Who is Maria Montessori?
Doctor (one of the first female doctors in Italy) and pedagogue, Maria Montessori (1870-1952) created a pedagogy which bears her name and which will be formalized from 1909 with the publication of a first book. It is part of the international movement of new education (active pedagogies) along with Freinet, Desmolins, Ferrière, Faure, Cousinet (France), Decroly (Belgium), Claparède (Switzerland), Ferrer (Spain), Dewey, Kilpatrick (USA), Korczak (Poland), Neill (Scotland), etc.
Montessori relied on very high quality sensory teaching material, studied from the point of view of shape, texture, color, size, weight and ergonomics to promote the use of meaning in particular in learning. "The sensory material can be considered from this point of view as 'a materialized abstraction.'" The material was designed to free the child from a concrete situation to take him to the abstraction and generalization.
For Maria Montessori, the child engages in a primarily independent activity, sometimes with one or two other children. It is a question both of respecting the inclinations and the centers of interests of the child while developing in him the responsibility and the self-discipline. The freedom of the child is part of a precise framework. This is a supervised pedagogy intended to develop rigor, autonomy, responsibility and to prepare for life (practical life material). The child is crossed during his development by “sensitive periods” which predispose him to learn: “the absorbing mind”. It is therefore a question of taking advantage of these favorable moments for learning. A variety of activities are offered, as part of certain processes (the material must be presented individually to the child). These activities are designed to promote concentration and self-correction. As with all alternative pedagogies, the class is built from a multi-age group. The age difference favors learning by observation (Bandura) and everyone advances at their own pace. There is no evaluation as in traditional education even if the children are observed and “situated” within the framework of their development and their learning. Listening, observation, agility, kindness are valued attitudes. Neurosciences have confirmed in several respects the educational approach implemented at Montessori.
The key concepts
- Absorbent mind
- Adequate teaching material
- Educate and transform through the senses
- Observational science
- Sensitive periods
The themes of Montessori material
- Grace and courteous
- Practical life
- Sensory life
- Geography and culture
The limits of Montessori pedagogy
- Montessori pedagogy is not individualistic but it is not for all that a collaborative and cooperative pedagogy as at Freinet. It revolves primarily around one or two learners and is addressed, with rare exceptions, to a group of children.
- Montessori pedagogy does not promote the motor development of children: the psychomotor development of children and especially young children is vital. Studies show that motor skills promote cognitive development and in particular executive functions (attention, inhibition, planning, control, etc.) necessary for all learning.
- Montessori pedagogy does not promote manual and creative activities. Of course, “painting” is a Montessori workshop, but it remains an isolated element among others. There is no sensorimotor and creative activity as one can conceive of in a leisure center or on vacation stays that allow children to exercise a whole battery of skills not only motor but also psychological and affective.
Montessori pedagogy was developed in 1900. At that time it was totally innovative in the face of ultra frontal teaching worthy of the industrial era. We are in 2020. A century later, this pedagogy has not changed and has in turn become conservative. What it offers remains interesting with regard to a traditional pedagogy which, although modernized, has not been able to adapt to the evolution of society.
Montessori pedagogy must therefore be amended, hybridized with other pedagogies which will make it possible to make the most of what it offers while improving it by complementary approaches such as Freinet, Feuerstein or Gattegno. This will be the subject of our next posts.
We are already informing you that our school project plans to complete the Montessori approach by offering physical-psychomotor, artistic and scientific activities.