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The Montessori Method – Learning by Doing.

An educational approach based on a model of human development.

Montessori education is an educational approach developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori. Since Montessori’s first school was opened to working class children in San Lorenzo in Rome, more than 4500 Montessori schools have opened in the USA, and around 20,000 worldwide. In her career, Montessori received a total of six nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Montessori observed children and experimented with the environment, materials, and lessons available to them. She valued independence, responsible freedom, and respect for all aspects of the child’s natural development. This development includes a controlled educational environment, and encouraging the child to choose and act freely to accomplish what they wish, with ‘learning by doing’.

Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori

Founder of the Montessori method of education - The North American Montessori Teachers' Association estimates that in 2017 there are about 4,500 Montessori schools in the United States and about 20,000 worldwide.

Montessori’s insight into child psychology identified the following as “human tendencies”, which are seen as driving behavior in every stage of development, and she believed that child education should respond to and facilitate their expression.

Abstraction, Activity, Communication, Exactness, Exploration, Manipulation (of the environment), Order, Orientation ,Repetition, Self-Perfection, Purposeful Activity.

The Learning Environment:

Montessori  placed importance within the education environment with the following :

Ease of movement and activity, Beauty and harmony, cleanliness of environment, Construction in proportion to the child’s, Limitation of materials, so that only material that supports the child’s development is included. Nature both in and outside the classroom.

Special Periods for Young Learners:

Montessori  believed young children had special abilities to learn things easily up until around the age of 6. She also noticed periods where certain elements were prominent. She identified the following periods and their durations:

Acquisition of language—from birth to around 6 years old

Interest in small objects—from around 18 months to 3 years old

Order—from around 1 to 3 years old

Sensory refinement—from birth to around 4 years old

Social behaviour—from around 2½ to 4 years old

In Montessori education, the classroom environment makes appropriate materials and activities available while the periods are active in each individual young child.

Normalisation:

Montessori observed a state she called ‘normalisation’ in children from three to six years old, this being a result of concentration and focus on activity, aiding “spontaneous discipline, continuous and happy work, social sentiments of help and sympathy for others.”

Montessori Classrooms:

A typical Montessori classroom can serve 20 to 30 children in mixed-age groups, staffed by one trained teacher and an assistant. Classrooms usually have child-sized tables and chairs, and classroom materials on child-height shelves throughout the room. Activities are initially introduced by the teacher, after which they may be chosen more or less freely by the children. Classroom materials usually include activities for practical skills such as pouring and spooning, materials for the development of the senses, math materials, language materials, music and art materials, and more. . These materials help build a concrete understanding of basic concepts upon which much is built in the later years.

A 2006 study published Science magazine found that “…when strictly implemented, Montessori education fosters social and academic skills that are equal or superior to those fostered by a pool of other types of schools.”

Lillard, Angeline (2017)

Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius., New York, New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 351–376. ISBN 978-0-19-998152-6

Another study in the USA (Milwaukee Public Schools) found that children who had attended Montessori from ages 3–11 outperformed their high school classmates several years later on mathematics and science

Dohrmann KR, Nishida TK, Gartner A, Lipsky DK, Grimm KJ (2007).

"High school outcomes for students previously in a public Montessori program", Journal of Research in Childhood Education 22/2, pp. 205-217