Free Motivation Theories Essay Sample

According to Illiam (2009), the Maslow’s theory of human needs and Skinner’s behaviorist theory are the two theories that are similar in many ways and can be applied to achieve positive human development and motivation. Maslow identifies that motivation emanates from an internal desire to meet certain human needs. On the other side, Skinner recognized that all organisms, including human beings, are motivated by the anticipation of a reward in any form for certain actions. The following table considers how these two theories are similar and different, while considering how these two theories can be applied in the classroom to motivate learning.

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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Skinner’s Behaviorists Theory

How motivation is defined?

Maslow defines motivations as an inherent desire to satisfy human needs in order to live a better life. According to Maslow’s theory of motivation, motivation is achieved through an inborn desire to satisfy a range of human needs, each of which gives the person a certain form of motivation depending on the nature of need that will be satisfied.

According to Skinner, motivation is the desire to gain certain rewards. The organism or human being gets motivation from the knowledge that he will get the expected reward. In other words, motivation is achieved externally rather than internally.

How motivation changes for elementary versus secondary students?

According to Maslow, the cause of motivation changes as the one need is achieved. In this regard, the elementary students are more likely to be motivated by acquiring simple knowledge without necessarily understanding the deeper concepts. At secondary level, the student’s motivation will come from wanting to grasp deeper concepts and understanding these concepts in the classroom.

Motivation changes as the reward increases, it becomes more complex or more satisfying. For instance, an elementary school student may be motivated by the compliment he or she will get from the teacher if the student does his or her work in time or is able to understand a certain concept. On the other hand, the secondary student will need more than a simple complement or a simple gift to be motivated. The secondary student may need more complex reward to be motivated.

 The theories similarities

Maslow’s theory depicts that motivation is phased from one level to the other e.g., from the most basic, which is physiological needs, to the highest, which is self-actualization.

Skinner’s behaviorist theory also recognizes this phenomenon about how different levels of motivation can be achieved from one level to the other. This theory recognizes that the level of reward will be determined by the amount of reward expected. This is almost like Maslow’s theory in that in achieving something at first, motivation will have to be achieved by giving smaller rewards; then it requires graduating of the person or organism from smaller reward to greater rewards.

The theories differences

Maslow’s theory recognizes a procedural method of motivation achievement where for one level to be reached, the lower level must have been attained. For instance, the motivation that comes from wanting to achieve self-esteem cannot be achieved unless the person has not achieved the basic (physiological) needs.

Maslow’s theory is purely addressed to human behavior rather than just a general animal behavior. This is why Maslow is able to create a consistent hierarchy of human needs.

The skinner’s behaviorist theory is systematic but not necessarily procedural. For instance, it is not necessary for the person to achieve certain lower levels of motivation to achieve higher motivation. Motivation is purely determined by the expected reward and not needs to be met. In other words, the Skinner’s theory does not recognize hierarchy of motivation or does not tie motivation to the hierarchy or needs.

Skinner’s theory addresses all organisms in general, and that is why it does not recognize hierarchy of needs, because different animals may have different hierarchy of needs.

Application in classroom

The Maslow’s theory can be applied in class because the students will graduate to higher motivation levels as they achieve the lower needs. For instance, a student will be motivated to try bigger or more complex academic things after achieving the lower ones. For example, if the student is capable to understand the basic algebra, he or she will be motivated to learn the more complex algebra.

The teacher can apply this theory by rewarding actions in relation to the importance of action. For instance, if a student is able to solve a simple math’s problem, the reward should reflect that. If the student manages to solve a bigger problem or achieves a bigger achievement in class, the rewards should be bigger. This will motivate the student to aspire to achieve more and bigger things in anticipation of bigger rewards.


As Joseph (2011) says, the Maslow’s theory of hierarchy of needs and the Skinner’s behaviorist theories can be very useful in improving learning in any classroom. Teachers should, therefore, be very careful while addressing the learning problems in the classroom. Thus, teachers should pay more attention to this as being able to motivate the students is the best teaching tool that a teacher can employ.


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