Classroom Management Theorists and Theories/William Glasser

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Theory Overview[edit | edit source]

Who is Glasser?[edit | edit source]

Dr. William Glasser is an American psychiatrist and the developer of Reality Therapy and Choice Theory. Born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1925, he was educated at Case Western Reserve University, where he received a B.S. and M.A. in clinical psychiatry. In 1953, he received his M. D. and completed his residency at UCLA and the Veterans Administration Hospital of Los Angeles. He received numerous awards for his outstanding work. These awards include an honorary degree from the University of San Francisco in 1990. He also received the American Counseling Association’s Professional Development Award in 2003 and the ACA’s “A Legend in Counseling Award” in 2004. Dr. Glasser founded The Institute for Reality Therapy in 1967, which was later renamed The Institute for Control Theory, Reality Therapy and Quality Management in 1994. The name changed again in 1996 when it was renamed The William Glasser Institute.

Dr. Glasser’s ideas are considered controversial by mainstream psychiatrists. Glasser’s ideas focus on personal choice, personal responsibility, and personal transformation, whereas his critics focus instead on classifying psychiatric syndromes and often prescribing psychotropic medications to treat mental disorders. Glasser is noted for applying his theories to broader social issues, including education, management, and marriage. He also advocated the consideration of mental health as a public health issue. By 1996, Glasser’s body of work, known as Control Theory, was renamed Choice Theory.

The Control Theory, later named Choice Theory, states that a person’s behavior is inspired by what that person wants or needs at that particular time, not an outside stimulus. Glasser states that all living creatures control their behavior to fulfill their need for satisfaction in one or more of these five areas: survival, to belong and be loved by others, to have power and importance, freedom and independence, and to have fun.[1] Every individual has the power to change their lives for the better based on the choices they make. A person can make the proper choices and take greater responsibility for their actions by asking themselves the following questions:

  • What do you want?
  • What are you doing to achieve what you want?
  • Is it working?
  • What are your plans or options?[2]

Choice Theory At A Glance[edit | edit source]

The Choice Theory - Found at the William Glasser Institute website:

Reflective Journal Entry No. 1

1. Identify at least three indicators of consistent classroom management used by the teacher and how well was the teacher able to facilitate learning?

To provide an answer to this question would fall next to impossible if Classroom Management and Classroom Management Indicator hang undefined. Classroom management is the process of managing and controlling the classroom environment. To ensure that teachers are able to get through to students in an effective and productive manner, without distractions or disruptive behavior, they use specific techniques. Classroom Management Indicators are used to measure the success that teachers have in managing their classroom and activities (Martin, 2005). Assuming what the source has presented comes with accuracy, classroom management indicators are somewhat like barometers made use of by the teachers to determine whether their strategy or two of keeping the students under a particular management are consistently operative or merely nominal. Overlooking the class from the backmost part of the classroom during the first day of classroom observation, it was virtually noticeable how the teacher underlined strategies to keep the students under an effective classroom management. Utter positive reinforcements were present. Frequent use of verbal reprimands was in the picture. Reward system, proper arrangement of chairs, individualized praises, oral recognition of misbehaviors and other common strategies were also observed. As you may have noticed, the list of strategies I detailed tends to come with quite of a length. But the number of strategies applied isn’t really a matter. What matters most is the efficiency and consistency of the technique being reinforced. To note, it has been said that “effective management is the key factor to a positive classroom environment” (Hue & Li, 2008). Consistency in reinforcing techniques of classroom management can be determined, I can tell, by at least three indicators. First, when students that constitute a class maximally involve themselves to work despite the variation of their interests, backgrounds, cultures and ideas, consistent classroom management is observably present. According to Oliver Clinton Moles (1990), classrooms are crowded and busy places in which group of students who vary in interests and abilities must be organized and directed in ways that maximize work involvement and minimize disruptions. Second, when misbehaving students of a class tend to conform their actions more often to rules and instructions set by the teacher and thus no longer misbehaving, consistent classroom management is keenly used. As any experienced teacher would say, one common fruit of effective management is the shift of students’ behavior. Third and last, when the entirety of classroom atmosphere seems to no longer need further management from the teacher, consistent classroom management is obviously present. Classroom management is basically a necessary conditioning practice done to keep the students moderated, properly propped and enabled to effectively learn. So simple logic will say when one classroom management exercise has truly been consistent and effective, all the moderation, proper propping and enabling no longer have to be done repeatedly. Using 2. What constitute a conducive learning physical learning environment? How can a teacher come up with a physical environment that is supportive of learning?

