Montessori education is an educational approach developed by Maria Montessori, an Italian physician, and educator. Montessori education is practiced worldwide in an estimated 20,000 schools, serving children from birth to eighteen years old.
Montessori education is characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological development, as well as technological advancements in society. A range of practices exists under the name “Montessori”. The Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) and the American Montessori Society (AMS) however, cite these elements as essential to a Montessori education:
- Mixed aged classrooms
- Student choice of activity from within a prescribed range of options
- Uninterrupted blocks of work time
- A constructivist or “discovery” model, where students learn concepts from working with materials after being introduced to them by a guide
- Specialized educational materials developed by Maria Montessori and her collaborators
Montessori schools design their programs with reference to Montessori’s published work on human development, and use pedagogy, lessons, and materials which are introduced in teacher training and are derived from courses presented by Maria Montessori during her lifetime.
Dr. Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori was born in Italy, in 1870. She graduated from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Rome in 1896, and was the first woman to practice medicine in Italy. As a physician, Dr. Montessori was in touch with young children and became profoundly interested in their development. Through careful and exhaustive scrutiny, she realized that children construct their own personalities as they interact with their environment. She also observed the manner in which they learned as they spontaneously chose and worked with the auto-didactic materials she provided. Her approach to education stemmed from a solid grounding in biology, psychiatry, and anthropology. She studied children of all races and cultures, in many countries around the world, and saw the universality of the laws of human development. She continued her observations throughout her life, widening and deepening her understanding of human development until her death in 1952.