Montessori methodology refers to a form of education established by Maria Montessori who was the first woman to qualify as a doctor in Italy (1896). Through her scientific observations and work with children and work with children she developed an environment and educational philosophy prepared for meeting the progressive needs of the developing child. This educational approach is child centred and fosters a love of learning based on intrinsic motivation. The adult is the link to the environment, encouraging growth and self initiated study.
In the Montessori classroom, learning initially occurs through the use of materials which provide a concrete representation of an abstract concept. Step by step, the child is led from the concrete to the abstract. Concepts are known for why they work before the theoretical is expected. We emphasize process over product and independent problem solving. The child becomes a self-directed learner, not dependent on the focus of the adult. The teacher is the guide of the child; showing the way or unlocking the door to the environment, thus enabling the child to reach their full potential.
Multi age or family groupings maintain a social setting normal in life. Children reach developmental milestones at varying times so their needs are more readily met in a multi age grouping. Young children are stimulated and motivated by what they witness others doing. Older children act as role models for younger children and are often able to be teachers for them. This builds confidence and cooperation.
Montessori education is characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological development. Some elements that are essential to a Montessori classroom are:
- Mixed age classrooms
- Student choice of activity from a prescribed range of options
- Uninterrupted blocks of work time
- A constructivist or ‘discovery’ model, where students learn concepts from working with materials after being introduced to them by a guide (teacher)
- Specialized materials developed by Maria Montessori and her collaborators
A lot of these things listed above seem too good to be true, but one of the best things about the Montessori philosophy is how closely the philosophy on paper lines up with the philosophy in action.