3. Why is establishing routines considered an effective practice in classroom management? 4. What routines can be established for an efficient and effective teaching-learning process? 5. To what extent does knowledge on the stages of development help the teacher in managing the class to have an effective teaching-learning?

Journal 1- p. 14 Journal 2 – p. 8 Journal 3 – p. 9 Journal 4 – p. 16

Choice Theory® is the basis for all programs taught by the Institute. It states that all we do is behave, that almost all behavior is chosen, and that we are driven by our genes to satisfy five basic needs: survival, love and belonging, power, freedom and fun. In practice, the most important need is love and belonging, as closeness and connectedness with the people we care about is a requisite for satisfying all of the needs. Choice Theory (and the Seven Caring Habits) is offered to replace external control psychology (and the Seven Deadly Habits), the present psychology of almost all the people in the world. Unfortunately, this forcing, punishing psychology is destructive to relationships. When used in a relationship it will always destroy the ability of one or both to find satisfaction in that relationship, and will result in people becoming disconnected from those with whom they want to be connected. Disconnectedness is the source of almost all human problems, such as what is called mental illness, drug addiction, violence, crime, school failure, spousal and child abuse, to mention a few. The 1998 book, Choice Theory: A New Psychology of Personal Freedom, is the primary text for all that is taught by the Institute.

Relationships and Our Habits

Seven Caring Habits Seven Deadly habits
Negotiating differences
Bribing or rewarding to control

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.[3]

Implementation[edit | edit source]

After looking through the Glasser's theory and models, what is the most effective way to learn about choice theory? What practical ways can we implement the Glasser’s Choice (Control) Theory (behavior results from one of five basic needs needing to be met) into a classroom?

Here are a few examples for both Elementary and Secondary Levels.

Elementary[edit | edit source]

When deciding to use Choice Theory in an elementary classroom, teachers must share with their students that they have a say in what they learn and how they learn it. In order to have their “say” students must learn to make choices.

In order to convey the message, a suggested way to teach the theory concept is by teaching through the use of skits or role-playing. William and Carleen Glasser have created a series of skits to assist teachers (although written for use basically in secondary schools) in teaching the theory. The skits help in teaching students about such concepts as building trust, making connections and responsible choices, making decisions, talking together, acquiring knowledge to using knowledge, authentic assessment, competency, getting along, caring and respecting, moving from external control to internal control, teaching Choice Theory to others and every student can succeed.

Can these skits be adapted to teach younger, elementary aged students? It has been accomplished. As stated by Angela Ward, her suggestion for teaching the concepts in her second grade class would be to use the series by, “restructuring the skits by changing the amount of characters from five to four to account for her teams in her classroom.” In addition, she suggests, “by keeping the names consistent throughout, the students were able to each do a different skit and the audience could follow the story line.”[4]

In addition, Glasser shares what he believes are the Seven Caring Habits which includes: Supporting, Encouraging, Listening, Accepting, Trusting, Respecting, and Negotiating Differences and he shares his belief of the Seven Deadly Habits – Criticizing, Blaming, Complaining, Nagging, Threatening, Punishing, and Bribing or rewarding to control.

To teach this in elementary schools a teacher could possibly borrow the ideas from Gail Edelman Small a teacher from Conejo Elementary School near Thousand Oaks, California. Students made creative representations to show the importance of choices. Three examples were: creating a “choice flower” – the petals on the flower were used to describe the things and people the student loved and what things or events made her feel “powerful and free.” A second example: a student created a book about her thoughts and feelings surrounding her choices. And a third example was a student who created posters of magazine cutouts about Glasser's idea of how seven caring and deadly habits make or break relationships.[5]

Secondary (Middle and High School)[edit | edit source]

Implementation of choice theory into secondary education would basically allow students the freedom of choice. Educators would only be supportive entities only to help the students make a better choice. Reaffirming that one can only control oneself would be the focus of teachers in this particular environment. Educators and students will recognize everyone’s basic needs and the necessity in fulfilling those needs in an environment that fosters caring and respect for all. Ensuring the students attain self-awareness and esteem to make better choices for themselves develops as a secondary goal. The primary goal of an educator is to prepare students for the “real world”. Real world skills that are needed are interpersonal skills and group problem solving. Secondary education would emphasize not blatant memorization but more on critical thinking skills and a problem-based learning. As in the real world, students are encouraged to seek help and help one another as necessary. Students will use all resources available, including parents, each other, texts, to demonstrate understanding. The grading system is based on competence and credit will be given only if competence is demonstrated (B). Student with an understanding above the competence level along with willingness to help others would earn an exemplary grade (A).

