ABCDE of Learner Needs
Autonomy Belonging Competence Developmental Appropriateness Engagement Fun


"I want to have a say in what happens to me."              

Autonomy is the need for independence and self-determination; the ability to make choices, to create, to explore, and to express oneself freely; to have sufficient space, to move around, and to feel unrestricted in determining choices and free will. What does autonomy look like in your own life?

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"I want to feel connected to and valued by those around me."

Belonging is our psychological need to love and care for others and to believe that we are loved and cared for in family relationships, friendships, and working relationships. To belong, we must connect with people by cooperating, caring, sharing, and being involved. Learn more.


"I want to feel a sense of significance, worth, and accomplishment."

For us to feel capable, we need a sense of empowerment, worthiness, self-efficacy, and achievement. This means an inner sense of achievement, accomplishment, pride, importance, and self-esteem and an outer sense of being heard and respected and feeling competent and attaining recognition. Learn more.

Developmental Appropriateness

"I am nurtured in my continual growth."

Learners need the right amount of challenge, fueled by just enough skill to get through the difficulty. If children are tasked with assignments that are too far beyond where they are developmentally or too easy, they are likely to disengage. Learn more.


"I want to be actively involved."

Engagement can happen through play and laughter, but joyful learning also occurs when we are creating, problem-solving, making interesting decisions, and interacting with others through worthwhile tasks. Learn more.


"I want to do something that brings me joy.”

Fun is engaging in an activity, with or without a goal in mind, because you enjoy doing it. We learn through play, and fun is essential to our learning. You have fun when you are smiling, feeling joyful or relaxed, laughing, and doing something outside the ordinary. Learn more.