Pyramid Approach to Education is a comprehensive framework for establishing and supporting effective learning environments. Designed by Andy Bondy, PhD, and based on the principles of functional applied behaviour analysis (ABA), The Pyramid Approach offers a solid foundation for those who teach in education, work, home or community settings. This unique model benefits individuals with developmental differences, autism, communication challenges and/or other learning complications across all ages.

Maximising learner outcomes requires not only information about what and how to teach – it requires a plan to put all the pieces together.  The Pyramid Approach provides a clear guide for everyone on the team to determine what elements to address in a specific order. Just as building a pyramid begins with establishing a firm foundation before constructing the body of the building, the Pyramid Approach begins with a strong foundation, relying on a science-based approach to teaching.

The Pyramid Approach involves a distinction between structural and instructional components.

The structural elements form the base, creating an environment conducive to learning. These foundational elements include:

  1. Functional Activities
  2. Powerful Reinforcement Systems
  3. Functional Communication and Social Skills
  4. Addressing Contextually Inappropriate Behaviours (CIBs)

The instructional elements form the top of the Pyramid and include information relevant to the creation of effective lessons. The top elements include:

  1. Generalisation
  2. Lesson Formats
  3. Teaching/Prompting Strategies
  4. Error Correction (uniquely developed and suited to specific prompting strategies)

All elements involve data-based decision making, requiring both systematic data collection and analysis. When all of the elements are combined, the approach results in success for staff, parents and students. By implementing the Pyramid Approach to Education you will build an effective learning environment that will result in progress and increased independence.

The Pyramid Approach emphasises the “why” of learning and “how” to teach rather than simply “what” to teach, allowing each learner’s program to be individually tailored to meet their learning goals.

The “what” of teaching

Critical components to encourage independence across all environments

The “how" of teaching

Systematic strategies to maximise an individual’s learning outcomes

Functional Activities

Lessons to develop independence using materials designed to promote practical use and long term skill development

Powerful Reinforcement Systems

Visual systems to mediate access to powerful reinforcers

Functional Communication

Communication skills necessary to develop independence embedded within activities across the day

Contextually Inappropriate Behaviours

Identification of the functional control of contextually inappropriate behaviours with a focus on teaching and supporting equivalent replacements


Long terms goals are planned before start of teaching addressing both stimulus and response features

Effective Lessons

Distinguishes between and identifies lesson types including discrete versus sequential lessons, as well as teacher- versus learner-led lessons

Teaching Strategies

Describes a set of evidence-based strategies that may involve shaping or the use of prompts along with clear effective strategies to remove prompts

Error Correction

Systematic use of error correction strategies designed to promote learning opportunities and to match the strategy to the lesson type

To learn more about how you can use the Pyramid Approach to build more effective learning environments we recommend attending Pyramid Approach Training or contacting us to schedule Support Services.