What is the Practical Use of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in Education?

Hello, my dear colleagues! In this post, I want to discuss Maslow’s hierarchy of needs because I believe it is an essential theory for every teacher to apply and have in mind, especially in difficult times.

To introduce the concept of Maslow’s hierarchy, I will share a full, unedited transcript of my video as a semi-formal article. You can find the video at the bottom of the article.

If you’re a psychologist, a researcher, or an educator, you’ve probably heard about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs many times.

The question remains: Why is it so important? What is it, and why do we keep talking about it in 2020? Now, I’m going to try and answer this short question in this video.

First, let’s meet Abraham Maslow, the founder of humanistic psychology and the creator of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. He created this theory a long time ago, but we still talk about it.

To start off, let’s think about how do we feel when we are under the weather? We are not very motivated to do anything.

What happens if we are happy, if we are well fed and if we have family support? We continue to feel motivated, and then we even dream and think about our future. What do we dream of?

If we think about this theory in the shape of a pyramid, we can start from the lower levels and see what we need to have to feel motivated and achieve something.

If we think about this theory in the shape of a pyramid, we can start from the lower levels and see what we need to have to feel motivated and achieve something.

Let’s talk about the pyramid

Maslow's hierarchy of needs - Wikipedia

First, we have basic physiological needs such as air, water, shelter, food, sleep, clothing, and reproduction.

After the physiological needs, we have safety needs, including security, employment, resources, health, and prosperity.

After the safety needs, we need to have love and belonging to thrive. The things that we need there are friendship, intimacy, and family support.

After love and belonging, we need to have self-esteem, and esteem includes things such as respect, recognition, freedom, and self-esteem.

Self-actualization is the final step of the motivational pyramid and includes becoming the most one can be. 

The reevaluated pyramid

Now, researchers have reevaluated the pyramid and realized that it is not actually a pyramid. Instead, our motivation is more shaped in circles that are constantly connected. This seems more logical now.

Think about it – now that you’ve seen Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, what would be the practical use of such a theory in your classroom?

What is the practical use of Maslow’s theory in your classroom?

Sometimes, when our students feel tired, they can not function, and their energy is drained. But, on the other hand, there are problems such as feeling hungry which can distract us from doing the plainest things we do every day.

Some of our students may have different issues, such as being sick or their family members may be sick. Unfortunately, this also prevents our students from thriving and learning.

This all leads us to a logical conclusion: What needs do we have to satisfy to succeed in the learning process?  The students’ basic needs need to be satisfied.

Finally, if we think about classroom instruction and how we communicate, we need to stop teaching frontally and include our students more.

To switch to a student-centered approach, the communication and information need to flow in every direction, in which we are not teachers but co-constructors of knowledge.

Let’s go back to Maslow, and let’s thank him for teaching us that before learning, we need to think about other aspects of the motivational ladder.

This research was published in a 1943 paper called “A Theory of Human Motivation.”

What do you think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? Do you see its place in your classroom? Write in the comments or via the contact page. I would love to hear your opinion!

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About Alice Glass

Alice is a 29 years old English teacher with a B.Ed and M.Ed. with a double minor (English teaching methodology for young learners and Serbian language teaching methodology). She is also a young but published academic researcher, materials designer, and an online ESL teacher for children in her own school, ELLoquent. She is passionate about teaching young learners, environmental education, storytelling & drama, and distance learning. Last but not least, she is a mother of an autistic toddler with SPD.

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