§ Maria Montessori pioneered the Montessori educational method which is a child-centered, alternative education method based on her theories of child development.
§ The method is primarily applied in preschool and elementary school settings, and it emphasizes self-directed activity on the part of the child, and observation on the part of the teacher.
§ The Montessori educational philosophy is built upon the idea that children develop and think differently from adults; that they are not merely “adults in small bodies”. Dr. Montessori advocated children’s rights, children working to develop themselves into adults, and that these developments would lead to world peace.
§ The Montessori method discourages many of the traditional measurements of achievement (grades, tests). The method instead focuses on sparking a child’s interest in learning through presenting materials to students that will catch their interest.
§ The Montessori Method does measure feedback and qualitative analysis of a child’s schooling performance. The analysis does not come from grades, but from careful observation of the child.
§ There are many ways to present these observations to parents and there is no standard way to do it. It is often recorded as a list of skills, activities, and critical points, and sometimes including a narrative explanation of the child’s educational achievements, strengths, and weaknesses — with the emphasis upon the improvement of weaknesses.
§ The premises of a Montessori approach to teaching and learning include the following:
- That children are capable of self-directed learning.
- That it is critically important for the teacher to be an “observer” of the child instead of a lecturer. This observation of the child interacting with his or her environment is the basis for the continuing presentation of new material and avenues of learning.
- That there are numerous “sensitive periods” of development (periods of a few weeks or even months), during which a child’s mind is particularly open to learning specific skills or knowledge such as crawling, sitting, walking, talking, reading, counting, and various levels of social interaction. These skills are learned effortlessly and joyfully.
- That children have an “absorbent mind” from birth to around age 6, possessing limitless motivation to achieve competence within their environment and to perfect skills and understandings. This phenomenon is characterized by the young child’s capacity for repetition of activities within sensitive period categories, such as exhaustive babbling as language practice leads to language competence.
- That children are masters of their school room environment, which has been specifically prepared for them to be academic, comfortable, and to encourage independence by giving them the tools and responsibility to manage its upkeep.
- That children learn through discovery, so didactic materials with a control for error being used. Through the use of these materials, which are specific to Montessori schools (sets of letters, blocks, and science experiments) children learn to correct their own mistakes instead of relying on a teacher to give them the correct answer.
- That children most often learn alone during periods of intense concentration. During these self-chosen and spontaneous periods, the child is not to be interrupted by the teacher.
- That the hand is intimately connected to the developing brain in children. Children must actually touch the shapes, letters, temperatures, etc. that they are learning about—not just watch a teacher or TV screen tell them about these discoveries.