Classroom Applications- The Choice Theory

William Glasser developed The Choice Theory, which is the belief that students are motivated more by their internal needs rather than traditional external needs. Glasser believes that we choose our own behavior at all times and that your behavior is the only action you have total control over. He applied this belief to education within the classrooms, specifically curriculum and instruction and classroom management.

Firstly, Glasser identified two types of classroom teachers: boss teachers and lead teachers. Boss teachers are described as being more traditional. They utilize the rules and consequences method to structure instruction. They teach using a mandated curriculum and standardized assessments. These teachers use rewards and consequences to get students to achieve what’s needed. Therefore, students’ learning are primarily motivated by rewards and avoiding punishment. On the other hand, the Choice Theory believes in having lead teachers. Lead teachers base their instruction on the basic needs of the students. Choice Theory describes the Basic Needs which provide the foundation for all motivation as: be loving and connected to others; achieving a sense of competence and personal power; acting with a degree of freedom and autonomy; experiencing joy and fun; and surviving. The Choice Theory believes that individuals have the power to change their lives for the better based on the choices they make (see The Ten Axioms of Choice Theory below).

When the Choice Theory is implemented within the classroom, students should have an active role into how and what they are taught. The teacher should structure the lesson around what internally drives the students to learn. Class meetings should be held and within these meetings, discussions should be carried on in order for the students to speak, thus allowing the teacher to understand in depth what satisfies the students’ learning. When a new topic is introduced, the teacher should ask students what they would like to explore. An example of Choice Theory and education are Sudbury Model schools. In these schools, students decide for themselves what they will learn and when, how, and where they will do it. These schools believe that the most productive learning occurs when it is pursued by the learner.

Moreover, the Choice Theory believes that teachers should be loyal to student satisfaction when organizing the instruction. Teachers should rely on cooperative, active learning techniques that boost the potential of the learners. Glasser believes that the teacher should be able to manage effectively in order to successfully teach students. The teacher's overall goal is to get students to see that what they are doing is worth the effort and will add quality to their lives. Likewise, only “good grades” should be given ( those that verify quality work) to satisfy students’ need for mastery. If a student does not earn a satisfactory grade in a subject, that course is not recored on the student’s transcript. Teachers do not use a standard grading system; teachers grade students using an absolute standard instead. Self-evaluation is a cornerstone of Choice Theory. Students should be able to routinely evaluate their own performance. This will allow students to take a greater ownership of their learning, thus becoming more profound decision-makers.

Additionally, in regards to classroom management, Glasser’s Choice Theory suggests that teachers can assist their students and help them identify the circumstances that drive their behavior. This approach strives to teach the student that success and achievement are the result of good behavior, not the cause. Guided questions should be used to manage individual student’s behavior. In Glasser’s method, he says that the teacher must first ask the student what he is doing. Second, after the student replies the teacher should ask him how the behavior is helping the class. Lastly, the teacher asks the student how he can change his behavior to help the class. However, if the student reacts to the questions negatively, the student has broken a rule and should receive consequences. There must be a nonthreatening, student centered, and honest environment in order for this theory to work. In closing, Choice Theory emphasizes the importance of building and maintaing positive relationships with others to create a shared vision. Today, many teachers implement this theory into their classrooms.

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 behaviors are Total Behaviors and are made up of four components: acting, thinking, feeling and physiology. All Total Behaviors are chosen, but we only have direct control over the acting and thinking components.
9. 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.

Choice Theory Chart

by LaToya Vance


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