Focus on the Individual Child and Social-Emotional Development
We have embraced Montessori educational methods and materials in our toddler and primary classrooms at The Montessori Schools, because we’ve experienced the advantages firsthand. When our young students graduate, they leave us with a strong academic foundation, solid problem-solving skills, and a positive emotional outlook, attributes that they then employ with success through secondary schooling, college, and beyond.
The Montessori Child’s Social and Emotional Maturity vs. Non Montessori Peers
Much of Montessori’s success can be attributed to the method’s focus on the individual. Traditional nurseries and kindergartens typically place emphasis on the group, and, as a consequence, this educational setting encourages (enforces) group activities and groupthink, robbing children of critical opportunities to practice social and emotional skills. In order to establish positive and rewarding relationships with others, a child must first learn to recognize, understand, and manage his or her own feelings.
Dr. Maria Montessori recognized that children experience stages of growth in a “series of formative planes” that build upon each other. This idea is in stark contrast to the more traditional educational model, which describes increments of development that unfold in a strict linear pattern.
By focusing on the individual, a Montessori education considers the whole child,
including (fundamentally) his or her social-emotional development.
Children in Montessori classrooms learn at their own pace and according to their own developmental trajectory. Individualized lesson plans reflect a philosophy that accounts for a multitude of learning styles. Therefore, the approach is fundamentally empathic.
The Montessori child experiences a prolonged period of refining and perfecting intra and interpersonal processes. He or she develops the capacity to assess their own emotional state and, of critical importance, accurately read and comprehend the emotions of others. It is not uncommon to see a child recognize when a classmate is struggling with a task or concept and offer help. Children routinely help with cleaning-up not only their work but the work of others pressed for time or requiring clarification about classroom procedures. Similarly, a more experienced child will guide a less experienced classmate through multi-sequenced activities—and with significant patience and compassion. To watch these kinds of empathic exchanges is to witness our children’s full potential.
Scientific Method as an Approach to Learning
Dr. Montessori argued that the science of teaching should approximate a child’s development, which hardly resembles a straight line steadily moving, in measured increments, toward certainty. Rather, observation leads to a hypothesis, which is then tested and further refined based on objective, quantitative knowledge acquired through more observation. The process is repeated again and again, with more observation both preceding and following experimentation.
For our teachers in the classroom, the application of scientific method principles means determining not just what but also how and when a child is learning. We refine our understanding by subtracting, adding, and modifying components of the school’s highly considered and comprehensive curriculum.
Active Learning Defined in Montessori Terms
Dr. Montessori disliked the “empty vessel” educational model: the passive child receiving the majority’s one-size-fits-all programming. She advocated instead for something very different, what today we might label as active learning or experiential learning teaching strategies.
Through awareness, brought on by discovery and experimentation, a child constructs the ability to adapt and evolve in response to his classroom environment—a place customized to his or her specific needs. We recognize that for the child, this is and must be a conscious journey, an “intimate” journey, to quote Dr. Montessori, or we risk the very “development of individuality.”