This strategy, from Hoxmeier (1987), is based on Maslow's (1943) model of human needs. Maslow identified five needs and arranged them into a pyramid, with the lower levels representing the most powerful needs. At the lowermost level is physiological needs, or basic needs for food, water, sleep, and shelter. The next level of needs relates to security. The need to belong is the third level. Love and self-esteem occupy the fourth level of needs. The need for self-actualization is the uppermost level. The needs are prepotent, meaning the stronger needs at the bottom must be met before the weaker needs toward the top can be fulfilled. Needs may emerge and subside at various times.
Obviously, basic physiological needs should not be used as motivators, but the needs for security, approval and self-esteem, and self-actualization can. The goal is to make learning responsive to these student needs. The following paragraphs explain how this may be accomplished.
Need for Security
The need for security includes the ability to satisfy basic physiological needs, safety, financial security, job security, and technological competence. Making learning responsive to student needs for security may be accomplished in two ways.
Use of Fear
- Fear is counterproductive. One should avoid the use of fear in attempting to motivate students because it undermines their need for security and it is often too ambiguous to be of help. Instead, one should identify the ways in which a student feels insecure and then attempt to foster the student's sense of security by providing him/her with concrete actions that will bring about that sense of security.
- As an example, consider a student who is insecure about his/her work because of his/her memory abilities. Instead of telling him/her "You will fail this class unless you improve your memory," instruct the student in a variety of memory strategies that target the particular memory task at hand.
Emphasize the Positive
- Students need to feel secure of their capabilities and performance. Design assignments that draw from and build on these strengths. Students are more motivated to do things they feel they have a chance of successfully completing.
Need for Approval and Self-Esteem
The need for approval and self-esteem involves the desire to be valued as a member of a group and as a human being. We seek recognition and admiration of our skills and abilities. Making learning responsive to student needs for approval and self-esteem may be accomplished in three ways. For more information on self-esteem, refer to the Self-Image section of the Attention and Listening page.
- Instructors can motivate students by praising even small accomplishments. However, one should avoid insincere praise and judgmental comments. Use specific comments like "Your use of examples to illustrate the main points in your paper is great" rather than "Your paper is good." Students usually can see right though such trivializing praise.
- Instructors can provide students with the structure needed for success. First, provide simple and clear instructions for completing a task. Second, break down large assignments into smaller, more manageable tasks. Then develop a structured plan of action for completing each mini assignment. Avoid using tricks or gimmicks. As students gain proficiency, they can learn to impose structure themselves.
Remind Students of Successes and Goals
- Reminders about past successes or future goals can be powerful motivators. Instructors and students alike can keep track of academic and social successes in the form of a journal; record the date and nature of each success. Use a journal or poster to record short-term and long-term goals, and refer to the list often for inspiration. Try to link the task at hand with one or more of the goals, and emphasize how completing the task will lead toward fulfillment of a goal. See Setting Personal Goals in the Monitoring page.
Need for Self-Actualization
Motivations may arise from an individual's need for self-actualization, or one's need to express creativity and live up to one's potential. There are two ways to make learning responsive to the student's need for self-actualization.
- Motivate students to learn by creating anticipation. This strategy is not unlike the movie industry's use of "trailers" for motivating people to see a movie or Paul Harvey's radio show that tells "the rest of the story." In the classroom, the instructor can preview a subject and encourage students to ask what will happen next or develop an explanation beforehand. Create a sense of suspense to motivate learning. Students can learn to create anticipation themselves by using past lectures and required readings to anticipate what will be covered next in a lecture.
- Develop unique and creative methods of presenting important concepts. For example, reenact important war battles or role-play critical events in history. Or, give students the opportunity to apply their knowledge in creative ways. Have them act as teachers or tour guides and present new information in creative ways.