Montessori education was developed as a child centered scientific approach to child education.
Named after its founder, Dr. Montessori the first woman physician in Italy, the curriculum of learning was derived from her studies and observations of children and human development.
It is a philosophy and model developed in the late 1800's that was designed to consider the impact of the environment on the process of a child's learning.
In the subsequent years, a lot of practices have risen under the 'Montessori' name, holding to the eight fundamental principles that need to be adhered to.
The American Montessori' Association (AMS) cites the following elements as key determinants of Montessori education:
- Mixed age classrooms with the most common being preschool classrooms for children ages 2½ or 3 to 6 years
- Learners have a choice in the activities they participate in from within a prescribed range of options.
- Uninterrupted blocks of work time, where time is less structures in an ideal period of three hours
- A discovery model, where students learn concepts from hands on experiences with working on materials rather than plain instructions
- Specialized educational materials developed by Montessori or the teacher in line with the specific needs of learners often made out of natural materials
- A thoughtfully prepared learning environment where materials are organized and easily within reach of the child
- Freedom within limits with the learner allowed to express their curiosity and skills freely
- A trained and highly experienced Montessori teacher who follows the child and observing the individual child's characteristics and abilities
Movement and cognition
Movement and cognition are closely intertwined. Human beings need to coordinate their cognitive thoughts with their movements.
Physical movement can enhance thinking and are gateway's to discovering a person’s skills and capabilities. Small and big movements of the body open a window for the observation of a person’s thoughts and intentions.
Choice and perceived-control in their learning environment promote children’s concentration. The ability to choose ones interest and what to work on creates a positive learning environment.
It brings contentment in the learning process and boosts a learners self confidence in their undertakings. Having the child make a list of work assignments for the day and create their own schedule gives them control over their work.
Keep a basket in the refrigerator of healthy snacks for them to choose from enables them to have choices to consider. Creating a basket of pre-selected (high quality) SSR books to read gives them variety and options to suit their needs.
Personal interest enhances learning in a context. The curriculum should be based on the child's interests and needs with a buildup upon that foundation —Interests build on the child's curiosity and prior knowledge.
Extrinsic rewards are avoided
Extrinsic rewards negatively impact long-term motivation and learning. This challenges normal practice since we have been conditioned to expect extrinsic rewards by traditional education.
Getting rid of the pass/fail, win/lose mentality in our culture goes to promote self direction and intrinsic motivation in the child. The teachers appreciate the child's input in tasks they perform by encouraging them and acknowledging their progress.
They implicitly motivate children to value their own work and analyze their progress. They encourage the child to derive joy from their own work and not seek out extrinsic rewards for effort made.
Montessori teachers help the child realize their errors and gently guide them on how to correct it. The sensorial materials are also designed to help children instantly identify and fix mistakes while they happen.
Learning from and with peers
Collaborative social relations among the children is conducive to learning. The sessions in Montessori are held in multi age groups where the younger kids can interact and learn from the older ones.
Unlike the traditional system where the classes are separated according to age, Montessori encourages the older children to teach and show their skills to the younger ones.
It’s a way of incorporating social interaction with learning by reinforcing skills learnt through teaching. The children are able to satisfy several developmental needs in a learning environment.
Learning in context
Montessori is concerned with learning situated in a meaningful context where the children can apply themselves. This is more effective than learning in abstracted contexts where the children have little to no use of material learnt.
Children make better sense of the world by getting involved in practical activities. This combined with the usual educational context applied in their routine tasks increases their scope of learning.
Children tend to imitate activities they have observed more than verbal instruction. Montessori curriculum shows them how to perform tasks for further implementation by the children.
Sessions like practical life classes teach preschoolers learn how to brush teeth, clean up after themselves, and even dress up. These skills help the children develop independence and confidence in themselves.
Teacher ways and child ways
Sensitive and responsive teaching is associated with more optimal outcomes. The teacher progresses with their students to the next level of learning to avoid severing the teacher-student relationships created.
A Montessori teacher’s job is to observe the children and introduce them to the learning materials at the appropriate time. There is a lot of on one on between each child and the teacher during class time.
The teacher is aware of every child's individual needs and skill set in the classroom. The learning process includes a lot of application and practical exercises conducted by the teacher and mimicked by the children.
Order in environment and mind
Order in the learning environment of the child creates a mental orderliness during learning. The child is able to mimic their learning environment and appropriate place the learning materials in the right places.
This goes to build the child's mental compartmentalization and gives them a sense of responsibility for the way their environment should be.