Glasser's control theory approach to classroom management

This approach, put forward by Glasser, is a mixture of interactionist, humanist and behaviourist approaches.

Glasser believes in power sharing classroom meetings to deal with any issues including rules, behaviour, discipline and so on.

Students are allowed to discuss any topic without fear of condemnation. The outcome of the meeting should be an agreement of the solution(s) to the problems by both parties. This goes ımplies an agreement to follow the solution through.

Glasser’s Control Theory

  • Students need to have a sense of belonging
  • Students need to feel important
  • Students need to have fun and freedom

Glasser believes that we are all social and that we therefore like the support and interest of others, and that by working together in small teams:

  • students gain a sense of belonging (teams should include low, middle and high achievers)
  • belonging provides the initial motivation and as they experience success, students see that knowledge is power and want to work harder because of this aspect
  • stronger students find it fulfilling to help weaker ones
  • weaker students like participating because their contribution is accepted and seen as beneficial
  • students do not need to be dependent on their teachers
  • teams are free to choose their most effective way of learning.

Teams need to be challenged regularly to ascertain their stage of development

Glasser stresses the importance of complete individual and team involvement. All must contribute.

Glasser’s reality theory

Based on the need of students to maintain their self-worth in order to continue with their improvement in behaviour, and therefore, academic achievement. The foundation of the Reality Therapy is the idea that regardless of what has happened in our lives, we are able to choose more appropriate behaviours that will help us meet our needs more effectively in the future.

Using this approach, the teacher focuses on helping the student evaluate his or her behaviour – and adjusting it. The role of the teacher is not to make judgements and give punishment, but rather, by using a nine-step process of questioning and providing an opening for self-evaluation, the student will understand their own accountability and will therefore, aim to improve.

Glasser sees teacher-imposed punishment as counter-productive in this process. The students need to realise for themselves that inappropriate behaviour effects not only themselves but those around them as well.

A vital aspect of Glasser’s Theory is for the teacher to make use of positive encouragement and attention to students who do abide by the rules and display acceptable behaviour.

Glasser’s nine steps of his Reality Theory are: (as cited in McInerney and McInerney:1998,p.220-221)

1. The student is confronted and told to stop the misbehaviour.

2. The student is then asked to explain the behaviour that was occurring.. The teacher uses “What” questions, not “Why”. This prevents the student from finding excuses, such as “I had to get up because he stole my pencil”, and draws attention to the cause of the problem (self-evaluation)

3. If the rule-breaking behaviour continues, step 2 is repeated, adding “Is it against the rules?” here the emphasis is on the consequences of the behaviour (student responsibility): “If you continue to do this what will happen?”

4. The teacher asks the student to make a plan or commitment to finding alternatives. “What are you going to do about your behaviour?” or “What is your plan so that you don’t break the rule again?”

5. Sometimes the students may be asked to go to the “castle” (Glasser’s term for isolation desk or corner in the classroom) until the problem is worked out. This isolation is a logical consequence of breaking the class rules. This step is vital as it places responsibility with the student for his or her own behaviour and for finding alternatives (accountability)

6. If the rule-breaking behaviour still persists, steps 2-5 are repeated but the teacher indicates that support will be provided. The teacher arranges specific time and location in the near future to help in the development of the plan and to provide encouragement for it to work. The student is allowed to return to the class after a solution has been arrived at.

7. If the student fails to fulfil his or her commitment and plan, the next step is isolation to a designated room (Principals office or Special Isolation Room). Steps 2, 3, 4 and 5 are repeated by the Principal, grade supervisor or school counsellor, who has been notified earlier. Parents may be involved in solving the problem.

8. Finally, if the student is out of control, the parents are notified and asked to collect the student immediately. The student may return to the school when he or she obeys the rules.

9. If all else fails, the parents and students are referred to an outside agency to “work it out”.

The focus is on the students’ behaviour, not the student – ‘love the sinner not the sin’.

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