“Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.” ~ Dr. Maria Montessori
Montessori principles have emerged from observing children’s activity and monitoring teaching practice in Montessori learning environments for more than a century. In recent decades, a growing body of research has begun to support these principles as characteristic of quality teaching principles and as commonly accepted insights into current child development theories.
The ideas that form the learning outcomes, teaching and learning practices, assessment and evaluation found in Montessori learning environments have been summarized in the following Eight Principles of Montessori Education, identified in research published by Lillard (2005, p.29)
- Movement and cognition are closely entwined, and movement can enhance thinking and learning.
- Learning and well-being are improved when people have a sense of control over their lives.
- People learn better when they are interested in what they are learning.
- Tying extrinsic rewards to an activity, like money for reading or high grades for tests, negatively impacts motivation to engage in that activity when the reward is withdrawn.
- Collaborative arrangements can be very conducive to learning.
- Learning situated in meaningful contexts is often deeper and richer than learning in abstract contexts.
- Particular forms of adult interaction are associated with more optimal child outcomes.
- Order in the environment is beneficial to children.
Montessori educators identify stages of physical, psychological, intellectual, and social development and prepare learning environments and curriculum content to meet those developmental stages.
Partnering these practices with observations and record keeping enable Montessori teachers to design lessons that meet the needs of individual children at any moment in time. The lessons are designed to match the readiness and interest of each child.
The following outlines some widely accepted key features and practices at Sun Grove Montessori School:
- Children learn how to use materials by watching the director/directress demonstrate in a precise way. The adult then observes for the child to practice and show understanding. In this way, the child is invited to discover the knowledge inherent in the materials to construct knowledge and understanding.
- Beginning at infancy through primary, most lessons are given to individuals. After the age of six, children who are ready for the same lesson are grouped together, and lessons are given to small groups. Individual lessons continue to take place as needed, and large group cultural lessons take place.
- For all ages and stages, the activities demonstrated or offered by the adult are open ended. Children are free to repeat any activity over and over until they reach a level of inner satisfaction. The goal is for children to practice “great work” that gives them a feeling of great accomplishment and satisfaction. Adolescents enjoy participating in socially-valuable projects in which they have the opportunity to work alongside experts in the community.
- At the younger ages, children tend to work alone as they construct themselves as individuals. When they begin to prefer working in a collaborative and cooperative manner with other children, it is a sign they are beginning to take on the characteristics of children ready for the 6 – 9 classroom. At this age, children spend a great deal of time working together with others. It is a time of learning how to be part of a group and how to work as a team.
- From the age of six and older, children in Montessori classrooms take part in regular individual conferences with their teachers. In these conferences they learn to evaluate their own work and set goals. The last question in this conference should be, “Is there a lesson you would like to have that we have not talked about?” In this way the children help shape their own educational development. The progress adolescents make is assessed by reference to criteria which the students are aware of from the beginning of the program.