Maslow’s and Gardner’s Theories of Multiple Intelligences

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In this critical reflection I will consider Abraham Maslow’s learning theory called Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It consists of five needs which he strongly argues are needed to learn. I will also consider Howard Gardner’s learning theory of multiple intelligences. He argues that we are all diverse learners and have our own style of learning. This reflective summary is an attempt to develop an understanding of the ways learning is described to happen by both Maslow and Gardner and how these learning theories have impacted my own learning.

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Maslow believed that for an individual to perform well, the following five needs must be met. His first need consists of psychological needs such as food and water. His second need includes safety and protection. Maslow’s third need involves social needs such as belonging, love and friendship. The fourth set of needs are esteem needs which look at self-esteem, status and recognition. Finally, self-actualisation involves an individual realising their personal potential. Maslow (1943) states that self-actualisation is a desire “to become everything one is capable of becoming”. This means that as someone is growing and experiencing new aspects of life and to their learning, they are realising what they can do well and what they can’t do.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs links to my own learning as I have realised my capabilities through past experiences. For example, I know that Art is my weakest subject as I’m not great at it and failed my Art GCSE. Also, friendship helped improve my learning because in the past my friends and I would work together to revise. This included discussions and questioning each other which encouraged me to do better. I found that if I didn’t eat throughout the school day, I would get headaches which affected my concentration, so this shows that psychological needs such as hunger impacted my learning. This theory will impact me currently in university and in the future because if I don’t have strength or have low self-esteem I won’t feel motivated or confident to do well and work towards a 2:1. I won’t have the same desire to become a primary school teacher if I am not getting the recognition I want to succeed.

Maslow (1943) said “any behaviour tends to be determined by several or all of the basic needs simultaneously rather than by only one of them”. This makes the theory interesting as it shows the different needs need to be met in order to succeed at learning. I agree with this because during my GCSEs if my basic needs such as food were not met and I didn’t have self-esteem, I wouldn’t have revised or felt supported which could’ve resulted in me not passing. This shows the importance of meeting most of the needs at their different levels.

Maslow’s theory has criticisms. Parikh (2018) Not all individuals think in the same way, so some may see certain needs as more important than others. Maslow’s pyramid is difficult to measure as it is subjective so some may get satisfied after meeting the basic needs or some may not feel satisfaction even after reaching the highest level. However, it is easy to understand and can be easily related to an individual. It is relevant in all areas as we will always look to our basic needs first regardless of whether we are at home or work. We will make sure we feel safe and have something to eat before we start working to succeed. I personally believe it helps me understand more about my learning and how I can achieve my full potential. Guy Claxton supports this theory as it links to his theory which are the 4 Rs; resilience (to not give up), reciprocity (engaging with people), resourcefulness (reasoning) and reflectiveness (appreciate enquiry). Both Maslow and Claxton believe these attributes need to be met to make a good learner.

I now intend to focus on the idea of Howard Gardner’s theory which is multiple intelligences there are 9 of these an example of a few are interpersonal intelligence which are group discussions and teamwork this allows individuals to gain knowledge and understanding from each other which will have a positive impact on their learning. Pritchard (2013) said “the climate becomes more cooperative as children come to understand and gain more respect for one another’s strengths” this means that teamwork allows individuals develop on their social skills as they can work on communication and respect. Moreover, another intelligence is visual intelligence which is memory maps, colour coded notes this is helpful because it allows individuals to generate more ideas for example people with dyslexia would be able to find deeper meanings of ideas.

Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences links to my own learning as I believe that interpersonal intelligence group discussions and team work benefits me as I am able to learn from others for example during English literature Gcse we would collectively as a group read and annotate texts from books this helped me with time management. This theory will impact me in university (now) and in the future as I realised visual intelligence isn’t beneficial for my learning as I don’t like colour coded notes as it is a distraction for me.

[bookmark: _Hlk28791370]Pritchard (2013) said “learning situations planned around multiple intelligences involves allowing a wide variety of responses to particular tasks”. This makes the theory interesting as it relates to everyone and takes into consideration everyone’s needs such as individuals with dyslexia, autism etc. I believe its interesting because it gives a variety of choices so I can find out what I am capable of.

Gardner is criticised Pritchard (2013) “for underestimating the effects on his various intelligences” this means the intelligences represent talents and abilities and suffers from a lack of supporting research. However, this theory is beneficial as it supports teachers in the classroom and creates a more positive classroom environment. Jerome Bruner supports this theory as he talks about scaffolding which is the process of giving the right kind of support to the learner to meet their needs for example diagrams, colour coding. Both Gardner and Bruner have similar views that if teachers give the right kind of support to students, they will be able to become a good learner.

To conclude it must be acknowledged that I have a greater understanding of both Maslow’s and Gardner’s theories as I have realised, they have strengths and weaknesses and have impacted my learning throughout the past and will in university (now) and the future.


  1. Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370–396.
  2. Parikh, VP. (2018) Advantages and Disadvantages of Maslow Theory of Motivation. Let’s Learn Finance. Available at:[ Accessed:31.12.19]
  3. Pritchard, AP. (2013) Way of learning: Taylor and Francis Group.

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