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Humanistic Theory by Abraham Maslow

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Humanism is a philosophical approach that believes learning is viewed as a personal act to fulfill one’s potential. Humanists are drawn to the uniqueness of individuals and their ability and responsibility to make their own decisions. They believe the most important thing to study are free choices, free will, and understanding of the meaning of events in their life. Humanists study a person as a whole; the theory is based on the assumption that all humans have a natural tendency to grow, to learn, and to develop fully with the educational goal to develop fully functioning, self-actualized human beings who have the capacity to nurture themselves, others, and their environment.

We as humans are born to better ourselves as we want to meet self-actualization as self-actualized people accept themselves as a whole; they embrace other people for who they are and treat others the same regardless of what their background might be their current status or other socio-economic and cultural factors.

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The theory of motivation suggests that when planning our future we construct different outcomes about what we think may happen. When we predict a positive outcome we believe we are most likely able to make this possible future become reality. This pushes people to feel more motivated to pursue those likely outcomes.

Humanist Psychologist Abraham Maslow created a Hierarchy of needs; to reach one’s full learning potential one must work their way up the hierarchy. The first four levels in this hierarchy are referred to as Deficiency needs; these arise due to deprivation and motivation when these needs are unmet. All humans desire to fulfill the basic needs is greater the longer it is denied. When these deficiency needs are not met children can struggle to learn, a child that feels emotionally or physically threatened can produce chemicals that inhibit learning. This can put the child into survival mode and slows down not only the process of learning but also brain development. The top-level is known as growth or being values, this is motivated by the desire to grow as a person rather than the bottom four levels which stem from lack of something. Once you have reached the top of this hierarchy it is thought that you will be at your full learning potential and also be able to find true happiness.

In an Early childhood setting healthy relationships between teachers and children are essential for learning, teachers should be respected and foster an engaging, predictable, non-threatening environment that children feel free to take managed risks, explore and experiment and are not threatened with rewards or punishments. Having a healthy and safe environment protects children from feeling fearful and encourages children’s physiological wellbeing by allowing them to exercise their independence through making decisions and taking on new challenges.

Rather than large competitive working groups, the Humanistic/Motivation theory encourages individual or small learning groups, this helps children to feel as they belong and take charge while creating and promoting an environment that encourages independent learning. This helps build confidence and allows the student to evaluate their own progress, self-reflection, and critical thinking. Self-directed learning gives children the ability to create goals and making the decisions of what the best ways to achieve these goals are. This allows them to learn the skills necessary for being good decision-makers, discover their own passions and special talents.

We are all naturally inclined to learn and be creative; Children should be able to have choices in what they want to learn and demonstrate. It is believed that all students will be motivated to learn a subject if it’s something meaningful and enjoyable to them, when this happens learning becomes effortless and effective.

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