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THE BOOK OF EDUCATION
This article is from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montessori_method

All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Text_of_the_GNU_Free_Documentation_License 

Montessori method

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
 


The Montessori method is both a methodology and educational philosophy. It was originally developed in the early 1900s by Dr. Maria Montessori. Many Montessori schools are preschool or elementary school in level, but there are some Montessori programs which begin with infants and/or end at 12th Grade. Montessori stated, "I have studied the child. I have taken what the child has given me and expressed it and that is what is called the Montessori method."

Philosophy

Concepts

The Montessori philosophy is built upon the idea that children develop and think differently than adults, that they are not merely "adults in small bodies." Dr. Montessori believed in children's rights, children working to develop themselves into adults, and that this development would lead to world peace.

The Montessori method discourages traditional measurements of achievement (grades, tests) as negative competition that is damaging to the inner growth of children (and adults). Feedback and qualitative analysis of a child's performance does exist but is generally provided in the form of a list of skills, activities and critical points, and sometimes a narrative of the child's achievements, strengths and weaknesses, with emphasis on the improvement of those weaknesses.

The method was developed from observations of young children from which a set of universal characteristics of children was created for each level of development. The Montessori method has two primary development levels: the first is birth through 6, the second is ages 6-12. A Montessori classroom for the first level is called the casa dei bambini, or "children's house," with focus on individually-paced learning and development. In the second level, collaboration with others is encouraged, and "cosmic education" is introduced.

As an educational approach, the Montessori method's focus is on the individuality of each child in respect of their needs or talents, as opposed to the needs of the class as a whole. A goal is to help the child maintain their natural joy of learning.

The Montessori method encourages independence and freedom with limits and responsibility. The youngest children are guided in "practical life" skills: domestic skills and manners. These skills are emphasized with the goal of increasing attention spans, hand-eye coordination, and tenacity. The Montessori Method states that satisfaction, contentment, and joy result from the child feeling like a full participant in daily activities. Montessori education carried through the elementary and high school years follows the child's emerging tendency for peer interactions and still emphasizes each student as guardian of his or her own intellectual development.

Premises

The premises of a Montessori approach to teaching and learning include the following:

  • A view of children as competent beings capable of self-directed learning.
  • That children learn in a distinctly different way from adults.
  • The ultimate importance of observation of the child interacting with her or his environment as the basis for ongoing curriculum development. Presentation of subsequent exercises for skill development and information accumulation are based on the teacher's observation that the child has mastered the current exercise(s).
  • Delineation of sensitive periods of development, during which a child's mind is particularly open to learning specific skills or knowledge, including language development, sensorial experimentation and refinement, and various levels of social interaction.
  • A belief in the "absorbent mind", that children from birth to around age 6 possess limitless motivation to achieve competence within their environment and to perfect skills and understandings. This phenomenon is characterized by the young child's capacity for repetition of activities within sensitive period categories, such as exhaustive babbling as language practice leading to language competence.
  • That children are masters of their environment, which has been specifically prepared for them to be academic, comfortable, and allow a maximum amount of independence.
  • That children learn through discovery, so didactic materials that are self-correcting are used as much as possible.
  • Independent problem solving is encouraged.

Goals

The goal of Montessori is to provide a stimulating, child-centered environment in which children can explore, touch, and learn without fear, thus engendering a lifelong love of learning as well as providing the child the self-control necessary to fulfill that love.

Implementation

Montessori is a highly hands-on approach to learning. It encourages children to develop their observation skills by doing many types of activities. These activities include use of the five senses, kinetic movement, spatial refinement, small and large motor skill coordination, and concrete knowledge that leads to later abstraction.

The classroom

Bespoke child-sized furniture.
Bespoke child-sized furniture.

Montessori classrooms are child centric. Furniture is child-sized, and there is no teacher's desk. The typical classroom consists of four areas: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, and Mathematics. Practical Life includes activities such as buttoning, sweeping, pouring, slicing, tying, etc. Sensorial includes activities to stimulate and train hearing, touch, smell, and taste.

Most Montessori classrooms try to include ways for the children to interact with the natural world, perhaps through a classroom pet (rabbits, gerbils, mice, etc.), or a small garden where the children can plant vegetables or flowers.

In schools that extend to the upper grades, each Montessori classroom still includes an approximately three-year age range. This system allows flexibility in learning pace and allowing older children to become teachers by sharing what they have learned. The intent is to establish a non-competitive atmosphere in the classroom. The belief is that class work which is different for each child results in students who are less likely to try to keep track of where other children are academically.

Pedagogical materials

Every activity has its place in the classroom and is self-contained and self-correcting. The original didactic materials are specific in design, conforming to exact dimensions, and each activity is designed to focus on a single skill, concept or exercise. All of the material is based on SI units of measurement (for instance, the Pink Tower is based on the 1cm cube) which allows all the materials to work together and complement each other, as well as introduce the SI units through concrete example. In addition to this, material is intended for multiple uses at the primary level. A perfect example of this is the "Knobbed Cylinder" materials: not only do they directly offer a sensorial lesson, but indirectly the child's grip on the cylinders paves the way for holding a pencil, and the grades of cylinders allow for an introduction to mathematics.

