Abraham Maslow describes situations according to his hierarchy of needs. Each situation in life takes on a new hierarchy. For a person beginning a new career as an adult, one may think they have reached the self-esteem stage that gives them the strength and courage to enter a new area. Once they reach this new area of study, the learner may find himself or herself beginning again with Maslow’s needs from the bottom. Adult learners become very vulnerable when entering these new stages in Maslow’s hierarchy. This may force them out of their comfort zone, and they may have to begin finding their physiological, safety, and social needs. This will allow their self-esteem to have the confidence to continue on. As the student increases to the stage of self-esteem, being focused on what brought them there initially may be their motivation to learn.

My interest in adult motivation to learn has brought me several times to Maslow’s hierarchy. I am compelled with the idea that we do not move through the stages of Maslow’s hierarchy through life, but rather, we approach his hierarchy as a whole in different stages of our life. As a child, for example, may begin to feel comfortable with his new classroom in school, his physiological and safety needs maybe being met. Throughout the school year the child begins to grow in terms of his social and self-esteem needs, and then the school year ends. The child progresses through to the next stage where he finds himself again at the bottom of the hierarchy.

As adults, we find ourselves going through the same steps in the hierarchy. We begin new jobs, and are in need of finding our basic needs and feeling safe. Once this occurs, we are more apt to move on to meet others and become more social. Later, our self-esteem rises as we develop more skills in our job. If we are luck, we may have a feeling of self-actualization, in which the job we are in meets needs beyond our self-esteem. Maslow’s hierarchy is not necessarily a life long goal of meeting self-actualization or self-efficacy; it can be viewed as a new hierarchy at each stage in life.

Self-actualization does not have to appear as an ultimate end of the life experience. It can be the result of each individual goal accomplished toward one big goal. This idea helps me to understand adult learners. Completing a GED may be what an individual is striving for, which may be their self-actualization. But after completing it, they realize they would now want to receive a two-year degree in nursing. They begin at the lower stages of the hierarchy again, and find themselves progressing to their goal. Becoming a Nursing has lead them to the ultimate in life (self-efficacy). They now feel compelled to continue on. You can see where I am going with this, in that, each milestone can be a point of self-actualization that leads to ultimate dreams. Without those milestones of self-efficacy, we may not feel confident of meeting our true dreams and goals.

I want you to think about your own life and where you place education. Do you find that upon completing your current education, you will have met your self-actualization needs? Or do you think that this is only another stage in life where you will need this information to meet other goals that will lead you to your ultimate self-efficacy? This will give you a chance to look at your goals and where they may lead you. I encourage you to look at Maslow’s hierarchy and focus on what it may take for you to reach self-actualization and beyond. By doing so, you may find yourself compelled to drive beyond initial goals you have met, and to strive for more enhanced aspirations.


[writing assignment #2 responses]