What is the Montessori difference?
In many educational environments today, children are expected to respond based on conditioning. Teaching tends to focus on rote memorization and learning occurs only as a means of earning rewards.
Dr. Montessori challenged this view of learning and developed a completely different way of educating children. She saw children not as empty vessels incapable of making choices but as human beings with great potential to absorb and learn from their environment. As a result, she did not feel that children should have to learn a set of curriculum all together as a group. Instead, she was a proponent of building the learning around the individual interests of the child.
Learning in the Montessori environment is not teacher-led; it is child-driven. It is an environment in which active learning trumps passivity. The Montessori materials were scientifically developed to encourage children to discover for themselves the truths about mathematics, language, and culture, sequentially and progressively from concrete concept to abstract thought.
The use of rewards and punishments is discouraged in the Montessori environment. Dr. Montessori believed that true learning is only supported when the child is intrinsically motivated. This is substantiated by modern research that shows that “tangible rewards tend to have a substantially negative effect on intrinsic motivation… Even when tangible rewards are offered as indicators of good performance, they typically decrease intrinsic motivation for interesting activities.” (Deci et al, p. 658).
Another major difference is that Montessori advocated for teaching topics in relation to real-world context. She believed that, rather than teaching isolated facts, education should enable children to transfer their knowledge to real-world applications and situations.
With the crisis in conventional education, it shouldn’t be surprising that modern educational and psychological research disproves the current educational theory time and again. What continues to surprise many, however, is that research continues to support Dr. Montessori’s theories. She truly was a woman well-ahead of her time.
Reference: North American Montessori Center, “How is Montessori different?”, Montessori philosophy, 2018.