Needs-Focused Teaching

This extract from Take Control of the Noisy Class explains the principle of Needs-Focused Teaching….

You’ll no doubt be familiar with Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory.

It suggests that all humans share basic needs and that once a group of needs is met or satisfied, we move up to the next level. The lowest level consists of our most basic needs – shelter, food, water and safety.Then we progress into the realms ofa wide range of emotional and psychological needs – from the need to achieve through to the need to contribute, the need for love and a whole host of other sin-between.

These needs must be met in order for us to feel content and whole. I like things to be simple so I’ve lumped into three groups what I feel to be the most important of the psychological needs in terms of classroom management. The first group falls under the heading of empowerment and includes things like recognition, freedom, autonomy, achievement, contribution, choice and competence. Second is the need for fun, which includes curiosity, interest, growth and learning, adventure, amusement, surprise and variety. Finally, there is the need to be long – to be accepted, valued, appreciated, needed, related to or connected with something beyond oneself. If you think about this, it makes perfect sense. We humans don’t function well without adequate control, choice, autonomy and freedom in our lives – we need to be empowered.

We can’t live happy lives without at least some variety, humour,activity or fun. And we feel isolated and alone if we’re not valued or appreciated by others or connected to them in some way – we need to belong. When these three needs are not being met – when they are missing from our lives – we feel frustrated and discontented. And that’s when the problems start.Consider the following scenario: imagine a thoroughly boring lesson.

You know the type I mean – a teacher handing out worksheet after worksheet, standing at the front of the room, talking like a shop window dummy going through the motions. There is no engaging warm-up activity to grab the students’ attention,no variety or choice in terms of lesson tasks or level of challenge, no novelty orintrigue, no humour, no laughter, no sense of discovery, no interaction or movement around the room, no music, no curiosity, no energy, no recognition or praise for efforts made and no attention given to differing learning styles. It’s the kind of lesson that makes kids want to get up and walk out.What usually happens in a lesson like this? You guessed it: students misbehave.It might start with fairly innocent activities such as doodling or passing notes,but left unchecked these activities become increasingly disruptive: getting up and walking around, throwing things, shouting silly comments, dishing out abuse to the teacher, not doing work, tapping pencils, refusing to follow instructions, dictating their own terms, using mobile phones and so on.

What results is the typical behaviour problems arising from frustration and dissatisfaction – from needs that have not been met.Remember, our psychological needs are crucial to us and must be satisfied – they are a primeval, subconscious thirst which must be quenched and are as important to us as water and sunlight are to a plant. If the teacher doesn’t provide a means to meet these needs as part of regular day-to-day practice, then students will seek satisfaction in less appropriate ways of their own devising.In other words, if you don’t give them fun, they will make their own.

If you don’tgive them a sense of empowerment, they will assert themselves in their own way.And if you don’t help them feel valued, they will opt out and form trouble makings plinter groups. (Have you ever wondered why gangs are so appealing to young people?)Needs Focused Teaching provides ways of satisfying these three key needs in order to help you prevent and deal with a large proportion of problems in your classroom. I don’t claim that all your problems will be solved, but by adopting the strategies and ideas you will definitely see a dramatic reduction in the number of incidents you are currently dealing with on a daily basis.

And I guarantee that if you start to adopt some of the key principles, you will start to see big improvements in your ability to deal with any problems which do occur.In Needs Focused Teaching we look at ways of helping students experience a sense of belonging by helping them feel part of the classroom community and by building positive, mutually respectful teacher–student bonds. It makes a huge difference to struggling, troubled (and troublesome) students to feel accepted, welcomed and valued in school.We look at ways of empowering students by providing them with realistic chances to achieve and experience success, by giving them a degree of autonomy and choice and by ensuring their efforts are recognised and acknowledged.

Again,this comes down to helping students feel valued as well as giving them confidence in their abilities to attempt and complete lesson tasks.And we look at ways of improving lessons by making them more interactive and appealing, more stimulating, more relevant to students’ lives and more fun.Now and again you can be forgiven for having a lesson of book work or worksheets.Now and again you can be forgiven for a lacklustre performance and for not displaying your usual enthusiasm and love for your subject.

No problem there,that’s life. The problems arise when the majority of lessons all follow the same format.If there is a continuing lack of challenge, variety and novelty, there will almost certainly be a continuing lack of interest from the students.As well as all these preventive tools, strategies and ideas for maintaining a positive lesson environment, we also present a wide range of very practical, highly effective responses to use when things go wrong. You will get some ideas for consequences which actually work, together with a method for issuing them which doesn’t lead to confrontation.

You will find new ways to help students follow your instructions and you will have a suite of proven strategies for addressing many of the specific behaviour issues you are likely to face in today’s tough classrooms.

If you would like to adopt the Needs Focused Teaching approach in your school or college please contact us to enquire about INSET or coaching.