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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow proposed that people have basic needs that need to be met at different levels, and these needs are important drivers of human motivation.
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One well-known theory that describes the relationship between motivation and learning is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It is generally depicted as a triangle or a pyramid. Maslow stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs and that some needs take precedence over others. Our most basic need is for physical survival, physiological needs, and this will be the first thing that motivates our behaviour. However, thinking that lower level needs must be met before higher level needs is too simplistic. And today, scholars prefer to think of these levels as continuously overlapping each other. In addition to basic physiological needs, people need to feel safe, not only physically safe but psychologically safe, as well.
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From an educational point of view, if learners are preoccupied by any perceived threats to their personal safety, their employment, their self-esteem, their emotional security, this can influence the extent to which they can engage or participate in an educational activity. It’s important that learners feel safe, able to ask what they think are silly questions, and are able to make mistakes, which is all an important part of learning. Individuals also have social needs, which affect the degree to which they may get involved in an educational activity. And social needs include a sense of friendship, relationships with others, family and support by those nearest to them, or a sense of isolation from others.
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Ensuring learners feel welcomed and develop a sense of belonging in the learning environment may influence the extent to which they put themselves forward to participate or engage in activities. And this is particularly important in clinical placements. And individuals also have personal needs, which can affect their decision about whether to attend or engage in educational activities, their self esteem, the degree to which they’re able to protect it in the learning environment, and their confidence about their ability to perform the task in question, their self-respect and their respect for others involved in the activity. And finally, humans need to find meaning, summed up here in the term self actualization.
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Take a moment to think about the physiological, psychological, social, and personal, or self needs. What are the ways in which you as a teacher could pay attention to these needs, either in the classroom or in the clinical workplace? Think about the educational activity and the environment in which it’s taking place. Write down your thoughts. We’ll hear what some learners have to say about this next. And we’ll also consider the fact that liking something is not necessarily the same as being motivated and engaged with something.

Maslow proposed that people have basic needs that need to be met at different levels, and these needs are important drivers of human motivation.

Maslow’s is not a strict hierarchy, and it is not true that some needs have to met before others. However, in order for creativity, problem-solving and other important attributes to be able to flourish, we need to think about the different factors that can affect human motivation. Take a moment to think about physiological, psychological, social and personal or self-needs.

We’ll hear what some learners have to say about this next, and we will also consider the fact that liking something is not necessarily the same as being motivated and engaged with something.

Discussion point

  • What are the ways in which you as a teacher could pay attention to these needs when designing educational activities either in a classroom or in a clinical workplace?

Add your thoughts to the discussion.

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