We all have basic human needs that must be satisfied or we experience dissonance leading to internal and/or external reactions. Below is a list of what could be considered 5 of the most basic needs. Each is examined in terms of what may result when it is not met followed by some teacher behaviors that might facilitate its attainment.
We need to feel that we have some control over our destiny. If we do not feel we have any power, common internal reactions include becoming withdrawn and passive aggressiveness, while common external reactions include rebellion and hostility. Teachers can give students a sense of power by giving students choices, giving responsibility for aspects of the class, giving rights, and refraining from bossiness.
We need to feel like we are loved and that we are a wanted part of a group. If we feel perpetually unloved, alienated or isolated, common internal reactions include a sense of guilt, worthlessness, loneliness, lowered self-esteem, while common external reactions include acting out, over achievement, clowning, and pleasing. Teachers can give students a greater sense of love and belonging by recognizing unique qualities and talents, creating an emotionally safe, community environment, and showing a sense of caring to the students.
We need to feel a sense of self-efficacy. If we feel useless, incompetent or unappreciated, common internal reactions include losing motivation and/or a sense of inadequacy, while common external reactions include bragging, acting overly competent, attention getting, and excuse making. Teachers can give students a greater sense of competence by focussing on progress and not products, recognizing incremental achievement and original ideas, expressing high expectations, and helping students achieve the goals they have set for themselves.
We need to feel like we are autonomous and have freedom of choice. If we feel too restricted or imprisoned, common internal reactions are to become withdrawn or resentful, while common external reactions include fighting back, active resistance and/or seeking paths around the authority. Teachers can help students experience freedom through supporting autonomy and creativity (when students act responsibly).
We need to be able to have fun and express ourselves. If we are put in a repressive and/or tedious environment, common internal reactions include boredom, frustration and daydreaming, while common external reactions include making one’s own fun, engaging the teacher in (off-task) games, and hostility. Teachers can promote student’s sense of fun by the use of humor, providing opportunities to play, making learning interesting and a thoughtful use of healthy competition.