Taylor Vlasak, University of Wisconsin-River Falls

Abstract: The Montessori approach has more effects on children’s academics then the traditional education programs. The absences of assessments and learning at the individual child’s pace is extremely crucial for a child from infancy to 8th grade

Keywords: Montessori Approach, Assessments, Traditional education

Introduction

There have been many studies completed to change and create the “best” assessments for children in the United States. These assessments are made to help educators know whether or not the student is on the right path for education success. The question I keep asking myself is if studies keep changing the assessments and can’t seem to find the perfect way, why do them at all? Why not just assess the students based off of progress seen in a day-to-day school class room? Why not take the Montessori approach over assessment approach? Though out this article I will be sharing with you the method of Montessori education, the different effects the Montessori approach and traditional education programs have on children, and finally the impact Montessori has had on children with mental disabilities.

The Method of Montessori Education

The Montessori Method has been around since 1907. Maria Montessori created the first Montessori school, she was determined to serve children who were economically disadvantaged, as well as children suffering with mental illnesses. She wanted to create a more open minded based schooling for kids that were having a hard time meeting the standards that where created for their education level. According to the Journal of Research in Childhood Education, Maria Montessori’s work included development of different education methods and materials based on how children learn (Lopata, Wallace, & Finn, 2005-05). She was more focused on giving each individual a chance to grow into their own potential. Montessori programs slowly started to emerge in the 1990’s in the United States. Montessori programs are found in a variety of different settings. There are about 4,000 private Montessori programs and more than 200 Montessori-styled public schools for students from infancy to 8th grade (North American Montessori Teachers’ Association, 2003). It didn’t take very long for Maria’s success to spread and to this very day we are using her technique to benefit many children’s lives.

According to Ryniker and Shoho (2001), the Montessori approach is based on the fact that children learn the most effectively when information is developmentally appropriate. The overall approach is to allow the children’s natural tendencies “unfold” in a designed manipulative environments that contain self-correcting materials (Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 2005). Every child is a different person and Montessori based schools want to bring out that individualism and give the child a chance to learn when they are willing to, rather than forcing them to learn. When a child gets into this period of eagerness to learn a skill and information the work will be ready for them in the class. Also the child has higher chances of not only enjoying learning, but also remembering the material a lot better.

The main purpose of the Montessori approach is to engage a child’s inner pace of learning, and providing manipulated objects and lessons for them when they feel engaged and willing to learn. As Montessori teachers have multiple ways of observing the child’s growth over the year thought out these different manipulated self-taught lessons. Montessori schools don’t use work sheets, assignments and tests. “Children are born mindful and with wisdom we can keep this skill alive: Montessori is wonderful in this way (Dalai Lama).” This quote is very important and sums up the Montessori Method nicely. Through this quote it shares how each child is born with their own thoughts and minds full of wisdom, and through the Montessori approach they are able to give the child the chance express how and what they think, keeping their mindful brains alive. With the Montessori approach they are able to use the child’s mind and guide it in the right direction, towards success.

Montessori approach vs. traditional education

Montessori and traditional education programs are different in many different ways, including physical environment, instructional methodology, and classroom attitude. In the Journal of Research in Childhood Education it gives an example how a Montessori class room is set up in more of a welcoming and open concept in which desks are arranged in small groups of four, “rafts”, to promote individual and small-group learning. Whereas traditional classrooms have desks oriented in one direction, so the whole group’s attention is focused to the front where the teacher is teaching the lesson to the group as a whole (Lopata, 2005-06).

In Montessori classrooms there are many different self-selected, individual and small-group work that the child can choose from each day. The work that the child can choose from is manipulative materials designed by Montessori as an instructional methodology. Over time the teacher observes and records the child’s progress. This doesn’t just give the child a friendly, non-stressful testing environment, but also allows the student to make progress at his or her own pace. The traditional education programs have been identified as having a greater emphasis on dispensing and delivering the information to the group of students as a whole. The teacher makes use of presentation aids, using a more lecture approach. This isn’t beneficial, due to the children all being at different academic levels and may not be as interested in the presentation topic. This creates a teaching environment that doesn’t have much of a positive effect on the child’s progress (Ryniker & Shoho, 2001). Another big instructional difference that is distinct to the Montessori approach is that it does not use textbooks, worksheets, tests, and grades, like other traditional class rooms would use.

