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Glasser’s Control Theory in the Classroom seems to be an argument for a lot more group work in schools. It’s more complicated than that, but I fear that many of the book’s readers will have ignored everything about control theory and simply taken away a greater fanaticism for group work. Active, quick-fix solutions are always easier than making the effort to actually care about people, and using control theory in the classroom would require a teacher to not just care about his students, but to do the unthinkable — to respect his students as individuals.

So I imagine people see the book as little more than an argument for group work. It was published in the 1980s, so I imagine it was a factor in the increase in group work in the schools I grew up attending.

I hated group work in school. Being an excellent student who was concerned about grades, I always ended up doing at least as much work as I would have for an individual assignment, and I normally derived less educational benefit from it. If any of my groupmates wanted to contribute to the joint effort, it usually only made my lot worse — then I’d have to spend time convincing them they were wrong before I could push ahead with doing it my way and earning us an A. I certainly encountered exceptions throughout my schooling (particularly in grad school), but this tended to be the rule.

It’s sad for me that something as useful as control theory would get so wed to such a bankrupt practice as group work as to seem unappealing. Certainly many of Glasser’s readers must have missed his key points.

But Glasser himself also seems to miss the key point. The learning teams he proposes in the book are not the only way to implement control theory in the classroom. By emphasizing his prized method, he distracts readers from the underlying principles which are of far greater value.

And perhaps that’s a lesson I should take with me into the classroom.

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