The Teacher Hierarchy of Needs
For many years, we have advocated approaches to schooling that address all of a child’s needs in order to give them the best opportunities to learn. For example, a child who does not have enough nutrition will not be able to focus through a long school day. A child who needs vision correction will have trouble reading the board. A child who experiences violence may be preoccupied with fear and grief. We have long recognized that a child’s basic needs must be met before schooling will be productive. This moment is no different though the trauma experienced by students, parents, and educators is more broadly felt.
Our Center for Education Design, Evaluation, and Research (CEDER) team developed this model to help everyone we serve focus their efforts where they are needed in this difficult time. If you have been struggling, you are not alone.
We are here to support you with what we know best—teaching and learning—but first we must acknowledge that the foundation for successful teaching and learning, as displayed in the hierarchy graphic, is strongest when the physiological needs of teachers, students, and their families have been met. Whether you are a teacher making a big transition to distance learning or a parent trying to homeschool while balancing many other responsibilities, lead with a focus on your needs and those of your children or students.
We can’t expect what we do right now to be a perfect replacement for school, but we can still keep kids engaged, growing, and learning. We are here to provide supports or guidance for teaching and learning at this time. Please submit your questions using our Ask an Expert form, connect with other educators online, and tap into U-M resources.
Teacher Hierarchy of Needs
Providing online instruction and other forms of learning at a distance is important but should be viewed in the broader context of multiple,
intersecting needs. Online instruction and distance learning will be more effective and productive when we take care of ourselves and do
what we can to support our students and families.
Provide online instruction or learning at a distance
students feel safe
- Provide support and connection
- Show students that someone cares
connected, and loved
- Take care of your emotional health
- If you feel overwhelmed, take care of yourself
- Be there for your family and friends (in safe and responsible ways)
- Let your family be there for you
Meet the physiological needs of your
students and their families (health,
- Districts might provide resources and referrals, if necessary
- Students shouldn't be expected to work if they are not safe
- This may be out of your control
Meet your own physiological needs
- Staying safe, having food and shelter
- You can't help others if you are not safe
- Use physical distancing as much as possible
Ask an Expert Responses
What might parents be doing with their children at home to support their learning using technology tools?
Dr. Liz Kolb, professor of education technologies, shares 6 tips with parents about supporting their children's learning from home during the COVID pandemic:
What should screentime look like during the COVID pandemic?
Dr. Liz Kolb, professor of education technologies, shares 7 tips with parents about children's screentime, including information on different kinds of screentime, how to get the best learning results, and how to take breaks from technology:
How might teachers use technologies to maintain learning continuity?
Dr. Liz Kolb, professor of education technologies, shares 7 tips with teachers about what they should be asking their students do with technology during the COVID pandemic:
How can educators provide small group literacy instruction for young children using video conferencing platforms?
In this video, Nell K. Duke discusses how to provide small group literacy instruction for young children using a videoconferencing platform (Zoom). She walks through a phonics lesson focused on oi and then, more briefly, a lesson that builds knowledge about food chains and flow diagrams. The video concludes with reflections from four instructional coaches and a few final words from Duke.
How can teachers promote productive discussions in remote environments?
Response from Jeff Stanzler, director of the Interactive Communications & Simulations (ICS) group and lecturer in educational studies:
What might parents whose children have IEPs do to effectively work with their students’ educators in these circumstances?
Response from Kathleen Fortini, lecturer in teacher education:
During this unprecedented time, it is important for families and educators to work collaboratively to support each student. Having clear and consistent communication between home and school will help to optimize learning. As a family you might consider the following practices to structure learning at home:
- Set up a schedule that works best for your family and establish a home school routine
- Consider creating a checklist of tasks with your child and their teacher
- Take breaks as needed
- Build off your child's interests to explore meaningful learning opportunities
Remote teaching and learning
Professor Liz Kolb is an expert in education technologies. She has been gathering other experts who teach with technology and teachers just beginning to transition their teaching to online platforms to support one another. Join their conversation at any time on Twitter using #F2Ftovirtual. The group frequently holds Twitter live chats on Sunday evenings.
Teacher and parent surveys on remote learning
The U-M School of Education has published two online national surveys for K-12 teachers and parents of school-aged children to gauge their successes and struggles with remote learning amid school closures. If you are a K-12 teacher or the parent of a K-12 school-aged child (or children) in the United States, please complete the surveys by May 20th.
The results of the surveys will inform developing professional development for K-12 school districts on remote and blended learning. The results will also provide the education community with a snapshot of K-12 teacher and parent experiences with remote learning during COVID-19. This work is directed by Dr. Liz Kolb, a clinical associate professor of learning technology and teacher education in the U-M School of Education. The research is approved by the U-M Institutional Review Board.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced educators out of their classrooms and necessitated remote teaching and learning. How should pedagogies be adapted to effectively accommodate the technologies now required to reach learners? What can be learned now that will be applicable now and when schools are open again? The SOE offers several professional development opportunities that may help educators navigate the challenges presented by the pandemic, and prepare for what comes after.
Advanced Education Technology
The Advanced Education Technology Certificate Program develops educators who will use educational technologies for learning in meaningful and transformative ways. Learners connect ISTE competencies in this certificate program to their own P–12 classes and schools, creating lessons and professional development projects around their school's particular needs and demographics.
This course is online, contains synchronous and asynchronous coursework, contains 17.5 hours of content (over 15 weeks), and upon completion awards a professional, non-degree certificate and/or 45 SCECH hours.
With instruction by Dean Elizabeth Moje and Darin Stockdill, Instructional and Program Design Coordinator, CEDER, learners in this course will study the latest findings and recommendations from working educators in the field of disciplinary literacy, and uncover tools, knowledge, and strategies needed to develop students' reading and writing capabilities in different disciplines.
This course is online, self-paced, contains 10 hours of content, and upon completion awards a professional, non-degree certificate.
The MicroMasters in Leading Educational Innovation and Improvement is a series of courses designed to help educators become leaders in the practice of educational innovation. The five courses cover topics including leadership in teaching and learning, designing and leading learning systems, improving science in education, leading educational innovation, and more.
This program is online, self-paced, contains 10 months of content (2–4 hours per week), upon completion awards a professional, non-degree certificate, and can count as credit toward a Master's degree.
Teaching & Learning Exploratory
The Teaching and Learning Exploratory (TLE) features full-length classroom videos and curated collections of clips with integrated tools for interaction and exploration. The TLE includes over a thousand classroom sessions from diverse locations in K-12 settings.
TLE resources are online, and a limited number of clips are available free of charge. TLE resources are free for members of the SOE community.