How the Montessori Method Differs From Traditional Teaching
The Montessori education method is becoming increasingly popular, making its way into new types of schools and building influence over mainstream education systems. Among its purported benefits are higher student self-confidence and better critical thinking skills, but how is it really different from other forms of education, and is it really better than those methods?
How Montessori Works
There’s no single framework or perfect Montessori classroom setting, since there is some degree of flexibility, but the Montessori method relies on a few essential core ideas, all of which are focused on equipping your child for the real world:
- Classrooms with mixed ages. First, Montessori classrooms tend to have children with mixed ages, rather than classrooms specifically segregated by age or grade level. Traditional education forces children of a single age into the same classes, which limits the number and diversity of peers a child will engage with. Mixed ages allow a classroom to better reflect the real world, and provide more diverse experiences.
- More student choice and participation. In Montessori learning, children have some degree of control over how they learn. They can choose which modules they work on, or which order they follow them. That participation builds confidence and decision making skills.
- Focused blocks of work time. This method also encourages students to learn in focused blocks of heads-down time, such as three hours at a time.
- Discovery-focused learning. Montessori methods also rely on discovery as a mechanism for learning. Children are encouraged to learn key lessons with hands-on play, experiments, and other immediate opportunities to learn things firsthand, rather than being read information out of a textbook.
- Natural materials. Though less frequently explored, this method calls for the use of more natural materials in classroom settings—such as favoring wood instead of plastic.
- Freedom of movement and exploration. Children in a Montessori classroom have much more freedom and flexibility than those in a traditional setting. They can move around the classroom, choose where they sit and explore their environments (to a degree). It allows a sense of individuality and creative freedom.
- Individual appreciation. These classrooms also emphasize the importance of individual attention. Because each student learns a little bit differently and has different priorities, teachers need to change how they engage with each student to be effective.
So what are the benefits of this method?
These are some of the most commonly touted:
- Education enjoyment and participation. Students have much more freedom, much more flexibility, and much more control over their environments in the Montessori method. There are also more opportunities for hands-on learning, rather than going through overly structured syllabi. This makes Montessori learning more enjoyable for students, which in turn encourages more participation. Students actually look forward to going to class and are more likely to critically consider the lessons they’ve learned.
- Self-confidence. Students have more opportunities to make decisions and are given more autonomy over their own learning experience. Over time, they develop more self-confidence, enabling them to make bigger decisions more effectively, and improving their mental and emotional resilience.
- Critical thinking. In the Montessori method, students are empowered to make discoveries on their own. Rather than merely reading about what other people have done in the past, they can do their own experiments and engage with the world on their own This demands them to develop their own critical thinking skills, which become increasingly important as they get older.
- Social interaction. Finally, children in a Montessori education system often end up developing better, more diverse social skills. They have far more opportunities for engagement with other students and are exposed to students of many different ages, with many different individual qualities that make them unique.
Is It Better?
Is the Montessori method truly better than traditional education? That’s a tough question to answer. The philosophy behind Montessori does come with more perks and potentially more long-term benefits for students than in a traditional environment. That said, not every school that purports to use the Montessori method uses it effectively or has properly trained instructors—and there are many traditional school environments that implement Montessori principles without calling them by that name, or have extremely talented, skilled staff members that make up for the downfalls of the traditional education system.
Ultimately, it comes down to the individual school system and individual educators—but the Montessori method offers a ton of perks to organizations that use it correctly.