Learned Needs Theory and Students

David Mclelland developed Learned Needs Theory. In his research, Mclelland states that people have three primary needs: need for achievement, need for affiliation, and a need for power. These three forms of needs are learned in childhood.

Need for Achievement

The need for achievement is how strongly a person wants to have success at completing a task. Some students have a strong desire for achievement, and this is reflected in their grades. For them, the grades they earn are a measure of their high achievement. However, not all students have a strong need for achievement, and this can also be seen in their grades in some other way, such as lack of participation.

McClelland explains the three main traits of high achieving people. One, high-achieving people feel a personal responsibility when they are expected to do something. When a student with high achievement needs is given a task, they are willing to accept the success or failure of the task. It becomes their mission.

Two, high achievement people like to take on projects that have a moderate success rate. In other words, high achievement individuals hate something that is too easy but equally lose motivation for suicide tasks that have a low success rate. Instead, they want to see a return for hard work. For students, a teacher needs to make sure tasks are within the zone of proximal development to be assured that the task is not too easy but preferably within reach of the student with some assistance.

High achievers also have a desire for feedback. This is because they want to know if they have achieved success. The feedback can be positive or negative, but it needs to be there. For students, this means providing clear information to the high achieving student in terms of their progress on assignments and the course overall.

If high achievers are not allowed to achieve, it can disrupt behavior and students who lack motivation. Therefore, when dealing with classroom management issues, a teacher should consider if they are meeting their high achievers’ achievement needs.

Need For Affiliation

The need for affiliation is a need to have positive social relationships with other people. These are your classic extroverts who love the company of others. Everyone has some need for affiliation, but for many, this is a high need.

For people who need affiliation, the task is not essential to them. Instead, people who need affiliation respond to situations in which people depend on them. For students, this can be situations such as group projects and or team sports. Others need them, and this is when the outgoing student will achieve.

Nothing can cripple high affiliated people than isolation. Make a student who needs relationship work alone will lead to potential behavioral problems. In addition, students who have a low need for affiliation will equally cause issues if they are always expected to socialize and be a part of the group.

Need for Power

The need for power is a need to control, which means to influence other people. A person with this need is often talkative, arguing, and giving orders. Many leaders need power.

McClelland indicates two types of power, and these are personal power and social power. Personal power is a power to control others and is often political with a secret agenda. Social power is also seeking to influence others but to achieve the goals of the group or organization.

Students can seek one or both forms of power in different situations. For example, students who want to disrupt the class and distract students from learning are trying to flex their personal power skills. Students trying to get their peers to complete group projects and class assignments are using their social power skills. The students who are mostly influenced by either of these forms of power may not have a strong need for power.

To deal with students who need power, teachers need to provide outlets for this need. A student who is pushing personal power needs to find goals that align with the classroom. When the dissonance between what they want and what the teacher wants is removed, the student can now use their need for power for social rather than personal reasons.

Conclusion

Everyone has slightly different needs. For teachers, it is crucial always to identify what motivates their students. When this is done, the teacher can challenge the needs to enhance learning.

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