“Scientific observation has established that education is not what the teacher gives; education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences in the environment. The task of the teacher becomes that of preparing a series of motives of cultural activity, spread over a specially prepared environment, and then refraining from obtrusive interference.” – Maria Montessori
The research statement above from Maria Montessori’s work in the poor sections of Italy in the early 1900s expresses a basic attitude about the natural talent for learning possessed by children everywhere, which is also echoed by other 20th century educators including Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, and John Dewey.
The Montessori view, sometime referred to as Constructivists, emphasize the capacity of the child to learn when provided with an environment, resources, and activities organized in such a way as to maximize the learning experience. In this view, the teacher’s role is to make learning experiences available, to keep the environment attractive and interesting, but not to interfere when students begin to focus. Yet, at other points, it is clear that a Montessori teacher is expected to provide lessons to guide classroom activity. This is much different from Sugata Mitra’s self-organized learning environments, with no teacher. It is also radically different from one in which the focus is on the teacher and the curriculum.
Basic Montessori Principles
There are many variations of Montessori/Constructivist views, but the basic views are:
- Learning through doing rather than through instruction;
- Harnessing the child’s innate drive to master tasks and new information;
- Providing learning experiences appropriate to the child’s developmental level
- The role of teacher as facilitator of learning rather than conveyor of content.