Montessori education is an educational approach developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori and characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological, physical, and social development. Although a range of practices exists under the name “Montessori”, the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) and the American Montessori Society (AMS) cite these elements as essential:
- Mixed age classrooms, with classrooms for children ages 2½ or 3 to 6 years old by far the most common
- Student choice of activity from within a prescribed range of options
- Uninterrupted blocks of work time, ideally three hours
- A constructivist or “discovery” model, where students learn concepts from working with materials, rather than by direct instruction
- Specialized educational materials developed by Montessori and her collaborators
- Freedom of movement within the classroom
- A trained Montessori teacher
Montessori was one of the most important early years educators of the 20th century, the innovator of classroom practices and ideas which have had a profound influence on the education of young children the world over.
It soon became apparent that Dr. Montessori had developed a highly effective method of teaching which could be used with great success with each and every child. She began to travel the world, establishing schools, lecturing about her discoveries and writing many articles right up to her death in Holland in 1952 at the age of 82. She was a true pioneer of child-centred education. Her innovative classroom practices and ideas have had a profound influence on the education of young children all over the world.
Montessori saw that children learn best by doing and that happy self-motivated learners form positive images of themselves as confident, successful people. She created specially designed resources to foster independence and a love for learning from an early age.
The Montessori approach is holistic and aims to develop the whole child. Fundamental to the approach is the belief that a child’s early years from birth to six are the period when they have the greatest capacity to learn.