Girls at The Druk White Lotus School learning with Montessori materials
Girls at The Druk White Lotus School learning with Montessori materials

Other materials are often constructed by the teacher: felt storyboard characters, letter boxes (small containers of objects that all start with the same letter) for the language area, science materials (e.g. dinosaurs for tracing, etc.), scent or taste activities, and so on. The practical life area materials are almost always put together by the teacher. All activities, however, must be neat, clean, attractive and preferably made of natural materials such as glass or wood, rather than plastic. Sponges, brooms and dustpans are provided and any mishaps (including broken glassware) are not punished but rather treated simply as an opportunity for the children to demonstrate responsibility by cleaning up after themselves.

At higher grade levels, the teacher becomes more involved in creating materials since not only the students but also the potential subject matter widens so much. However, many of the earlier materials can be revisited with a new explanation, emphasis or use; for example, the cube that a five-year-old used as an exercise in color matching is revealed to the elementary level student to physically embody the mathematical relationship (a+b)3=a3 + 3a2b + 3ab2 +b3.

Lessons

A child doesn't work with an activity until the teacher or another student has demonstrated its proper use to him or her, and then s/he may use it as s/he wishes (limited only by his or her imagination or a danger to the material, himself or herself or others). Each activity leads directly to a new level of learning or concept. When a child "works," s/he is acquiring the basis for later concepts. Repetition of activities is considered an integral part of this learning process and children are allowed to repeat activities as often as they wish. A child's becoming tired of the repetition is thought to be a sign s/he is ready for the next level of learning.

The child proceeds at his or her own pace from concrete objects and tactile experiences to abstract thinking, writing, reading, science, and mathematics. For example, in the language area, the child begins with the sandpaper letters (26 flat wooden panels, each with a single letter of the alphabet cut from sandpaper and affixed to it). The child's first lesson is to trace the shape of the letter with their fingers while saying the phonic sound of the letter. A next level activity might be the letter boxes (small containers each with a letter on the top, filled with objects that begin with that letter). Having mastered these, the child may move on to the word boxes (small containers each with a short three-letter word on the top, for example CAT, containing a small wooden cat and the letters C, A, T). One child might move through all three levels of lessons in a few weeks while another might take several months; although there is a prescribed sequence of activities there is no prescribed timetable. A Montessori teacher or instructor observes each child like a scientist, providing him with appropriate lessons as he is ready for them.

Home schoolers may find both the philosophy and the materials useful since each child is treated as an individual and activities are self-contained, self-correcting, and expandable. Aspects of the Montessori Method can easily scale down to a homeschooling environment - save, of course, Montessori's requirement for large, mixed age groups of children.

Montessori in the USA

Montessori schools

There are currently over 8,000 privately held Montessori schools in the USA, as well as several hundred public schools that include Montessori programs (see below). Most schools have a primary program (from 3-6 years) and often a lower elementary (6-9 years). Upper elementary programs (9-12 years) are less common, although about one school in eight will have this program. At this time Montessori junior highs and high schools are rare. However, the first public Montessori high school in the country, Clark Montessori located in Cincinnati, Ohio, was started in 1994. Several pilot Montessori junior highs, like the Alsion Montessori Middle/High School in Northern California, have opened based on writings by Montessori on Erdkinder, or "earth children", which was a term Montessori coined for children ages 12 through 18. L & L Montessori in Southport, NC, teaches children from age 3 years up to 8th grade[1], along with Millhopper Montessori School[2] in Gainesville, Florida. In 1997, New Century Montessori High School in Grand Rapids, MI, was established as one of the first public Montessori high schools in the country. It graduated its first class of 32 seniors in 2000. Some of these graduates had been involved in the Grand Rapids Montessori schools since Pre-K and Kindergarten. Grand Rapids Public Schools continues to offer one of the most comprehensive Montessori programs in the country. Schools such as Shelton, Barrie, New Gate, and the Visitation Academy of St. Louis teach students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade while the Hershey School provides Montessori philosophy and practice for the Middle School years. The last few years have seen the advent of infant and toddler Montessori programs. Many schools, like the Hershey School, offer "Mother and Child" programs in which parents can learn about Montessori and how to apply the philosophy to their child-rearing practices. In many other schools, the demand for high-quality childcare has spurred the growth of Montessori infant, or "Nido" (the Italian word for "nest") and toddler, or "Infant Community" programs.

Montessori programs in public schools

A survey conducted in 1981 collected data from 25 of the approximately 50 school districts nationwide known to have Montessori programs at the time (Chattin-McNichols, 1981). The only other study of public Montessori programs is much more recent. During school year 1990-91, this study received responses from 63 of the 120 school districts or schools to whom surveys were sent (Michlesen and Cummings, 1991). Results from this study indicate that the number of students in the schools or school districts averaged 233, with an average of 10 teachers per program. A total of 32, or 58%, of the schools surveyed reported that they were magnet schools. A total of 69% of the Montessori programs shared a building with other programs. District funding for the training of Montessori teachers was provided in 66% of the districts. Only 42% of the programs provided the three-year age span of three-, four-, and five-year-olds. This indicates that the degree to which particular districts implement the Montessori model varies.