Differences in classroom attitudes and management also have been noted. According to the Journal of Research in Childhood Education (2005), “Montessori classrooms are based on cooperation, while traditional classrooms are based on competition”. Montessori teachers promote inner discipline in children by letting students direct their own learning, rather than upholding an outer discipline where teachers act as authorization, by dictating to students how to behave and what to do, that may occur in a traditional education program. In addition to teaching and providing a “guide line” for children, Montessori programs target the development of “human potential”.

Over all the Montessori based technique is more based off the students and giving them their own way of learning, whither it is in a small group, alone, or with little assistance from the teacher it has been studied and shows that it has had more success in the class room. According to the article Evaluating Montessori Education, the student-chosen work in long time blocks, the absence of grades and tests, and individual and small instruction has shown effectiveness in both academic and social skills. These positive elements are supported by research on human learning (Lillard & Else-Quest, 2006). The study took place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with a random selection of Montessori students and traditional students. All the students were at the age of 5 and they were given three cognitive/academic tests which measured academic skills related to school readiness. Examples of what these tests consisted of was letter-word identification, phonological decoding ability of words, math skills, and basic vocabulary. In the results the Montessori students achieved higher scores in all the categories except for the basic vocabulary, in which the two groups of students scored that the same (Lillard & Else-Quest, 2006).

Impact on Children with mental disabilities

Since the Montessori approach is based more off of the child’s willing to learn and allowing them to learn at their own pace, this makes it a lot easier and less stressful of students that may be suffering from a mental illness. As Joyce Pickering states, in her article about Montessori and learning differences, dyslexia and other related learning disabilities are caused by anatomical differences in the brain, and in these situations a child needs to undergo a different program in the preschool. When a student has a disability they are recognized as different and has to go through school being pulled out of their day-to-day classes for extra classes to help with their disabilities, and this can be hard on those students, not having a regular schedule like the other students, or even to the point of feeling as if they don’t belong. This is where the Montessori approach has brought a new success level to this disabled students. As stated in the previous section the students learn at their own pace, and aren’t faced with the pressure of fixed tests that children with disabilities are faced with in traditional education programs. “These children are gifted with knowledge just like any other child is, it just takes an extra hard effort for them to apply the knowledge (Pickering, 2003-13).” Montessori gives these students a chance to feel equal to all the other classmates and still get to grow academically at their own pace and not have to undergo the stress of not understanding or belonging.

Conclusion

The Montessori approach is a lot different than the traditional approach and I strongly believe it would be more beneficial in the long run for children’s education. There would no longer be any more disputes over assessments and teachers would have a better understanding of not only where the child academically places, but also what drives a child internally to succeed. The method, differences and the impact of children with disabilities is enough for people to take a second look on how children should be assessed from infancy to 8th grade.

References

Christopher Lopata, N. W. (2009, November 3). Comparison of Academic Achievement Between Montessori and Traditional Education Programs. Retrieved from Journal of Research in Childhood Education: http://www.trandfonline.com/loi/ujro20

Else-Quest, A. L. (2006, September 29). The Early Years. Evaluation Montessori Education, pp. 1893-1894.

North American Montessori Teachers’ Association (2003). Introduction to Montessori Education. Retrieved September 29, 2015. From www.montessorinamta.org/NAMTA/geninfo/whatismont.html

Pickering, J. S. (2003). Montessor Life. Montessori and Learning Disabilities, 13

Ryniker, D. H. (2001). Student Perceptions of Their Emelmentary Classrooms: Montessori v.s. Traditional Enviornments. Montessori Life, 45-48.