Choice Theory - William Glasser

Choice theory is based on the ideas that all we do is behave and that most of our behavior is chosen with drives, which originate by our genes to satisfy five basic needs:

  1. survival,
  2. love and belonging,
  3. power,
  4. freedom and
  5. fun.

The most important need is love and belonging, which is represented in the closeness and connectedness we have with the people we care about that is necessary for us to satisfy all our needs.

Choice theories - Seven Caring Habits are to replace the old external control psychology with its Seven Deadly Habits.

Seven Caring Habits

  1. Supporting
  2. Encouraging
  3. Listening
  4. Accepting
  5. Trusting
  6. Respecting
  7. Negotiating differences

Seven Deadly Habits

  1. Criticizing
  2. Blaming
  3. Complaining
  4. Nagging
  5. Threatening
  6. Punishing
  7. Bribing, rewarding to control

The seven deadly habits result from the external control, presently used by almost all people in the world. It is destructive to relationships by creating interactions that disconnection us from each other and result in human problems: mental illness, drug addiction, violence, crime, school failure, spousal abuse, and such.

The Ten Axioms of Choice Theory

  1. The only person whose behavior we can control is our own.
  2. All we can give another person is information.
  3. All long-lasting psychological problems are relationship problems.
  4. The problem relationship is always part of our present life.
  5. What happened in the past has everything to do with what we are today, but we can only satisfy our basic needs right now and plan to continue satisfying them in the future.
  6. We can only satisfy our needs by satisfying the pictures in our Quality World.
  7. All we do is behave.
  8. All behavior is Total Behavior and is made up of four components: acting, thinking, feeling and physiology.
  9. All Total Behavior is chosen, but we only have direct control over the acting and thinking components. We can only control our feeling and physiology indirectly through how we choose to act and think.
  10. All Total Behavior is designated by verbs and named by the part that is the most recognizable.

Key ideas of William Glasser

Human progress is measure by better relationships in marriage, family, work, and school.

Students feel pleasure when their basic needs are met and frustration when they are not.

Success is dependent on good relationships.

At least half of today's students will not commit themselves to learning if they find their school
experience boring, frustrating, or otherwise dissatisfying.

Few students in today's schools do their best work.

Today's schools must create quality conditions in which fewer students and teachers are frustrated.

What schools require is a new commitment to quality education.

The school curriculum should be limited to learnings that have usefulness or other relevance in students'

Students should be allowed to acquire in-depth information about topics they recognize as being useful
or relevant in their lives.

Students show that quality learning has occurred when able to demonstrate or explain how, why, and
where their learnings are valuable.

Teachers, instead of scolding, coercing, or punishing, should try to befriend their students, provide
encouragement and stimulation, and show an unending willingness to help.

Teachers who dictate procedures, order students to work, and berate them (using sarcasm and ridicule)
when they do not, are increasingly ineffective with today's students.

Teachers who provide a stimulating learning environment, encourage students, and help them as much
as possible are most effective with today's learners.

What Glasser believes and proposes:

  1. The school curriculum must be organized to meet students' needs for survival, belonging, power, fun,
    and freedom.
  2. Education which does not give priority to meeting student needs is bound to fail.
  3. Quality schoolwork and self-evaluation (of quality) by students must replace the fragmented and
    boring requirements on which students are typically tested and evaluated.
  4. School should be a place where students learn useful information through a quality curriculum. Quality curriculum provides students with learnings that are enjoyable, useful and
    not considered "nonsense" by the students.
  5. Teachers must abandon traditional teaching practices and move toward quality teaching.
  6. Common sense is that which we do without thinking.

Quality teaching consists of

  1. Providing a warm, friendly, supportive classroom climate.
  2. Asking students to do only work that is useful.
  3. Always asking students to do the best they can.
  4. Asking students to evaluate work they have done and improve it.
  5. Helping students see that quality work makes them feel good.
  6. Helping students see that quality work is never destructive to oneself, others or to the environment.
  7. Having students involved in the development of classroom routines and rules, and reasonable, logical consequences.

Initiating Glasser's Noncoercive Discipline.

Step 1. Involve students in discussions about topics to be pursued, ways of working, procedures for reporting or demonstrating accomplishment, establishment of class rules, and decisions about steps to be taken when misbehavior occurs. You offer your opinions but give serious attention to student suggestions.

Step 2. Make plain to students that you will try to arrange activities they might have suggested and that you will do all in your power to help them learn and succeed.

Step 3. Learn how to be a lead teacher - one who believes that students must motivate themselves rather than a boss teacher - one who believes that the teacher must motivate the students.

Step 4. Hold regular class meetings to discuss curriculum, procedures, behavior, and other educational topics. These meetings should always be conducted with an eye to improving learning conditions for the students, never as a venue for finding-fault, blaming, or criticizing.

Step 5. When students misbehave, discuss their behavior and why it was inappropriate for the class. Ask them what they feel you could do in order to be more helpful to them. If the misbehavior is serious or chronic, talk with the involved student privately at an appropriate time.

Application of Choice Theory
Suggestions for Exploring Relationships

Process for Seeking a Solution

  1. Don't react in your usual way or do anything that you've done in the last few occurrences of the problem
  2. Work to stop common reactive behaviors because they are not working.
  3. Use a conversational approach, asking each participant what they would like to do to solve the problem.
  4. Let each participant explain how they will learn the desirable behavior.
  5. Ask participants for their help in changing the behavior: "Would you help me change this behavior?

    If they agree, brainstorm ways to make changes to achieve the desired result. Obtain a commitment from all parties to do their best to achieve the goal. Might want to write a summary that liists the participants, the desired expected outcomes, the strategies students and the teacher will use to change behaviors, and all parties sign.

    If they do not agree, ask: "Why are we talking?" ... wait for their answer, do not answer for them. Use questioning (not lecturing) strategies in a non-confrontational manner to draw the students toward a commitment to change behaviors.
  6. If no commitment for change can be obtained, then discuss the logical consequences for their undesirable behavior. Remember: the choice must be the child's choice, offered in a non-coercive environment.

Dr. Robert Sweetland's Notes ©