You are on page 1of 7

Abraham Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs"

Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” shows us that some of our needs take precedence
over others. For instance, the need for food, air, water, and sex comes before anything else.
Similarly, if you are both hungry and thirsty at the same time, you will instinctively take care
of your thirst first, because you can survive without food longer than you can survive without
water. In that case, the need for water takes precedence over the need for food.

Beyond the basic human needs for food, water, sex, and clean air, Maslow introduced other
layers; physiological needs, safety and security needs, love and belonging needs, and the need
to know one’s self, in that exact order.

The pyramid that these needs make looks like this:

The physiological needs are the needs for oxygen, minerals, water, vitamins, and sugar. They
are what keeps our bodies physically healthy and functioning correctly.

The needs for safety and security are fairly self explanatory. They are the needs that every
human has to stay away from dangerous places, and cause people to become afraid, nervous,
and anxious. The “Fight or Flight” instinct would also be included in this category.

Our need to be loved and to belong is one that all people experience a lot of the time.
Particularly teenagers. This layer includes the need for friends, a boyfriend or girlfriend, even
a sense of community.

Our esteem needs, according to Maslow, have two seperate versions. The lower version is the
need for recognition, fame, the respect and appreciation of others, and even dominance. The
higher version is the need for self-respect, confidence, freedom and independance.

NOTE: The higher form was perhaps titled so because once you have self-respect, it is very
difficult to lose, as opposed to the respect of others which comes and goes like the wind.

Finally, we have reached the top of the pyramid! The need for self-actualization. This is the
need to "be the best that you can be" and the need to reach goals and continue reaching them.
In contrast to the other needs, which Maslow called our "Deficit Needs," (meaning that we
don't have enough of something. Not enough food, not enough love, etc.) Our need for self-
actualization was given the title of "Being Needs." They are needs that, once they are felt,
continue to be felt through life.
Maslow once suggested that only 2% of the world are self-actualizing people. Why? Simply
because in many countries it is difficult to get enough food or water, it is very difficult to feel
safe, and there may just be no sense of community or love in some countries. Take the
situation in Iraq and Afghanistan as of late, for instance. Do you think you could feel safe
when just down the road terrorists could be plotting to blow up your school, or your home, or
your place of work? Self-actualizing people are those who have all of their deficit needs
taken care of. They have enough of everything else that they can move on to fulfilling their


Frederick Herzberg's book 'The Motivation to Work', written with research

colleagues B Mausner and B Snyderman in 1959, first established his theories
about motivation in the workplace. Herzberg's work, originally on 200 Pittsburgh
engineers and accountants, has become one of the most replicated studies in
the field of workplace psychology.
Herzberg was the first to show that satisfaction and dissatisfaction at work nearly
always arose from different factors, and were not simply opposing reactions to
the same factors, as had always previously been (and still now by the
unenlightened) believed.
He showed that certain factors truly motivate ('motivators'), whereas others
tended to lead to dissatisfaction ('hygiene factors').
According to Herzberg, Man has two sets of needs; one as an animal to avoid
pain, and two as a human being to grow psychologically.
He illustrated this also through Biblical example: Adam after his expulsion from
Eden having the need for food, warmth, shelter, safety, etc., - the 'hygiene'
needs; and Abraham, capable and achieving great things through self-
development - the 'motivational' needs.
Herzberg's research proved that people will strive to achieve hygiene needs
because they they are unhappy without them, but once satisfied the effect soon
wears off - satisfaction is temporary. Examples of hygiene needs in the
workplace are policy, relationship with supervisor, work conditions, salary,
company car, status, security, relationship with subordinates, personal life.
True motivators were found to be other completely different factors:
achievement, recognition, work itself, responsibility, advancement, and personal
People commonly argue that money is a primary motivator. It's not. Surveys
repeatedly show that other factors motivate more. For example, a survey by
Development Dimensions International published in the UK Times newspaper in
2004 interviewed 1,000 staff from companies employing more than 500 workers,
and found many to be bored, lacking commitment and looking for a new job. Pay
actually came fifth in the reasons people gave for leaving their jobs. The main
reasons were lack of stimulus jobs and no opportunity for advancement - classic
Herzberg motivators - 43% left for better promotion chances, 28% for more
challenging work; 23% for a more exciting place to work; and 21% and more
varied work.


Motivation is the process of initiating and directing behaviour based on the persistence of
effort to satisfy an individual goal or need (Petri, 1991; Robbins et al, 2000 and Robbins et al,
2001). There are two approaches to understanding motivation, each of which has theories
expanding to support the nature of motivation. Content theories focuses on what motivates an
individual. In contrast to process theories of motivation which focus on how individual
behaviour is motivated. This essay will focus on motivation in an educational context and the
importance to provide opportunities and motivation for students. The purpose of this essay is
to present a theoretical overview of the key differences between content theories and process
theories of motivation. Then a programme developed from a theory to be applied to an
undergraduate business course at Monash University. The motivational programme will focus
on improving the assessment technique used by lecturers and tutors (“teachers”) that will
motivate and improve undergraduate students learning ability. The aim will be to encourage
students to gain a better understanding of the core concepts of business. Assessment in
universities needs to be reshaped in order to motivate students.


