Comparison Of Maslows And Skinners Theories Education Essay

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The motivation drives the behaviors of human to attain some level in the society. The following discussion will make our understanding relating the humanistic and behaviorist vies of motivation and learning. The foremost paragraph will give small introduction to the two theories and later on will move to the comparison relating different elements.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs was presented by Abraham Maslow in 1943 as "A Theory of Human Motivation". The humanism aspect was considered by this psychologist with respect to motivation. The five stages predicted by him relating fulfillment of need are physiological, safety, social, self-esteem, and self-actualization needs. These needs describe the process through which human motivation drive. Maslow focus and research was only conducted relating exemplary people rather than the unfit people. The theory was accepted as a contribution to psychology in 1954 (Cherry, 2012).

B. F. Skinner was a behaviorist psychologist. B. F. Skinner's theory of behaviorism is based on operant conditioning.  The organism is taken as in operating process in the environment.  During this "operating," that organism faces the pressures from stimulus to mold his actions, called a reinforcing stimulus. This stimulus influences the operating process.  This is termed as operant conditioning.  In this process the behavior is followed by an effect, and this process modify the future behaviors of that organism. Responses to stimuli can be reinforced with positive or negative feedback to condition desired behaviors. Punishment is sometimes used in eliminating or reducing incorrect actions, followed by clarifying desired actions. Educational effects of behaviorism are significant in developing basic skills and foundations of understanding in all subject areas and in classroom management (Tayo, 2001).

Comparison of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs with Skinner's Behaviorist Theory:

The chart table that present the comparison of the Maslow theory and Skinner theory is described below:




Define Motivation

Motivation arises from the desire to satisfy the basic needs, defined by Maslow as a hierarchy, moving from physiological to self-actualization

Motivation stems from the way behavior is rewarded- good behavior rewarded, bad behavior punished and warned

Motivation Changes from Secondary to Elementary Students

Moves from basic to more advanced, from emotional needs to more intellectual needs, the ability to capture concepts that are more detailed, less static, and to analyze problems that have open-ended answers

Work from simple to complex steps; performance/feedback motivation and actualization changes; amount of reward changes; kind and quality of reward changes


Set of needs must be met, and to move to next level reward occurs; melding of layers of needs; primary human focus is establishing inner needs

Behavior affected by consequences; theory of operant conditioning always manipulation of reward/punishment; humans desire belonging, feedback important Miscellaneous Set of complex inner needs to be filled Set of complex rewards to be filled

Implications in education

Some implications in education system based on Maslow hierarchical needs are outlined below:

Psychological: discount at food items in school, breaks and healthy environment

Safety: planning of lectures, behavior control, well maintained discipline

Social: emphatic teacher attitude, provide support and don't be harsh, class parties and meetings

Esteem: focus on each student's strength and weakness, respect students and guide them properly, involve all students in class participation

Self-Actualization: create positive expectations, allow freedom to explore the talent, allow creative activities to reward students

Skinner's theories have been very impressive when applied to education system (Cortland Education, 2012). Some implications are outlined below:

Teachers and parents should give rewards to students for good behavior

The immediate praise, feedback, and/or reward when seeking to change troublesome or encourage correct behavior in the classroom

Teachers seeking to implement a reinforcement system in their classroom should use strategies such as a "token economy" to reward students immediately for behaviors that they are reinforcing.

Teachers should promote using and manipulating environmental effects on student behavior.

Teacher should identify "triggers" of student behavior to enhance

The above mentioned ideas are also enhancing the learning environment in schools but the combination of both theories can also be applied to enhance the education system. By applying Maslow's hierarchy, regardless of the level of classroom, it is important to help each individual student reach their potential by using self-actualization within any given subject. Using Skinner's view of motivation, each task, depending on its complexity, degree of importance, etc. should have a desirable award. However, one of the most important aspects in the modern classroom is the manner in which an instructor maintains order and influences positive behavior in the classroom. Using Skinner's Operant Conditioning model, different technologies can be used in teaching that include well-defined objectives (Andrius, 2012). Rather than broadly teaching a concept, take small units with high levels of student involvement; use technology if at all possible to enhance the learning experience, and combine Maslow by forming these lessons with a highly-motivation and fun objective. Moreover, both Maslow and Skinner is the idea of utilizing behavioral research towards specific reinforcement techniques that allow a so-called "open" classroom. In this form of learning, students are able to move forward at their own speed, based on their own systems of reward and actualization, within the paradigm of the lessons necessary. This will allow, in some subjects, the instructor to work with slower students, while brighter students are able to leap forward and not be bored. Since the actualization and motivations are so different for each student, this approach allows a sense of accomplishment for all ranges of performance (Brennen, 2000).


Of course, there are critiques of both theories, but the literature does show that, in the last three decades, both theories have had actual positive applications within the classroom, and in particular, bringing forth the paradigm of individual differences and needs, and the satisfying of those needs, to make a positive, influence, and creative learning environment