The complexity of self-actualization and how to help students achieve it

One of the primary goals of educators is typically to help students reach their greatest potential. However, before this can be done it’s often necessary to find out what motivates and brings them alive.

Self-actualization is a good starting place for motivation and Maslow’s Theory of Hierarchy of Needs supports this idea. He explains that self-actualization can only be met when other needs such as physiological, security, social, and esteem are met. Once they are, one can go on to the stage of self-actualization where an individual starts reaching their greatest potential.

The question then is, how do you realize self-actualization and what steps can be taken to get there? Moreso, how can you encourage others in this direction?

This article will explore how you can use e-learning as well as other methods to help students achieve self-actualization of their own.

What is self-actualization?

If you take a close look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, you’ll notice that the final stage is self-actualization. This is seen as the pinnacle of human needs as it’s where all of the magic happens.

If you want a better understanding of what self-actualization is, it can be defined as the desire that pushes an individual to realize their greatest potential.

When you self-actualize, you should become everything you could possibly be in that moment. As you can imagine, this isn’t something that everyone achieves in their lifetime and it’s an ongoing process.

Self-actualization isn’t a destination, either, but rather a fluid state of learning, self-discovery, and achievement. Throughout one’s lifetime, you could travel between different levels of the hierarchy depending on personal choices, state of mind, and circumstances, as well as where you’re generally at in life.

For example, self-actualization in a child is going to be wildly different from that of an adult in the prime of their career. Because of this, it would be impossible for a teacher to wholly teach a student how to self-actualize and remain self-actualized for their entire lives — but one might, at least, be able to offer them the tools to lead them in the right direction.

Give students a sense of belonging

With a basic understanding of self-actualization, how can you use it as a teacher? Start by giving your students a sense of belonging. This is imperative, as belonging is one of the lower-level needs that Maslow says has to be met before an individual can self-actualize.

You can help create a sense of belonging by cultivating a welcoming school culture. A simple way of doing this would be by building relationships with your students, and encouraging them to build relationships with one another, too, especially in an e-learning environment where they may never physically interact in person.

Read more: Focus in the new school year: Building relationships

You should also praise and celebrate them so they feel loved and encouraged. Another action you can take is to invest in them by dedicating time and resources to ensuring they succeed.

Don’t assume that all students feel a sense of belonging automatically, as this isn’t always the case. This is particularly true of students that have unstable living arrangements or are stuck in the foster care system. In fact, as of September 2016, 117,794 children were waiting to be adopted, which means there’s a high chance that one of them could be your student.

Consider e-learning

When helping your students reach a stage of self-actualization, e-learning can be an effective medium to utilize. At first glance it may not seem like the case, but not only can online learning environments meet student’s deficiency needs through additional activities and schoolwork, they can also meet their growth needs.

When devising your lessons or creating your own e-learning course, choose activities and exercises that give your students opportunities to achieve goals, work within a team, and challenge them without being overwhelming.

Also, include course goals that align with the ones students set for themselves. This will ensure there is a clear cut purpose that not only shows your students the direction to go in order to meet their goals, but ensures that once they reach them, they will feel accomplished in doing so.

Read more: How to turn your face-to-face class into an online course [Part 1]

Teach them how to achieve goals

A big part of becoming self-actualized is setting goals and tracking progress as you go along. However, when students get to the point where they’re ready for self-actualization, they may be motivated to achieve goals but not know how to do so. This is where you as a teacher can guide them along the process.

Begin by educating them on the importance of having clearly defined goals, both online and in real life, in the classroom and at home, and so on. For instance, they may decide they want to become better leaders. You could encourage them to join a sport to achieve that goal, or perhaps create work within a group setting and offering them opportunities to take a leadership role within that group.

Meanwhile, it’s also essential that you teach them how to monitor their progress when setting goals. Maybe even more importantly, they should celebrate their victories before moving on to the next conquest.

Build their self-esteem

Building your student’s self-esteem is the next means of getting them to the point of self-actualization. One way to build their esteem would be to show more empathy. When you show empathy in the classroom, you can connect with students and build better relationships with them.

When students feel understood and heard, it can set the tone for a positive learning environment. Not only are they likely to feel a sense of importance, but they may also feel far more confident.

Another way to build their self-esteem is to give them a chance to explore their creativity. This can build their self-esteem as it allows them to discover new things about themselves and other strengths they may have.

Remember that creativity is something that will be needed for them to achieve their greatest potential, whether they are transitioning into STEM or into the arts. By getting them accustomed to using and exploring it, they may find summoning creativity helps them to execute their goals more easily.

As an educator, you can teach creativity in the classroom by challenging the beliefs that creativity is only for chosen individuals, or only for certain hobbies that are inherently artistic. Be open to all forms of creativity, many of which will come in the form of unexpected answers and imperfections. However, it’s these imperfections that can lead to even more creativity if properly stoked and nurtured.

Wrapping up

Self-actualization can be a beautiful thing to watch, especially as a teacher. Knowing that you were able to play a part in students becoming the best version of themselves will be a rewarding feeling, not only for you but also for your students. Most importantly, encourage positivity, goals, and teamwork among your students — you’ll see the difference in no time!

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