How the Importance of Cognitive Development in a Child's Education Compares and Contrasts With Montessori Philosophy and Theories
Maria Montessori cared a lot about children and children’s education.
With respect to the learning materials, Montessori developed a set of manipulable objects designed to support children’s learning of sensorial concepts such as dimension, colour, shape and texture, and academic concepts of mathematics, literacy, science, geography and history. With respect to engagement, children learn by engaging hands-on with the materials most often individually, but also in pairs or small groups, during a 3-h 'work cycle' in which they are guided by the teacher to choose their own activities. They are given the freedom to choose what they work on, where they work, with whom they work, and for how long they work on any particular activity, all within the limits of the class rules. No competition is set up between children, and there is no system of extrinsic rewards or punishments. These two aspects—the learning materials themselves, and the nature of the learning—make Montessori classrooms look strikingly different to conventional classrooms. It should be noted that for Montessori the goal of education is to allow the child’s optimal development (intellectual, physical, emotional and social) to unfold. This is a very different goal to that of most education systems today, where the focus is on attainment in academic subjects such as literacy and mathematics. Thus when we ask the question, as this review paper does, whether children benefit more from a Montessori education than from a non-Montessori education, we need to bear in mind that the outcome measures used to capture effectiveness do not necessarily measure the things that Montessori deemed most important in education. Teachers and parents who choose the Montessori method may choose it for reasons that are not so amenable to evaluation.
In short, Montessori insisted that knowledge acquisition occurred only through socialization, proper environment, and through practice and mistakes. According to Montessori, the Absorbent Mind forms the basis of how children acquire knowledge. For instance, teachers create encouraging and relaxed environments to provide children with the opportunities to learn on their own through interactions, and in groups. These processes enable children to acquire knowledge from the environment. Therefore, learning must occur in reality, practical and organized environment. Montessori’s theory of opportunity stresses that any child in the society can learn regardless of disability and become a contributing member of the society. Montessori developed this theory when she was working with children with special needs. During that time, society did not provide any education to children with special needs. Montessori proved that these children could learn like other normal children (Morrison, 2009).
As a staff member at an early childhood centre, I can see the potential for the introduction of certain elements, in particular, the use of Montessori didactic materials. Montessori once said she had “discovered the child.” This may well be the key to her method.
Gutek, G. L. (2004). The Montessori Method: The Origins of an Educational Innovation. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Hainstock, E. (1997). The essential of Montessori. New York: Plume Publishing.
Montessori, M. (1967). The absorbent mind. New York: Henry Holt and Company, LLC.
Morrison, G. S. (2009). Early childhood education today, 11th ed. Upper Saddle River: Pearson.