A total of 16 of the 57 schools charged tuition for some part of the program. About two thirds of the programs provided free transportation. In addition, two thirds of the districts reported that additional staff were used in the Montessori magnet schools. These factors can add to the overall costs of the program.

In January of 2007, The Washington Post [1] published an article titled "Montessori, Now 100, Goes Mainstream" The article discussed the increasing number of Montessori public school programs, particularly in African American communities.

Once a maverick experiment that appealed only to middle-class white families, Montessori schools have become popular with some black professionals and are getting results in low income public schools with the kind of children on which Montessori first tested her ideas.

The article goes on to discuss how Montessori has been implemented in the public schools, and has become an attractive option to black, middle class parents because it provides an alternative to the "No Child Left Behind" strategies in most current public school curricula.

Criticisms

A range of criticisms are levelled at the Montessori Method. The two primary critics of the Montessori Method in education theory are William Heard Kilpatrick and John Dewey. They thought that Montessori is too restrictive, and does not adequately emphasize social interaction and development. Dewey believed that the Montessori Method stifled creativity. However, Dewey and Montessori agreed that the needs of the student should direct education, and that the teacher should act as a guide to the educational process.

Another criticism of Montessori schools is that they do not traditionally assign homework. The lessons taught in a Montessori classroom are not generally conducive to home use, and the materials are highly specialized. It would be unlikely that a parent would buy materials for this purpose. Critics allege that a child who transfers to a traditional school and is required to do homework will have trouble adjusting, but while this is the case in some instances, the opposite also occurs. Homework in some form has started to find its way into the Montessori curriculum, if in a somewhat forced manner.

For many years, Montessori schools in North America did not believe in marking students according to letter grade system, and instead issued report cards that focused entirely on descriptions of the student's behaviour and progress in class. Many parents complained that such report cards made it too difficult to get a clear picture on how well or poorly a student was doing in their subjects. As a result, some American Montessori schools now issue letter grades just as non-Montessori classes do.

Within the Montessori professional community, there have been squabbles ranging from minutiae to the core principles of the philosophy. Those from one training background may believe another is too strict or outdated whilst their constituents accuse others of diluting Montessori's scientifically derived vision of ideal environments to support human development.

Benefits

Dr. Angeline Stoll Lillard's 2005 book Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius (Oxford University Press) presents the first real comprehensive overview of research done on the comparison of Montessori educated children to those educated in a more traditional manner. Lillard cites research indicating that the children do better in later schooling than non-Montessori children do, in all subjects, and argues the need for more research in this area.

A 2006 study published in the journal "Science" concluded that Montessori students performed better than their standard public school counterparts in a variety of arenas, including not only traditional academic areas such as language and mathematical reasoning, but in social cognition skills as well. [2]:

On several dimensions, children at a public inner city Montessori school had superior outcomes relative to a sample of Montessori applicants who, because of a random lottery, attended other schools. By the end of kindergarten, the Montessori children performed better on standardized tests of reading and math, engaged in positive interaction on the playground more, and showed advanced social cognition and executive control more. They also showed more concern for fairness and justice. At the end of elementary school, Montessori children wrote more creative essays with more complex sentence structures, selected more positive responses to social dilemmas, and reported feeling more of a sense of community at their school.

The authors concluded 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."

See also

  • Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  • Sensitive periods
  • Maria Montessori
  • Gifted Education
  • Edouard Seguin
  • Friedrich Froebel

References

  1. ^ Mathews, J: "Montessori, Now 100, Goes Mainstream", The Washington Post January 2, 2007, B1
  2. ^ Lillard A, Else-Quest N. "The early years. Evaluating Montessori education." Science. 2006 Sep 29; 313 (5795): 1893-4.
  • Lillard, Angeline: Montessori: The Science behind the Genius ISBN 0-19-516868-2
  • Loeffler, Margaret Howard: Montessori in Contemporary American Culture ISBN 0-435-08709-6
  • Montessori, Maria: The Discovery of the Child ISBN 0-345-33656-9
  • Montessori, Maria: The Montessori Method ISBN 0-8052-0922-0
  • Montessori, Maria: The Secret of Childhood ISBN 0-345-30583-3

External links

  • Montessori schools
  • American Montessori Society
  • Association Montessori Internationale
  • Montessori Association of New Zealand
  • North American Montessori Teachers Association
  • The Montessori Foundation
  • Montessori Programs in Public Schools. ERIC Digest.
  • Montessori Schools Association
  • Montessori School Article
  • Focus Paper on Montessori Schools
  • eSchoolSearch Directory
  • Montessori St Nicholas Charity
  • Montessori Education Outcomes Study published in Science
  • Montessori House Teaching Resources for Parents
  • North American Montessori Center
  • Modern Montessori International, Thailand
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