Application of Motivation Principle in Classroom

Motivation is defined as the process that initiates, guides and maintains goal-oriented behaviors. Activation, persistence and intensity as the main components of motivation entail a decision to initiate a behavior, continued effort toward a goal and concentration and vigor that goes into pursuing a goal respectively (Cherr, 2011).

There are many principles that explain the processes needed for one to be motivated. This article focuses on the Maslow’s principle to explain how students can be motivated in classroom situation.

The Maslow’s principle of motivation

This principle proposes that humans are motivated by multiple needs and that these needs exist in a hierarchical order. His premise is that only an unsatisfied need can influence behavior, a satisfied need is not a motivator (Cliff, 2000)

In the educational sense, motivation is the process of prompting a person to learn. The majority of students will respond to general methods of motivation. However, to provide appropriate incentives for individual students to learn,a teacher must learn to recognize their needs, incentives, and drives (Waymire, 2009).

Applying Maslow’s theory in the classroom however, may be limited by the knowledge of the students or the ability to meet their needs. A teacher needs to be aware of those influences and know the resources available to help students involved in conflicts that interfere with their training.

The following key principles according to Vich (2008) are to be taken into consideration while applying motivation theory in a teaching and learning processes.

Needs and Drive: The need is the deficit or lack that causes a desire for satisfaction. The need to belong, for instance, can motivate a student to seek group acceptance which may cause a student to behave in a manner that eventually reduces the need.

Interest: An instructor needs to learn to control student interest throughout the lesson; the learning process breaks down once a student loses interest. Emphasize why students need to learn the material and how they will benefit from the information. This way they are more likely to give their full attention to your instruction.

Values: Students have more interest in a subject that deals with goals they see as important in their lives. For example, a lesson on the flag or the Code of Conduct would probably motivate a student who values patriotism.

Attitudes: Showing a positive attitude about the subject a teacher presents can cause the student to want to learn. Students have more desire to learn when instructors show an interest in what they teach.

Incentives: Incentives such as good grades, awards, or selection as a distinguished graduate motivate students who want to achieve.

Achievement: To make an effort to succeed, students must have a need to achieve at a certain level.

In addition to these key principles, The Maslow’s hierarchy of human wants is also key in the learning process of students. It is important to note that it is hard to achieve a higher level in the hierarchy if the lower level is not met.

According to Boere (2006), it is important to start with students’ physiological needs; food, clothing and shelter because it is impossible to advance to higher needs if students are hungry, don’t have warm enough clothes, or have to sleep on the street. Schools can take care of this level of human needs by providing affordable lunch in school for instance.

Safety being the second level in the hierarchy is of great importance in the learning process. If students do not feel secure regarding an aspect of their family life (e.g., employment, health, etc.) it will be equally difficult to reach that student and help them learn in an appropriate way (Boa, 2004).

On the other hand, if a student does not feel like they belong, whether it is within a circle of friends or their family they will have a hard time focusing on their learning. The same could be said if a student has low self-confidence or low self-esteem.


Considering that some students are greatly affected with some of the human needs, it is much easier to achieve learning objectives and goals in class if an instructor takes note of the key principles discussed here. A student cannot be motivated to achieve the next level if the previous one has not been achieved. A level not met motivates a student to work towards achieving it. Also an instructor must realize that even high school students may not have the maturity level and cognitive skills needed to proceed through each level of Maslow’s hierarchy. That being said, teachers need to be able to guide their students through these levels at the appropriate times.


Cherr, P. (2011). What Is Motivation?  Psychology Guide. The New York Times Company.

Cliff, S. (2000). Motivation Theories: Individual Needs. Retrieved from,articleId-8908.html

Waymire, C. (2009). Humanistic Philosophy. Retrieved from

Vich, M (2008). Maslow’s leadership legacy. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 48 (4): 444–445.

Boeree, G. (1970). Abraham Maslow (1908-1970). Retrieved from

Boa, K. (2004). What theologians and psychologists tell us about human Nature and why it matters. Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers.

Horn, J. (2009). Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and the Classroom. Retrieved from