Content theories are also referred to, as need theories. That is, motivational theories that look
at what individual needs motivate and direct behaviour to respond to specific goals. Many
early theories from the 1950’s, include Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, McGregor’s Theory X
and Theory Y and Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory, established core concepts which
have helped explain motivation especially in an organisational setting. McClelland’s three
needs theory is a more contemporary view on the content theory approach to motivation that
focuses on three important needs in work situations. Each theory identifies individual needs
in order to understand behaviour. The main factors that underlie this approach is the need to
understand that individuals have different needs, and what can be offered in response to these
different needs as well as the importance on the external working environment to give
individuals the opportunity to satisfy their needs (Robbins et al, 2000, p558). An example of
a content theory of motivation is Douglas McGregor theory of the беeconomic manбж. He
proposed 2 contrasting views of human nature.
McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y suggested one negative (Theory X) and one positive
(Theory Y) view on human beings. He “concluded that a manager’s view of the nature of
human beings is based on a certain grouping of assumptions and that he or she tends to mould
his or her behaviour towards employees according to these assumptions” (Robbins et al,
2001, p199).

The negative assumptions were labeled “Theory X”, which held four dominant assumptions
of workers. Workers dislike work and go to great strengths to avoid it. Based on this it is
believed that workers need to be punished with tight control systems in order for them to
achieve goals. In addition, workers lack responsibility, thus need formal directions from
superiors to perform. Such Theory X workers are predominately motivated by lower-order
needs according to Maslow’s hierarchy for example they need security. In contrast, “Theory
Y” assumes higher order needs dominate individuals. Thus, Theory Y workers enjoy
responsibility where they can exhibit self-direction and self-control. Therefore, in order to
motivate workers, mangers need to provide a working environment that provides challenging
jobs and minimal formalisation.

Applying this to an educational context, it can be assumed that teachers can either have a
Theory X or a Theory Y view of students. That is, teachers can view students as бзlazy or un-
cooperative” (Theory X) OR as “being clever and work hard” (Theory Y). Teachers that
adapt a Theory Y approach, are more likely to be attuned to students’ needs, actively
participate with students to increase student skill-development and learning (OECD, 2000).

It is important for teachers to become more student-centered. Therefore assessment must

“focus more on student learning outcomes and students’ attitudes about what they are
learning and their role in the teaching and learning process” (Carey, Wallace and Carey,
2001). This can be better understood by considering process theories of motivation. Process
theories of motivation set out to explain how people choose a course of action they will
pursue, not solely on individual needs like content theories.


Despite the fact that content theories of motivation have helped many organisations
understand employee motivation, many of their concepts alone do not provide a
comprehensive understanding of motivation. Therefore, the introduction of another approach
to understanding motivation was brought about. Process theories of motivation attempt to
explain the process of arousing behaviour, sustaining and regulating the pattern of behaviour
(Ames and Ames, 1989). Theories include goal setting, reinforcement, equity and expectancy
theory. “These theories attempt to explain why people choose to behave in a certain way and
the reasons they react as they do” (Robbins et al, 2000, p558). In contrast to content theories
of motivation, which looked at what initiates behaviour to satisfy a need, this approach
broadens the perspective of motivation. It looks at the underlying reasoning that influence
individuals to behave and respond in a certain way. Therefore, motivating students by either
punishing them to perform or encouraging self-direction, the goal setting theory, identifies
underlying factors that achieve a given behaviour, which is the key to understanding the
process approach to motivation.

Goal setting theory states that “specific and difficult goals, with goal feedback, lead to higher
performance” (Robbins et al, 2001, p770). That is, work motivation can be increased with
goal specific directed behaviour. It also proposes that difficult goals, provided that the
individual has accepted them, lead to higher performance than general goals. However,
feedback is essential in the achievement of specific and difficult goals “because feedback
helps identify discrepancies between what they have done and what they want to do”
(Robbins et al, 2000, p559). In order to gain the performance benefits of specific goals,
feedback helps shape the individuals behaviour. Better still, self-generated feedback is a
greater motivator as it allows the individual to monitor their progress.

Robbins et al (2000) suggested that goal setting theory is best suited to cultures were there is
a moderate power distance, low in uncertainty avoidance and high in quantity of life like
Australia and New Zealand. These ensure a reasonable level of independence amongst
individuals and those individuals will not be threatened to take on difficult goals. Also the
importance of performance is shared by all.

