"Maslow before Bloom"

Updated: Nov 17, 2020


The phrase Maslow before Bloom is popular in education circles. It is typically used to communicate how humans need their basic needs met before academic learning can be fully embraced. With students now experiencing school-at-home during this COVID-19 epidemic, we all may gain some insight from this phrase Maslow before Bloom.



The phrase Maslow before Bloom refers to two 20th century American psychologists, Abraham Maslow and Benjamin Bloom. If you’re familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Bloom’s Taxonomy, feel free to breeze through this section but do consider refreshing your memory a bit.

Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) is known for his "Hierarchy of Needs" which frames five tiers of human needs. These tiers include Physiological, Safety, Belonging, Esteem, and finally Self-actualization. Maslow's final work was never published and includes one additional tier he referred to as the tier of Self-transcendence, but this tier is typically excluded because it is seen as an unfinished concept by Maslow.

Benjamin Bloom was another 20th century American psychologist (1913-1999) who is known for his Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, tiers of verbs that organize higher- and lower- levels of cognitive skills for learning. These verbs are organized into Cognitive tiers labeled knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. There is also another less popular Bloom taxonomy, Affective tiers, described later in this article.


Maslow’s two lowest tiers physiological and safety needs involve our most basic needs such as food, water, shelter, as well as security to relax socially and financially. These levels extend to things like sleep, clean air, exercise, clothing, warmth, and other physical or bodily needs. For those families struggling to afford these basic necessities or without a space to relax without fear of physical or mental stress, children may find this tier keeping them from Bloom’ing at school. Families that struggle to meet these needs for their children each day often have little energy to address the higher tiers in positive ways.