The Montessori method has been with us for more than 100 years. It’s been used and adapted around the world. The method was developed by Dr. Maria Montessori based on observing the child form birth to adulthood. The child-centered approach became popular and controversial as well as it’s approach lies entirely to three important factors. These are The Child, The Teacher & The Environment. Let us go point by point.
The Child. First, we have to look at the child’s point of view as one who is naturally eager for knowledge and capable of initiating learning in a supportive, thoughtfully prepared learning environment. This is an effective approach in teaching the child holistically. By following the child’s interest, it makes him excited, focused and most importantly enjoy learning. In Montessori education children take responsibility for their own learning. There is a certain amount of work for them to do. The child knows that this work will help them and that the process of doing it will make them intellectually prepared and will make them feel good about themselves. But it is their responsibility to do it. In order for them to accomplish this goal they must manage their time. They plan their week and choose what they want to do and when. This is a learning process. They need to make adjustments along the way. But the goal is for them to take responsibility for what they do and once they do this they have “ownership” of it. The teacher will help them in any way that they need. This style of learning is now referred to as “constructivist.” The child constructs his/her own learning. The child learns directly from what he/she does. But children cannot construct their own learning until they are responsible for making their own choices. If they are forced to learn and do not know why they are doing it they merely go through the motions. They feel as if they have no control over their lives and learning can become something that they endure, rather than something that they accomplish by their own self – effort.
The Environment. The preparation takes place in carefully planning the day. The teacher must be prepared to make elaborate preparations, with the thought of making the child excited or fall in a deep sense of awe as the teacher presents the activity. The educator also must keep in mind that to present the lesson, it must be clear, concise and easy to understand. According to Maria Montessori “The child can only develop fully by means of experience in his environment. We call such experience ‘work’.” (The Absorbent Mind, Chapter 7, p. 88)
Learning must be experienced, the child needs to feel it and be able to embrace the facts that are presented at them and not just by mere looking at it. This experiential learning, as defined is the process of learning through experience, and is more specifically defined as "learning through reflection on doing". Hands-on learning is a form of experiential learning but does not necessarily involve students reflecting on their product. According to Maria Montessori highlighted the connection between minds and bodies in her 1936 book The Secret of Childhood: “Movement, or physical activity, is thus an essential factor in intellectual growth, which depends upon the impressions received from outside. Through movement we come in contact with external reality, and it is through these contacts that we eventually acquire even abstract ideas.” The Montessori materials was carefully researched and designed for each purpose of learning. The attention to details was made to isolate terms and languages for a child to comprehend well. The beauty in Montessori is that it focuses on simplicity and order. Everything in the classroom environment, down to the finest detail, is prepared well in advance with the intention that it will be used to enhance a specific aspect of the child’s development.
The Teacher. The teacher, when she begins to work in our schools, must have a kind of faith that the child will reveal himself through work. She must free herself from all preconceived ideas concerning the levels at which the children may be. The many different types of children...must not worry her...The teacher must believe that this child before her will show his true nature when he finds a piece of work that attracts him. So what must she look out for? That one child or another will begin to concentrate.(Maria Montessori The Absorbent Mind, p. 276)
The guide and facilitator of the method must be ready to embrace the philosophy of teaching the children. The teacher must be passionate and excited to be able to engage the child’s interest and to focus on the lessons and activities inside the environment. They facilitate communication
among the children and help the children to learn how to communicate their thoughts to adults. The educator must model desirable behavior for the children, following the ground-rules of the class, exhibiting a sense of calm, consistency, grace and courtesy, and demonstrating respect for every child.
When all of these factors are all considered, the sole beneficiary is the child after all according to Dr. John Trainer “Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.”