Once considered an educational experiment, Montessori is increasingly becoming the blueprint for a new approach to learning—one that’s demonstrating long-term success in both private and public US Schools. Montessori’s core tenets, that effective learning is self-directed and that education calls for development of the “whole person,” are shaping a generation uniquely prepared for the demands of the 21st century.
Traditional American schooling is in constant crisis because it is based on two poor models for children’s learning: the school as a factory and the child as a blank slate. School reforms repeatedly fail by not penetrating these models. Also noted in a compelling report from the National Center On Education and The Economy, our educational system is still focused on teaching skills in a world where those skills quickly become outdated or automated. Value now lies in creativity and innovation, life literacy, global orientation, and cross-cultural abilities. The report concludes and reiterates what Maria Montessori stated, “The core problem is that our education and training systems were built for another era... It is not possible to get where we have to go by patching that system.”
Montessori is not an adaptation of traditional methods; it is a completely different way of teaching and learning. Underlying Montessori education is a model of the child as a motivated doer rather than an empty vessel. Many of the core ideas correspond directly to recommendations in a significant study by Dr. Kevin Rathunde, Associate Professor at the University of Utah, which compares Montessori education to educational methods used in traditional middle schools. The eight principles below are deeply engrained in the Montessori system and will best prepare our young people for a complex and fast-changing world.
Guiding Principles of Montessori Education:
- 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money for reading or high grades for tests, negatively impacts motivation to engage in that activity when the reward is withdrawn.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.