Amongst British parents, the Montessori method is one of the more widely-known ‘alternative’ educational pedagogies, and is used in over 22,000 schools worldwide.
The Montessori method is particularly prominent in early childhood and primary school education.
Developed by Italian educator and doctor Maria Montessori after extensive research with special needs children in the early years of the twentieth century, the method contains five basic principles.
The Five Principles:
Principle 1: Respect for the Child
Respect for the Child is the major principle underlying the entire Montessori method. Montessori believed children should be respected (not common practice in the early twentieth century). Respect is shown for children by not interrupting their concentration. Respect is also shown by giving pupils the freedom to make choices, to do things for themselves, and to learn for themselves. Teachers model respect for all students as well as peaceful conflict resolution, and must learn to observe without judgement.
Principle 2: The Absorbent Mind
Montessori education is based on the principle that, simply by living, children are constantly learning from the world around them. Through their senses children constantly absorb information from their world. They then make sense of it because they are thinking beings.
Principle 3: Sensitive Periods
Montessori pedagogy believes there are certain periods during which children are more ready to learn certain skills. These are known as sensitive periods, and last only as long as is necessary for the child to acquire the skills. The order in which sensitive periods occur (i.e. a sensitive period for writing) as well as the timing of the period varies for each child. Through observation, Montessori teachers must identify sensitive periods in their students and provide the resources for children to flourish during this time.
Principle 4: The Prepared Environment
The Montessori method suggests that children learn best in an environment that has been prepared to enable them to do things for themselves. Always child-centred, the learning environment should promote freedom for children to explore materials of their choice. Teachers should prepare the learning environment by making materials and experiences available to children in an orderly and independent way.
Principle 5: Auto education
Auto education, or self-education, is the concept that children are capable of educating themselves. This is one of the most important beliefs in the Montessori method. Montessori teachers provide the environment, the inspiration, the guidance and the encouragement for children to educate themselves.