Introducing Choice Theory

Choices Session 5 explores Choice Theory and its 5 basic needs – survival, love and belonging, power, freedom and fun – which sometimes heighten vulnerability as we see in Marcus’ Story, our interactive digital comic.

Introducing Choice Theory

Fundamentals of Choice Theory

Session Five builds on Choice Theory, which states that all we do is behave, and almost all behaviour is chosen according to our need to survive, love and belong, have power, freedom, or fun. Therefore, everything we do is our best attempt to achieve what we want at each given point in time and with the information available. Getting what we believe is lacking or what we wish to have ultimately satisfies one or more of these needs. 

Choice Theory and young people

In choice theory, the most critical need is love and belonging because connectedness with others is required to satisfy all other needs. This idea is particularly pertinent in the case of young people. When their needs aren’t met and because of their relative inexperience, they can often unwittingly communicate a deficit through their actions or communications. Such behaviour enables would-be predators to identify them and, in offering to meet those needs, influence them to make choices that can put their future at serious risk. Helping pupils understand this, and its impact on their decision-making demonstrates how we can sometimes be manipulated. Indeed, the offer of satisfying our basic needs can be used against us to force a choice we ordinarily might not even consider.

The interactive story is again used to explore these basic needs and how they impact Marcus’s decisions. Pupils are invited to think about what, if anything, has changed about how Marcus behaves in different scenarios and explore which of his needs might be driving his choices as well as who might be influencing or manipulating those needs. These concepts open up discussions around how our needs can make us potentially vulnerable and, in doing so, begin the process of understanding how we can develop greater resilience in the face of our vulnerabilities.

The Choices Classroom

pupils learning about Choice theory in a classroom

Choice Theory also aligns with the ‘safe space’ notion that underpins the Choices classroom: a needs-satisfying place where teachers develop positive relationships with pupils and create active, relevant learning experiences that enable students to demonstrate mastery and success.

Moreover, these principles have also guided the programme more broadly, with classroom activities designed to satisfy the pupils’ needs. This increases learning while diminishing disruption, leaving pupils to “connect, feel a sense of competence and power, have some freedom, and enjoy themselves in a safe, secure environment” (see Funderstanding).

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