The following Glasser skit can be modified for elementary level students.

Skits to Help High School Student Learn Choice Theory

Critique[edit | edit source]

Support[edit | edit source]

There are over twenty “Quality Schools” that have implemented William Glasser’s Choice Theory in their schools (William Glasser Institute, 2006). Many of the supporters of Glasser’s theory believe his ideas are revolutionary and at the same time contain a basic common sense philosophy. In Corning New York they have implemented "the Choice Community Project." Many different segments of this community are involved in this project: the senior center has a support group for women; the county jail has workshops for the inmates; one pastor has couples in pre-marriage counseling read about Glasser's philosophy; and workshops have been offered to community citizens, promoting their participation the project. Supporters of the community project have stated, ..."there are signs that Corning -- person by person, household by household -- is gradually becoming a kinder, gentler place" (Foderaro, 2002, 5). One superintendent involved with the “Quality Schools” in Corning indicated that his schools have had fewer suspensions since the project began (Foderaro, 2002). Additionally, despite the claim Glasser's Choice Theory is not supported by research, educator's research using Glasser's Choice theory with students has found student's learning and retention is increased as well as overall student satisfaction in the classroom. (Cooke, 1995; Martin, 1988).

Disagreements[edit | edit source]

William Glasser has written numerous books of which two are entitled, Defining mental Health as a Public Health Problem and Warning, Psychiatry Can be Hazardous to Your Health. These titles seem to directly challenge psychological and mental health professions. Some of these professionals have countered that Glasser's work has been an attempt to reinvent theories of other theorists such as “… Erich Fromm, the psychologist Abraham Maslow and the psychotherapist Carl Rogers“ (Foderaro, 2002, p. 2).

Dr. W. Thomas Bourbon, a Perceptual Control Theorist from Rochelle, Texas wrote a review of Edward E. Ford’s book, Discipline for Home and School, Book Two: Practical Standards for Schools (revised and expanded edition). In this review, Bourbon describes a chronological history comparing the work of Ford alongside the work of Glasser. Throughout his comparison of these theorists Bourbon challenges the credibility of Glasser's work. At one point in the review Bourbon states, "Does the material I have quoted from Glasser's web site seem to indicate that he (Glasser) has modified his personal beliefs in cause-effect to make them more compatible with PCT science? Are Glasser's assertions the same as PCT? You tell me" (Bourbon, n.d., 98 section, 2). Bourbon then refers to a lack of research supporting Glasser’s work, ... "it is a serious mistake to believe that a particular set of needs has been "scientifically proved" to be real" (Bourbon, n.d., 98 section, 10).

Personal Reflections[edit | edit source]

Dee's Reflection:
As I look through the information provided for Choice Theory and the five basic needs each person has and how this reflects in our behavior, I think of these things how they relate in my private life before I put this in context with students. I agree with the theory that Glasser has shared. I have always believed that each person has choices, and each choice has some sort of outcome or consequence that results from that particular choice. When I think about using the theory in my classroom, I believe it is something that I already stress to some degree. I often convey the message to my students that most everything that we do in class leaves room for choices. For example, they can choose to behave one way or another; they have a choice whether to complete classwork; they have a choice to ask for assistance when they’re struggling with something.

In addition, I agree with the aspect of the theory that one behaves one way when a basic need is not met. For example, I had situations in my classroom where a behavior stemmed from a child wanting attention because there was a situation at home, which resulted in them possibly not feeling loved. Another example could be a student’s inappropriate behavior resulted from their need for “survival” when a skill was being introduced or reviewed because they “didn’t get it” and they were trying to downplay the lack of knowledge.

On a personal standpoint, I know, myself, if my needs aren’t being met in some way, my reactions and “behavior” is not the norm. For example, if I don’t receive a hug from my son in the morning or after school, I tend to be a little grumpy. Another example, is if I don’t have my one cup of coffee in the morning, I am very lethargic in my mood and actions.

