The wellbeing framework for your students' needs
Mental health concerns are the leading threat to youth in terms of their wellbeing and overall health with 1 in 7, 10 to 19 year-olds experiencing mental health concerns globally (WHO, 2021).
In order to slow the tide of this increasing trend of mental distress and declining student wellbeing, schools and education facilities have become a focus for early intervention and prevention strategies. As a result, there has been a positive shift in school systems as more time and resourcing are being dedicated to delivering effective wellbeing strategies. However, despite best intentions, we continue to see student wellbeing decline. Why?
One very important question to consider is: “Do students have their basic needs met first?”
For instance, do students have a safe and healthy home to return to? Do they have strong social support? If such basic needs are not met, of what use will calm breathing or other strategies be if their home and social environments are chaotic or unsafe? Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a model that can help us acknowledge the needs of our students and ensure our interventions are targeting their true needs.
What is Maslow’s Hierarchy?
Initially posed by Abraham Maslow in the 1940s, 'Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs' is a theory suggesting that all humans have needs that can be organised into a hierarchy ranging from basic and concrete needs through to more complex and abstract needs. It is a model that can give educators a roadmap of what to prioritise and what order to work through interventions. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy, as humans we are motivated by 8 basic categories of needs that schools can support in various ways - here's a brief preview:
- Physiological - which schools can support though a warm classroom for learning, uniforms for warmth, education on sleep hygiene, the importance of food and nutrition and sensory regulation
- Love and Connection
- Cognitive (support Psychological Flexibility, teach student Cognitive Defusion and how to be present in the moment through Mindfulness)
- Aesthetic (incorporate Gratitude exercises in class, teach mindfulness to students through the HOW and WHAT skills)
Within the hierarchy, we acknowledge the existence of two tiers - the first tier is made up of the bottom four levels often referred to as deficiency needs (1 to 4 in the above list); the second tier comprises the top four levels which are often referred to as growth needs (5 to 8). The urge to grow and develop is inherent within us, thus every student is capable and has the ability to move up the hierarchy. This model suggests that once lower needs are met, the ‘door has opened’ to reaching higher needs. It is important to note that this progress is not linear, and life experiences such as family separation, mental health difficulties and trauma may cause someone to fluctuate between different levels of the hierarchy. What does this mean for wellbeing initiatives?
Education and School Application
Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory has had major contributions to teaching and classroom management in primary and secondary schools. Rather than seeing classroom and learning behaviours as just being a response to the environment, Maslow adopts a holistic approach to education, learning and student wellbeing.
Want to learn more? Download our FREE roadmap for educators - it will provide you with a detailed wellbeing framework for your students' needs.