The Glasser Classroom Model: Ombudsman’s Use of Choice Theory

Date: April 30, 2010

The Quality School by William Glasser (1998)Public schools across America are called to make decisions about administrative, classroom and pedagogical practices based upon research. Ombudsman Educational Services understands the importance of research in districts’ decision-making, and we look to current research to continually enhance the Ombudsman program.

We regularly review current research and evidence-based practices to determine the alignment of the Ombudsman model and adjust our program accordingly to best serve our students. Here is an overview of  William Glasser’s Choice Theory, which is a foundational component of the Ombudsman philosophy.

Choice theory states that:

  • All we do is behave;
  • Almost all behavior is chosen; and
  • We are driven by our genes to satisfy five basic needs: survival, love and belonging, power, freedom and fun.

Dr. Glasser feels teachers should establish a quality curriculum that meets these basic needs of the student to create a positive environment where students will “…learn useful information well.”

In his book, The Quality School (1998), Dr. Glasser “discusses how coercive management is the main problem in schools and suggests that we replace ‘bossing’ that turns students and staff into adversaries, with a system of management that brings them closer together.”

He encourages teachers to utilize the lead-management style to become “lead teachers.”

A lead teacher:

  • Discusses curriculum with the class in such a way that many topics of interest are identified;
  • Encourages students to identify topics they would like to explore in depth; and
  • Discusses with students the nature of the schoolwork that might ensue, emphasizing quality and asking for input on criteria of quality.

Dr. Glasser also states that teachers should not settle for achievement of minimal goals and “start convincing students there is quality both in what they are asked to do and how they are asked to do it.” A lead teacher can help students perform quality work by:

  • Demonstrating ways in which work can be done, using models that reflect quality;
  • Encouraging students to continually evaluate the quality of their work product; and
  • Emphasizing that everything possible will be done to provide students with necessary tools and a positive, noncoercive, nonadversarial classroom environment.

For dealing with the most challenging students, teachers can learn and apply counseling and psychotherapy strategies, such as building empathy and leaving one’s ego at the door. Admiring negative attitudes and behaviors a commonly practiced strategy of positive psychology is also encouraged. The Middle School Journal just published an excellent article on this topic: Classroom Management Strategies for Difficult Students: Promoting Change through Relationships.

You can read more on Dr. Glasser’s research here.


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