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Meet Maslow: He Can Help With Student Motivation. Big Time.

By Bruce A. Johnson, Ph.D., MBA

Student motivation is often addressed and explained by internal and external factors that are specific to every individual student. For example, some students may be motivated by an internal, perceived sense of accomplishment in the class while others experience external motivation because of what they can accomplish in their career as a result of completing the class or degree. An important theory in adult education that helps provide a structured format for understanding how student motivation is developed and maintained is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. By understanding student motivation as a set of hierarchical steps, while applying it to the classroom environment created by the instructor, it becomes possible to develop learning activities and facilitation strategies that will meet these needs and enhance motivation.

The basic premise of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is that every individual has a series of motivating factors or needs that can be classified according to five specific groups. These groups include physiological, safety, social, esteem, and self-actualization needs. Physiological needs refer to a person’s need for feeling good physically, and it is often associated with having adequate food and shelter. Safety needs are associated with a person’s need for

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