Apply with Caution: The Limitations of Choice Theory

The Choice Theory concept is very practical to implement in schools, although there are some limitations to the theory.

  1. Dr. Glasser believes that all mental illnesses or diseases outlined in the DSM-IV-TR are as a result of an individual’s brain ‘creatively expressing its unhappiness’ (Glasser, 1998). It is irrational of Dr. Glasser to postulate that their is no such thing as mental illness (White, 2005). It is of concern that Glasser refers to all medications as “brain drugs” and at times compares them to poison (White, 2005).
  2. For Choice Theory to be effective it must be applied across the whole school. If teachers are time poor or the Choice Theory conflicts with their individual pedagogy, the Choice Theory will be ineffective and confuse students (Lyons et.al, 2011). To implement it seamlessly it must be a school-wide initiative.
  3. Jay Weinstein also raises the point that students behaviour is likely to be affected by other factors such as the group dynamic; behaviour is unlikely to be solely dependent on student needs (Weinstein, 2000). Students often alter their behaviour depending on the size group and the dynamics of the group.
  4. The final criticism of the Choice Theory is that a conflict in ideas exists between the fact that a student purposefully chooses total behaviour but doesn’t use behaviour to control or express individual perceptions (Bourbon, 1994).

Although the theory has been met with criticism it should not be discounted to the point that it isn’t applied. The criticisms point out that when applying this model in schools, care must be taken to ensure it is a school-wide approach, all teachers are on board and have the time to attend to students needs, and teachers are leaders as apposed to bosses in the classroom (Lyons et.al, 2011).


Glasser, W. (1998b). Choice Theory in The Classroom (rev ed.) New York: Harper Collins.

White, C. (2005). Warning: Psychiatry Can Be Hazardous to Your Mental Health. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry, 7(2): 76

Lyons, G., Ford, M., Arthur-Kelly, M. (2011). Classroom Management: Creating Positive Learning Environments. South Melbourne, Australia: Cengage Learning

Weinstein, Jay. (2000). The Place of Theory in Applied Sociology: A Reflection. Theory and Science. 1, 1.

Bourbon, W. Thomas and Ford, Ed. (1994) Discipline at Home and at School. Brandt: New York.

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Choice Theory Further Explained

Choice Theory is a theory which can be applied to an educational context where the only person’s behaviour one can control is their own. 
As teachers, we cannot control students behaviour but we can give them all the information they need to make the wisest choice. 

An assumption under the Choice Theory is that all long-lasting psychological problems stem from some sort of relationship breakdown.  The past will effect all aspects of the students present and future life, but we must aim to meet their present and future basic needs. 

According to the Choice Theory, each and every movement and/or action is a behaviour; the categories of Total Behaviour include acting, thinking, feeling and physiology. No behaviour is incidental and stems from internal, as opposed to external, motivation. 

William Glasser Institute- US. (2010). The William Glasser Approach. Retrieved from: www.wglasser.com/the-glasser-approach/choice-theory

Choice Theory. (2006). The 10 Axioms of Choice Theory. Retrieved from:  

http://www.choicetheory.com/ct.htm

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Choice Theory Overview

Bob Hoglund, from the William Glasser Institute, gives an overview of Choice Theory in a short YouTube clip. He explains it as ‘a theory of how and why we behave’ (Hoglund, 2008). He breaks down all choices to pure internal motivation, ‘no one is externally motivated to go to the shops’ (Hoglund, 2008). He uses the example that students on probation have a choice when coming to school, they vote with their feet that school is a better option than going back the jail. ‘We always have a choice in every situation; we don’t always have a good choice in every situation’ (Hoglund, 2008). From my posts explaining Choice Theory it seems like an almost flawless model… stay posted for the challenges and criticisms of the model.

Hoglund, B. (2008, Sep 8). Choice Theory Introduction.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-2BzLKGx_ng

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Dr. Glasser talks through Choice Theory

William Glasser, the author behind Choice Theory explains that ‘Choice Theory can be taught to anyone that understands what a choice is’ (Choicetheory1, 2010). The ultimate choices, the choice we as teachers should encourage students to make, are mentally healthy choices. William Glasser refers to the ‘good’ choices as ‘helping habbits’, and the ‘bad’ choices are ‘harmful habbits’. Be wary, throughout the video William Glasser expresses his discontent for the DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), the ‘bible’ for school psycholodists. Dr Glasser disagrees with liberally naming children with learning difficulties just because ‘they dont get along well with people’ (Choicetheory1, 2010). The DSM IV is a useful tool for school psychologist but has been criticised widely on reliability, dividing lines and cultural bias (Vedantam, S, 2005)

Choicetheory1, (2010, Feb 5). Dr. Glasser Reality Therapy and Choice Theory. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FckebmElMa8

Vedantam, S. (2005, June 26). Psychiatry’s Missing Diagnosis: Patients’ Diversity Is Often Discounted Washington Post: Mind and Culture. The Washington Post, pp. 3.

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Goal Centered Theory vs Choice Theory

Goal Centered Theory and Choice Theory have some key principles in common. Under both theories, the teacher aspires to meet all students’ basic needs. Motivation is also a key element under both theories. The Goal Centered Theory proposes that students are motivated to behave in certain ways depending on whether their basic needs are met, for attention seeking reasons or to exact revenge (Dreikurs, 1998). The Choice Theory depicts that students are motivated almost entirely internally; the students control how the motivation is channeled (Glasser, 1998). The most significant distinction between the two theories is that under the Goal Centered Theory students misbehave because they seek social recognition or have unmet needs, where as under the Choice Theory students misbehave for reasons such as belonging, control, freedom and also to satisfy needs.
 

Glasser, W. (1998b). Choice Theory in The Classroom (rev ed.) New York: Harper Collins. 

Dreikurs, R,. Grunwalk, B., & Pepper, F. (1998). Maintaining sanity in the classroom: Classroom management techniques (2nd ed reprinted from 1982). Washington DC: Taylor and Francis. 

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Response to previous post:
Goal Centered Theory is a great classroom strategy but it may not work in all situations. The following are some criticisms on Dreikurs’ Goal Centered Theory:

* Some students misbehave or lack motivation for reasons other than the desire to belong.
Younger students often lack the knowledge of their motives and older students are often unwilling to communicate their desire to belong.
* Teachers often lack training to identify the students’ motives for behaviour in specific ways and may make premature judgements.
* Teachers may be reluctant to choose a democratic-style classroom due to the higher level of duty of care, responsibility and accountability required. On the other hand, an autocratic-style classroom is not conducive to Goal Centered Theory.

Lyons, G., Ford, M., Arthur-Kelly, M. (2011). Classroom Management: Creating Positive Learning Environments. South Melbourne, Australia: Cengage Learning

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Goal Centered Theory: Rudolph Dreikurs

Goal Centered Theory: Rudolph Dreikurs

Characteristics of Goal Centered Theory:
* Teachers seek out needs-based explanations for student’s misbehaviour.
* Student’s behaviour is ‘orderly and pursposful’
* Students misbehave with the hope that it leads to group belonging

Implementation of Goal Centered Theory:
To effectively implement this model the teacher must engage the whole class in a discussion about meeting needs. The students must understand that the teacher will give them choices (especially with rules), will be flexible with consequences, and will model consistent and considerate behaviour.(Lyons, Ford & Arthur-Kelly M, 2011)

Lyons, G., Ford, M., Arthur-Kelly, M. (2011). Classroom Management: Creating Positive Learning Environments. South Melbourne, Australia: Cengage Learning

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