Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs can be a valuable aid when dealing with the process of education. Achieving each of the levels of Maslow's needs: physiological, safety, social, esteem, and self-actualization at differing times in the educational process makes it difficult to cater teaching to a mass of students, each in their own place along the Maslow's pyramid.

Maslow's Needs Pyramid

Maslow and Education

Students relegated to the lowest level of the needs heirarchy, physiological, may be the hardest to teach. This is why special attention is needed to keep track of these students. Students who don't have the food or sleep necessary to stay at this status may lack focus or desire to learn. Teachers must take extra care with these students to ensure they remain on focus, even spending extra time with them such as tutoring sessions or constant contact with their parents or guardians.

Sliding up the ladder to safety, these are just as invaluable to achieving an education as the physiological desires. A constant fear of a lack of safety or shelter can cause a students mind to veer in a million different directions. Students living in an unsafe area or with a violent or abusive parent can suffer lifelong trauma that can affect them even after they are out of school. Educators must take special care with these students to ensure that a poor life outside of school does not inhibit their ability to learn.

A lack of safety can also inhibit their social requirements. Students with a poor or dangerous upbringing can lack the skills for necessary social interaction with other school age people. A child who transfers their fear of their father to others can have psychological scars which restrain their social growth beyond repair. Forcing students to work in groups can help them overcome their shyness or fear of intimacy with others. Sometimes the best way to achieve a goal is to be thrust upon it, willingly or not. The last two stages of esteem and self-actualization are less influential in the educational process.

There reaches a point where the focus is enough that education is not impeded. While a student may lack self-esteem, they may still be able to channel their energy towards their education, perhaps making education their area of strength to build from. Give these students with low-esteem more boosts, these pushes of optimism could be just what they need to reach the next level of success.

While many school age students will not reach the level of self-actualization, nurturing all of the students, as they make their way along the Maslow Hierarchy, can enable them to reach their own varying levels of success. Maslow indicated that each person has his or her own desires required to reach the next level, and it is up to the educator to find that in each of us.

Daiv Russell is a management consultant with Envision Software. Read more Management Articles, learn about Abraham Maslow and Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.
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