The Montessori Approach
Maria Montessori was a doctor and scientist. She spent her life observing children of all ages in different contexts, testing her theories in real classrooms and adapting her approach to the reality and individual needs of the children she observed. She developed a brain-based approach to child development.
Montessori's important findings have now been validated by modern neuroscience. Among these are:
Thinking, learning and movement go hand-in-hand.
Individuals with a sense of control over their lives learn better.
Learning must be interesting.
External reward negatively impacts individual motivation.
Collaboration has a positive impact on learning.
Real and meaningful context encourages deep learning.
Healthy emotional bonds with adults have a positive effect on learning.
Children learn best when there is order in their environment.
Montessori believed that the role of education was to contribute to peace and that it this could be achieved by creating learning environments that foster more well rounded "doers", not only "thinkers".
“Times have changed, and science has made great progress, and so has our work; but our principles have only been confirmed, and along with them our conviction that mankind can hope for a solution to its problems, among which the most urgent are those of peace and unity, only by turning its attention and energies to the discovery of the child and to the development of the great potentialities of the human personality in the course of its formation.”
- Dr. Maria Montessori
From the foreword to "The Discovery of the Child", Poona 1948
Key foundations of the Montessori approach:
1. Supporting the child as an active student
2. Respecting the child's inner world
3. Belief in the child's inner motivation
4. Providing freedom within borders
5. Encouraging the child's internal discipline
Pedagogical principles that support these foundations:
1. Vertical grouping: the mixing of age groups in one classroom, grouping of children in 3-year ranges (3-6 years, 6-9 years, etc.)
2. Work cycle: the Montessori work cycle is a continuous block of time. During this time, children are able to explore a specially prepared environment and work with materials of their own choice. The time is meant to give them the opportunity to enjoy the activities they love while cultivating basic life skills.
3. The prepared environment: the Montessori classroom is called a "prepared environment". It is a meaningfully structured learning space where everything has a purpose and a place. Furniture is light and child-sized, learning materials are designed to fit in children's hands, and everything is laid out to be open and accessible. A prepared environment activates a love of learning through curiosity, stability and freedom of choice.
4. An empathetic teacher: an educator who strives to understand students' needs, who shows care and concern in response to their emotions, and responds compassionately without losing the focus on learning.