In goal setting theory, “the characteristics of a goal and attitudes towards it are thought to be
influenced by incentives, self-perceptions and the manner in which the goals are set”
(Brotherton, 1999, p36). Therefore, in an educational context the teacher and student need to
work together to determine behavioural strategies that will lead to performance. End-of
course evaluations conducted by Monash University бзelicit students’ attitudes about
instructors and the role that they play in the teaching/learning process” (Carey, Wallace and
Carey, 2001). Such instruments assess students’ motivation for learning and allow for
continuous course and program improvement.

Feedback from end-of course evaluations “usually prompts an ongoing adaptation of a course
to the emerging learning needs of its students” (Panasuk and Leabaron, 1999). It was found
that “students consistently expressed views that new assessment motivated them to work in
different ways” (Sambell and McDowell, 1998). The aim in developing motivational
programme for undergraduate students will focus on assessment reform applying the goal
setting theory. This proposition will encourage students to target specific goals, in hope that it
will result in higher performance. The programme will involve students in their evaluation
process in order to motivate them to actively participate in their skill-development and
improve learning. “Every act of assessment gives a message to students about what they
should be learning and how they should go about it” (Sambell and McDowell, 1998). The
programme will suggest that goals based evaluation criteria will improve students’
motivation in turn achieving a greater level of performance.

The programme will focus on behaviour related to undergraduate business students at

Monash University. It will include a check mark grading system that will be designed around
behavioural objectives. “The check-mark systems sets a specific standard for document
quality, and instructors give a paper a “check mark” when it meets the standard” (Sorenson,
Savage and Hartman, 1993). Students are required to set their own achievement goals, in
terms of grades based on their overall subject result. That way they can evaluate their
progress toward their goals on their own with each assignment mark. “This necessitates
defining goals for oneself, using self-directed strategies to accomplish these goals, and
assessing progress” (Larsen and Thisted, 1999).

The programme will involve behavioural objective questionnaires that will identify what the
students want to achieve at Monash. This will include long-term goals (degree completion) as
well as short-term goals (average subject result e.g. distinction, right down to improving
structure of writing). “Defining tasks in terms of short-term goals can help students to
associate effort with success, but of course long-term goals are also needed if students are to
become lifelong “learners” (OECD, 2000, p.31). It will also involve social objectives
(develop a good rapport with teachers). “Using behavioural objectives may help students
organize and structure” their learning and “may produce positive attitudes toward learning”
(Sorenson, Savage and Hartman, 1993). Also, they outline behavioural objectives of each
student, which are associated with goal difficulty.

In addition, a student performance evaluation form is to be handed in with each assignment,

outlining specific goals that the essay is to achieve. For example, good use of relevant and
current references, each paragraph systematically links one to the other etc. Also the overall
mark the student expects on the assignment based on their effort.

From this teachers are to use the check mark system and self-evaluation system to grade the
work. It is very important to give feedback, especially in relation to student evaluation forms
outlining their objectives. Limited feedback such as “meaning well done or “meaning re-
consider, needs to be more specific. Effective feedback should provide shorthand comments,
throughout the paper and on the marking sheet, clearly clarifying any issues. Such feedback is
called evaluative feedback. “Evaluative feedback helps the individual understand the
performance information by comparing it to standards or to the individual’s own past
performance” (Larsen and Thisted, 1999). In addition, it is important to direct them where
possible to achieve a higher mark, therefore feedback needs to be constructive. “Constructive
feedback is task-specific and focuses attention on the task” (Larsen and Thisted, 1999). By
focusing on the task and “providing target objectives results in the achievement of more
objectives” (Sambell and McDowell, 1998). When students use the check-mark system, they
can identify what they must do to achieve higher marks. Obviously, the goal difficulty set by
students varies among the constraints of his/her ability.

In this programme, it is important to provide specific feedback and include student

participation in selecting objectives. In light of this, between the behavioural objectives
system, grading method and student outcomes, students should actually be motivated to
increase performance under these systems.

The theoretical issues proposed in motivational theories such as the economic man developed
by McGregor and the benefits of setting specific and difficult goals are important. The
distinction on how they motivate an individual is a major influence on behaviour. Applying
motivational theory to an educational context we draw our attention toward skill
development, satisfaction and achievement. In developing a motivational programme, the
focus was on assessment reform focusing on undergraduate business students at Monash
University. Teachers and students need to work together in assessing ones performance. It is
believed that “individuals are mutually motivated to learn when they do not have to fear
failure, when they perceive what they are learning as being personally meaningful and
relevant and when they are in respectful and supportive relationships with teachers” (OECD,
2000, p29). Therefore, by using a goal setting approach to motivate students, student
participation in selection of objectives in as “research on the motivational value of goals, both
the check-mark and behavioural/performance objective systems seem to motivate students to
improve performance” (Sorenson, Savage and Hartman, 1993). However, with today’s rapid
change and emergence of new knowledge and theory, universities will have more concepts on
which to build and develop on “motivating the school’s participants so as to obtain the best
possible educational results” (Panasuk and Lebaron, 1999).