If you have spent any time working in education, you should be familiar with the name of Maslow. Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist best known for creating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This is a theory of psychological health that focused on fulfilling innate human needs based on priority. If you aren’t familiar, imagine a pyramid. An explanation of the pyramid from bottom to top is below.
Physiological, the base: These are the fundamental and essential needs of all people. They are breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis, excretion. To clarify a few items on this first tier, homeostasis is the principle by which the body operates optimally. For example, hunger needs are satisfied with foods. Excretion refers to all creatures needing to remove waste products from the body.
Safety, tier 2: All people need the security of body, employment, resources, morality, the family, health, and property.
So you don’t get confused, these two bottom tiers are essential to physical survival. Once these needs are met, people want to accomplish more. If a person constantly needs to satisfy one or many of these bottom tier items, they will not have the time or resources to move up the pyramid.
Love and belonging, tier 3: These are psychological needs; when individuals have taken care of themselves physically, they are able and ready to share themselves with others. These typically refer to friends and family.
Esteem, tier 4: Maslow broke this into 2 categories. The first being esteem for oneself, which includes dignity, achievement, mastery, and independence. The second is the desire for reputation or respect from others, such as status and prestige within society. According to Maslow, respect and reputation is most important for children and adolescents and precedes self-esteem or dignity.
Self-actualization, tier 5: At the top of the pyramid is the realization of personal potential, self-fulfillment, and personal growth. In layman’s terms, it’s the realization and desire to become everything one can become.
So, here is the problem with Maslow’s work from a scientific perspective. Maslow’s observations centered around high achievers in society. These were also predominantly successful white males. Maslow had the hope that someone else would do the scientific analysis based on his observations. So, it’s difficult to generalize his theory to females and other individuals in lower social classes or different ethnicities. Therefore, as educators, it’s acceptable to note and use Maslow’s work, but also take it with a grain of salt.