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Application of Cognitive-Field Theories to Classroom and School Practices

From the point of view of Cognitive-Field Psychology, a person learns through differentiating, generalizing, and restructuring his person and his psychological environment in such a way that he acquires new or changed insights of meanings, and achieves changes in motivation, grasps belongingness, time perspective, and ideoloy, and gains control of himself and his world.

Applied to the school situations, each teacher and each pupil is conceived as a person within his psychological environment. The teacher’s function is to help pupils develop insights toward the attainment of adequate and harmonious personalities. This calls for a thorough understanding of the nature of the learner, his psychological field, the dynamic properties of his space, and the barriers to his goal. The teacher’s life space should intersect with the pupil’s life space. To insure a thorough understanding of the child, the teacher should go further; he has to perceive the pupil and his environment as the pupil sees himself. In so doing, he gains the confidence of the pupil and rapport between them is established. Thus, the barrier to communication is removed and learning is facilitated.

This theory is explained by the framework presented below:

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

According to this theory/framework, man’s physiological needs are the strongest of all his needs and the individual has to satisfy them if he is to survive. Once these needs are met, the needs in the second rung of the ladder emerge. Safety needs should be met, otherwise, the individual will feel insecure. That’s why, we have the army, the navy, the police force to protect us. They are maintained to guard the safety and the security of the individual person. The third in this hierarchy is love and belongingness. The moment the individual feels secure in his environment, he turns to others for companionship and acceptance. The feeling of belongingness and love is manifested in group attachment and loyalty. Fulfillment of this need becomes crucial for many children. The child who fails to establish rapport with his classmates develops hostile attitudes toward schooling and may quit his studies.

Next to this need is the need for esteem and regard from other people. Respect from others leads to prestige and appreciation. Anyone who fails to achieve esteem from his peers or from other people with whom he will associate will develop feelings of inferiority complex and inadequacy. He lives in constant apprehension of what others think of life.

The prime goal of the highest need of an individual s self-actualization. This need is for self-fulfillment, the epitome of one’s dreams and ambitions. This is the need for achievement and success in life’s undertakings.

Although the needs are presented in a hierarchical order, it does not follow that each need much be absolutely fulfilled before another one arises. Each need is gradually emerged with the others. Characteristic of a self-actualized individual is efficient perception of reality and comfortable relations with it. He has these characteristics:

  1. Ability to distinguish – He sees the distinction between truth and falsehood, between sincerity and hypocrisy. He can accept the truth will all its complexities.
  2. Acceptance of self and of others – He accepts himself and his beliefs. He has nothing to hide and is open to accept others.
  3. Spontaneity – He feels free to think or not. He is not concerned about impressing others. However, he is careful not to distress others.
  4. Autonomy, independence of culture and environment – He is not a slave to the cultures around him. He can deviate from and is not obstructed by the demand and exigencies of these cultures.
  5. Continued freshness of appreciation – He enjoys experiencing all aspects of life.
  6. Social interest – He has a strong sense of unity and brotherhood of man.
  7. Interpersonal relations – He has very few deep and rich relationships with others, both men and women.
  8. Discrimination between means and ends – He is generally a patient person who enjoys the work involved in achieving a goal as much as the achievement of the goal itself.
  9. Sense of humor – His humor is constructive rather than destructive. It is not aimed at hurting people or putting people down.
  10. Creativeness – He tends to be original and inventive in his everyday life.
  11. Resistance to inculturation -He can appreciate views very different from his own.

These needs have to distinct implications for classroom teaching. First, children have the desire to grow and to have their various needs satisfied. Second, certain needs have to be satisfied first before the others. For example, teachers are aware that children who are hungry or thirsty cannot concentrate on the lesson at hand. A child who is insecure cannot learn adequately. Teachers should be aware of the needs of these children and help them satisfy such needs. For optimal learning before attempting the higher level activities, teachers should see to it that the lower level needs are met first. For example, pre-requisite learning should be mastered first before attempting to teach the next higher level.


Santos, Alicia S. et al. Educational Psychology, pp. 190-195.

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