In this paper we are going to study the world famous method or better to say philosophical approach to education, developed by Dr. Montessori. The major unique characteristic of this method is the child-centered approach, based on the theories of children development, worked out by Italian educator Maria Montessori, which became known at the end of the nineteenth ”“ beginning of the twentieth century. Mostly this approach is applicable for preschool education and for elementary schools, however there are also some examples of high schools as well.
The method of Dr. Montessori is a profound and unique approach to education, with clear education aims and education techniques, the roles of the teacher and his pupils.
The systematic completeness and practical application make the educational system of Dr. Montessori remarkable and influential. The major task of the method is to solve most of the problems, related to education of young children, including methods of teaching various subjects, preparing the surrounding, development of sensory, motor and mental capacities of children. The final aims of the educational process should be easy and quick mastery of the elements of reading, writing and mathematics. The philosophy of education, developed by Dr. Montessori, can be briefly formulated as carefully planned guiding of pupils by the teachers, putting the child’s abilities, interests and senses on the first place, where the teacher is mostly a silent spectator and the child is an independent researcher.
We should admit, that all the above-mentioned things are not new for the world of education. There were enough other theories, which have studied them and tried to practically apply. Such scientists as Dr. Walter S. Fernald, Meumann, Froebel have enough identical ideas to those of Montessori. Important is that before Dr. Montessori, nobody was able to unite all the mentioned elements into one single system.
Besides, she managed not only to develop the theoretical side, but to apply this system to school education. That’s why we can call Dr.Ā Montessori a realist, as she proved, that her approaches can be used not for some ideal school settings and gifted children, but at usual schools with usual children.
Dr. Montessori paid great attention to individual needs of children, but she came to conclusion, that most of the urban schools were ignoring them. These schools borrowed the methods of mass production from big factories. They just split children into groups, based on their age and put them into the limits of this or that group. The result was, that children were not able to develop their individuality, rather to become clones of some standard samples. Teachers made them perform exercises, all together at the same speed, disregarding their individual strengths and weaknesses. Thus the actual potential of the child plays no role for the educator. The truth, which was finally concluded by Dr. Montessori, was the fact, that children are to work a lot in order to develop their independenceĀ – “the life skills of possessing autonomy, self-direction, attentiveness ”“ personal traits that are the very foundation of making moral decisions in life”¯ (Chattin-McNichols, 42).
This is evident, that Dr. Montessori concentrates mostly on the process of learning by the child, not on the process of teaching. Important is that learning process should not consist only of the one-way flow of information from the teacher. There should be two-ways communication between a teacher and a pupil, which provides some kind of freedom with minimal limits to the pupils. The Montessori classroom looks absolutely different in comparison to traditional one. Students do not sit in rows, facing the blackboard ”“ as the teacher is the only source of knowledge. In the classroom, offered by Dr Montessori there are numerous possibilities for self-learning activities of pupils. Every child has his own speed of fulfillment of tasks and can choose whether to work with a group or alone. They are allowed to move and to talk with each other. These factors contribute to development of interest in the learning process, in widening the number of sources of knowledge for children, their realization of their own progress. A teacher is supposed not to control the actions of his pupils, but to help them to choose the methods, they want to use and develop their interests. Most of the knowledge children get not from the teacher, but from their own discoveries and observations. The information, presented by the teacher should be precise and short, but very intriguing, thus impelling children to continue their own investigation and learn more themselves. This is very closely related to the aim of education as formulated by Dr. Montessori: “”¦the aim of education in the case of the little child is not the acquisition of knowledge but the desire and capacity to acquire knowledge, and further, since the child must feel and acquire this capacity, it is essential to leave him as much opportunity as possible for the exercise of his own initiative and also of his own invention”¯ (Montessori, 132). As contrast to traditional education Montessori saw the main target, not in concrete direct transmission of information from the teacher to his pupils, but first of all in letting children get the knowledge themselves, going their own ways, making their own mistakes and discoveries. Only in this case, they have the chance to develop their individual abilities in the future and find the corresponding application of their talents and interests.
The basic difference in the approaches of traditional teachers and teachers of Montessori is the complete trust of the last into the abilities of children. Teachers do not make children follow them, they follow the children, expressing their faith. Certainly traditional approach is much simpler in this case, because just to control if children perform automatically the task is easier, than to observe and help and guide the pupils. Children should take very active part in the process of learning and should be made aware of their success and improvements. This however doesn’t mean, that children should be punished for bad work or rewarded for good fulfillment. So far are Montessori teachers not allowed to interfere, because the importance of trusting atmosphere of freedom is of the highest importance.
The role and behavior of the teacher Dr. Montessori described in her book in the following way: “The teacher becomes the keeper and custodian of the environment. She attends to this instead of being distracted by the children's restlessness”¦ All the apparatus is to be kept meticulously in order, beautiful and shining, in perfect condition”¦ This means, that the teacher also must be”¦ tidy and clean, calm and dignified”¦ The teacher's first duty is therefore to watch over the environment, and this takes precedence over all the rest. Its influence is indirect, but unless it be well done there will be no effective and permanent results of any kind, physical, intellectual or spiritual”¯ (Montessori, 113).
Dr. Montessori paid great attention to the relationships between intellect and senses. Here she agreed with Aristotle, who stated, that everything that is in the intellect, appeared in the senses first. The brightest example, confirming this idea, Montessori saw in the ability of children in the age from birth to six, because during this period they absorbe huge amount of academic information through their senses. In order to use these “sensitive periods”¯ fully, it is necessary to create special classroom atmosphere, impelling children to involve their senses into the academic process and their intellectual activities.
To conclude all the above said, we should admit, that the system of education, developed by a famous Italian educator Maria Montessori, has a lot of advantages to traditional education. The methods and approaches of this system present a consistent philosophical approach and vision of teaching and learning processes, aimed at individual development of each child. Dr. Montessori suggested substantial changes to the traditional approach to teaching: Montessori’s teachers guide their pupils instead of controlling them, give them space for their own investigations and decisions and encourage their independence. The basics for education are not the unified curriculums, but rather individual needs and capacities of children, which can unfold in the specially created classroom environments. This is evident, that comprehensive educational approach, developed by Dr. Montessori, enables the awakening and development of the talents and abilities at the space, appropriate for each child and in the direction, chosen by him.