The education of our young ones has certainly taken a turn for the worse in the past 18 or so months since the first instance of Covid-19 rearing its ugly head. Students now depend on online learning to keep up with their education, which isn’t always the most conducive learning method around to be completely honest. Similarly, educators are now facing the rather worrying conundrum of how to effectively teach their educatees in this difficult global climate. This is where the Montessori teaching method comes in.
If you’ve never heard of Montessori education, strap yourselves in, you’re in for a learning experience today.
Who Was Maria Montessori?
Maria Tecla Artemisia Montessori (1870-1952) was an Italian physicist, anthropologist, and most importantly, a renowned educator. She spent her life trying to understand how children develop by taking into account their social skills, intellectual capacity, physical traits, and how they behave spiritually. By observing children coming from various backgrounds and upbringings all over the world, she discovered that there were universal patterns of development in these areas regardless of the child’s culture or physical location.
It was in 1907, that Dr Montessori began to get a breakthrough when she was given the responsibility of caring for a group of children in the slums of Rome’s San Lorenzo district. It was here that she noticed the importance of a positive and nurturing environment towards the growth and development of a child. Thereafter, Dr Maria Montessori and her associates spent the next few years developing and designing a concrete, physical representation of the concepts and skills that children needed to naturally learn in their normal education progress. Thus, the Montessori method of education was born. And today, her educational method is used in many public and private schools globally.
What Exactly is The Montessori Education Method?
In essence, the Montessori education method revolves around independence. It assumes that children are naturally curious and eager to learn via a sufficiently supportive and well-prepared learning environment. In short, it means children are keener to learn when their learning environment is sufficiently conducive to their needs.
The Montessori method also discourages the conventional measures of achievements in education institutions like grades and tests. Here are the key guiding principles of the Montessori Education Method.
- Respect: Dr Maria Montessori had a profound respect for children as well as the developmental potential that each child had that could drive them to seek certain experiences. The Montessori education then reframes the relationship of an adult and child to place the said child at the epicentre of his or her own learning. By utilising the Montessori method, children are respected as separate and unique individuals with their own wants and needs, instead of a group of children in a classroom. The educators guide the children to respect people and objects in their environment, and as the child matures, to respect and understand the links between all living and non-living things.
- Prepared Environment: At each stage of development, every child’s needs will inevitably change. This is why the prepared environment of a classroom is vital for the optimal growth of the child. Some key things to take note of in a prepared environment is how the child develops physically, cognitively, socially, and emotionally. By aligning activities in the environment with what the child requires at any stage of their development, Montessori ensures that there is ample room to liberate the child’s energy for growth and learning.
- Hands-On Learning: Speaking of environments, Montessori encourages an interactive space in which hands-on exploration is a necessity. By using a combination of the mind, body, and senses, learning becomes a full-body experience. Montessori environments follow the natural inclination of children towards activity by offering an appropriate and diverse range of objects/activities for meaningful engagement.
- Discovery and Problem Solving: Another key principle in Montessori education is that children are encouraged to seek the answers for themselves. This would then lead to a much deeper learning experience, while also instilling a lifelong habit of problem-solving skills.
- Imagination: For young children, Montessori classrooms highly support the development of imagination and creativity. Open-ended activities and classroom games are encouraged so that children are able to explore new ideas and relationships, as well as providing the foundation for self-expression and innovation.
- Freedom of Choice: Montessori recognizes that children will, in fact, act in positive ways that further their development when they are given a certain level of freedom to choose. In Montessori classrooms, expectations are made clear and the students will need to experience the natural and logical consequences of their choices and actions. This freedom with certain limitations in place allows for the natural development of self-regulation within a society — a key behaviour required when the child enters the real world in the future.
- Independence: Humans crave independence, and more so when it comes to children. They want to do things for themselves, on their own. In the Montessori method, this natural inclination towards independence is fostered via a myriad of practical, social, and intellectual experiences. The child then becomes an active agent in their own education by attempting to do it themselves. Educators honour this intent by helping children move to increasingly higher levels of independence as well as self-reliance.
How the key commandments of the Montessori education method will be translated into an online learning environment, we’ll let you decide. But the key takeaway here is that the Montessori method works, just ask any of the hundreds of thousands of children that have benefitted from Dr Maria Montessori’s lifework.