The Montessori Method, Italy
The Montessori theory of education is based on the studies of the Italian educationalist and doctor Maria Montessori (1870-1952). Her philosophy is orientated towards old traditions of European anthropology, particularly concerning children’s physical-spiritual-mental development, as well as their individual needs. This is what differentiates Montessori and ordinary schools, which are organized on the basis of a national syllabus. Montessori had complete confidence in children’s individual strengths and their ability to grow of their own accord and own volition.
At Montessori schools, children are not so much guided by teachers, as given support in finding their own way and thereby growing into intelligent, capable, co-operative and helpful human beings.
A firm principle of the Montessori method states that children learn those subjects best which are of compelling interest as of the present moment. Maria Montessori thought it was important to give children time and space to finish the work which they have selected for themselves quietly and independently. Only in this way can they acquire competence and be confident of their own capabilities.
Montessori classrooms provide a prepared environment where children are free to respond to their natural tendency to work. Children's innate passion for learning is encouraged by giving them opportunities to engage in spontaneous and purposeful activities with the guidance of a trained adult.
The Montessori approach offers a broad vision of education as an aid to later life. It is designed to help children realise their inner make-up as they grow from childhood to maturity. It succeeds because it draws its principles from the natural development of the child. Its flexibility provides a matrix within which each individual child's inner directives freely guide it toward wholesome growth.
Through their work, children develop concentration and self-discipline.They progress at their own pace and rhythm, according to their individual capabilities within an ordered framework.
The children’s requirements have priority over the plans and aims of teachers. Their inner needs are related to the extent of their maturity and development, as well as to previous learning achievements and practices. In order to find out these needs, teachers must devote themselves to their job with attention and empathy, observing and supervising.
Pupils understand things better if they have the possibility to touch them with their own hands and experience them with all their senses. Pupils in higher grades develop their ability for abstraction. At this stage materials are used less frequently. When children face problems, Montessori schools can turn back to that teaching material which has a special logical set up, especially in mathematics. Following a special, systematic structure, materials are presented to students in a way which gives them the chance to learn three important steps: materials, their purpose and being able to deal with them.
Independent work is one of the most important principles of Montessori education.
In most cases, children work at their own self-disciplined pace within a Montessori environment. Re-direction to purposeful activity meets the child’s needs and inspires it to develop intense concentration - virtually eliminating the need for outward discipline.
The Montessori environment helps children to work using their own initiative. All materials are designed to teach a lesson and isolate errors so that the child can correct them itself. Materials usually belong to a succession of lessons, which, in the beginning, are simple and concrete but become progressively more complex and abstract. This type of environment allows pupils to take responsibility for their own education, giving them the opportunity to choose how, where, when and for how long they wish to be occupied with a subject. In this way they learn self-reliance and interaction with others.
Mixed age groups
A Montessori classroom with mixed age groups encourages interdependence and learning from peers. This gives younger children the opportunity to learn from older children as well as giving older children an opportunity to be role models.
Documentation is a major part of the environmental set-up. Documentation on work and achievement illustrates both the process and the results. The child is seen as an individual but also in relation to a group, with various possibilities for the individual. Teachers, educators and parents take note of current achievements and outline the next steps.
Further information can be obtained here: Montessori