I am in agreement with Glasser’s theory people always have control over their behavior and how the outcome for such choices or behavior will result.

Randi's Reflection:
The Choice Theory reveals a manner of observing behavior and examining the needs of individuals that appeals to me. Through an examination of the criticisms of William Glasser’s Choice Theory there was a discovery of, and an interest found for, the Perceptual Control Theory. This new interest does not change the appeal of Glasser’s work, for me, it adds an extra added dimension to understanding “the why” of needs. Why do we have the needs we do? After reading Dr. Bourbon’s opinions and perceptions I was left wondering what got him so invested in his stance, seemingly against anything to do with Glasser. Personally I see both of these theories working hand in hand, I also believe there is room for both theories.

Through my observations in life I have come to believe that … Everyone has choices everyday. Sometimes we are unaware we have or make these choices … by becoming aware … we become responsible not only for our choices but also to make these choices … consciously. We ALL have the choice about … how we feel … how we react … how we think … I believe that we ALWAYS have a choice … with everything … AND because of this choice we choose/create our reality. For do we not define reality through our thoughts and what we chose to believe.

Tammy’s Reflection:
When researching Glasser’s theory of Choice Theory, at first it sounded a bit too abstract. Although we all seek to have our needs met, I had not considered that those needs drove our every decision. I had felt that when students acted out it was because of an outstanding source or for a need for attention, but now I see that there are other motives that drive our behavior. I found the ten axioms to be fairly solid for me. There is one that I have used many times but did not know where it came from, “You cannot control another person’s behavior just your response to that behavior.” I find that to be very true. Having learned the ideas from Glasser’s Choice Theory, I can now better evaluate why a student might be acting out and determine which of his needs are not being met.

Val's Reflection:
After reviewing Glasser’s theory, I believe that many of my own personal beliefs mesh with his Choice Theory. I often tell my students that we cannot control what happens to us but we control how we choose to react. There are many hardships facing our students today, do we really want them to sit around and belly ache about how bad it is or do we want to help them take steps to improve their own situations. Choice theory does not allow ones environment to be an excuse but instead treats it as a learning opportunity. The path to becoming a responsible person is a tough one and it comes with facing problems and choosing the best way to learn from those problems. There is a need to feel we deserve better, the empowerment that develops with making one’s own decisions can only increase self-esteem. There will be mistakes but that is how problems are solved, by finding a solution. Ultimately the student’s choices determine what and how successful they will be. A personal area of improvement would be to have higher expectations for my students. I have high expectations for younger family members. In the current grading systems, I do not allow them to settle for a C. I have a friend who has observed this and asked me “Why is it okay for your students to have a C and not your nephew?” I didn’t have an answer. I feel this expectation should be relevant for everyone I care about and I have resolved to hold my students to this expectation as well. Although I might not be able to support my students as much as my own family but I feel this is an attainable goal and will strive to push my students toward it. Another expectation I would like to implement is that of helping one another, an exemplary grade can only be earned if the student chooses to help others. I believe this a very important life skill and plan to integrate it into future classes.

References[edit | edit source]


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Bourbon, T. W. (no date). Chapter 19 perceptual control theory, reality therapy, and the responsible thinking process. [Review of Chapter 19 of the book Discipline for home and school, book two: Practical standards for schools (revised and expanded edition)]. Responsible Thinking Process Retrieved June 15, 2007 from:

Cooke, B. (1995). A quality classroom: Quality teaching tools that facilitate student success. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the NISOD International Conference on Teaching Excellence (Austin, TX, May 23, 1995).

Foderaro, L.W. (2002). Corning by the book Utopian or Orwellian? The New York Times, Retrieved June 15, 2007 from:

International Association of Applied Control Theory (IAACT) ---

Martin, W. (1988). Control theory: Applications to middle-level school environments. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American educational research association (New Orleans, LA, 1998).

Nelson, T. G. (2002). An Interview with William Glasser. Teacher Education Quarterly, Summer 2002, 93-98.

Toso, R. B. (2000). Control Theory, Principal Leadership (High School Ed.), 40-3.
William Glasser Institute. (2006). Quality schools. Retrieved June 15, 2007:

Questions[edit | edit source]

What are the benefits of embracing Choice Theory by some schools, known as Quality Schools?

How would you demonstrate a situation using Glasser's Choice Theory?