The Montessori method of learning is one of the most popular methods of learning in Singapore. It offers a different way of facilitating learning for kids, deviating from the conventional classroom setup where the instructor teaches the students and gives them an examination in the hopes that they learned from the interaction.
The Montessori method of teaching and learning is, in essence, a more collaborative way of dealing with students. How did it start and how exactly does it differ from other methods?
Its origin and history
The Montessori approach was developed by Italian physician and educator Dr Maria Montessori in early 1900s. Not only was she the first woman to practice medicine in Italy, she also helped revolutionise education by developing a method that is centred on the philosophy that children have the innate capability to learn, provided they have an environment that allows them to grow.
Dr Montessori’s work was largely influenced by her interaction with mentally-challenged kids in a psychiatric clinic in Rome. Later on, she was appointed director of a school for mentally-challenged children, allowing her to further develop her theories. It was not until the 1960s that the method was fully embraced by educational institutions, starting with schools in the United States.
Its philosophy and approach
As Dr Montessori once said, “Education depends upon a belief in the power of the child, on a certainty that the child has within himself the capacity to develop into a being that is far superior to us.” With this belief, the Montessori method of learning uses the following approaches:
- It encourages students to be independent thinkers and problem solvers while learning with one another and playing the roles of mentors as well.
- Its classes have specially-designed learning materials and tools that encourage collaborative play and hands-on learning.
- It allows students to work at their own pace with teachers providing only guidance and necessary lessons.
The Montessori philosophy is primarily divided into different stages or planes of development, based on the child’s age:
- 0 to 6 years old: Children are seen to be sensorial explorers who absorb what the world around them can offer.
- 6 to 12 years old: Children are seen as conceptual explorers who exhibit eagerness and enthusiasm to experience the world around them and learn from their interaction with it.
- 12 years old onwards: Children become humanistic explorers as they enter adolescence. This is the time when they try to understand the role they play in the society.
Key elements that differentiate the Montessori method
While not all Montessori schools are the same, there are some elements that bind them together. These include:
- Classes are highly experiential with children taking an active role in their own learning process. It encourages using the five senses: sight, touch, smell, sound, and taste.
- To facilitate learning, children work with materials and tools and don’t just merely listen to their teacher’s instruction. The materials used by the instructors are designed with the child’s development in mind so that activities match their specific interests at the stage they’re in.
- Children are free to move within the classroom to foster interaction with fellow students.
- Montessori teachers went through examinations to be certified. They have to be able to encourage interactive learning whatever the child’s interest may be.
Advantages of the Montessori method
With the child’s developmental stage and interests in mind, the Montessori method poses several advantages such as:
- Children engage and cooperate more because it allows them to freely express themselves, solve problems presented to them using their own creativity, and more importantly, learn at their own pace.
- They learn faster and more efficiently. The Montessori method gives kids the power to learn through their minds and their bodies. It makes them think about solutions while using materials and learning tools to bring those solutions to life. Their learning is not limited to memorising, listening, and reciting.
- Children see their teachers as facilitators, rather than dictators. In a Montessori class, teachers don’t tell children what to do and expect them to perform exactly as they said. Instead, teachers provide the necessary guidance and give the students the freedom to learn using their own creativity and innovative thinking.