Differences Between Montessori and Traditional Education
The Prepared Environment
Montessori classrooms are not like the classrooms of traditional schools and this is something that is immediately apparent upon entry of a Montessori classroom. Montessori classrooms are often full of natural light and open space, arranged to provide students with access to a wide range of learning materials, including many sensory-based materials for students at various developmental stages. Montessori classrooms are prepared based on observations of the individual needs of students. Unlike traditional classrooms, Montessori classrooms are organized so that the children can intuitively find the materials they need as their understanding progresses. Additionally, traditional classrooms revolve around a teacher-centered lesson, whereas Montessori classrooms are based on student-centered lessons and activities.
Active vs. Passive Learning
Montessori lessons are hands-on and active, allowing and encouraging students to follow their curiosity and discover information for themselves. Unlike traditional classrooms where lessons are often orated, Montessori students are not required to sit and listen passively to a teacher, memorize, and take tests.
The Role of the Teacher
Montessori teachers are often more of guides than instructors. They work with students on a one-to-one basis to find the best possible way to help children develop their own learning path. Their goal is to assist the child in their individual explorative learning process. The interests of the child are seen as an expression of individuality and are expected. This is a start contrast to traditional classrooms, where the pace and order of each lecture is generally predetermined, and the teacher often delivers the same lessons, at the same pace for all students.
Pace of Learning
In a Montessori classroom, children work on lessons as long as needed, and interruptions are avoided whenever possible. The individual child’s work pace is honored and encouraged in the Montessori classroom. In traditional classroom settings, time limitations are generally mandated by arbitrary schedules. Traditional classrooms often expect all children to work at the same pace.
Adaptable Curriculum and Love of Learning
Montessori curriculum expands in response to the needs of the individual student, whereas traditional curriculum is often predetermined without regard to individual student needs. Children are naturally and vibrantly inquisitive, driven by a natural curiosity and are routinely amazed by the joy of new things. Montessori curriculum is intended to appeal to the child’s innate hunger for knowledge, fostering development of a love of learning. This is vastly different from the traditional approach where children learn because it is mandatory, which is something that naturally begins to weaken a child’s natural inquisitiveness. This is perhaps one of the greatest differences between the two types of education systems. Montessori schools aim to foster life long learners who learn for the joy of learning, not to simply pass a test and get a good grade.
Age Groups in the Classroom
In traditional schools, children are generally grouped together according to their age. In Montessori programs, there are often mixed-age classrooms that are based more on finding the right developmental age for children. A key advantage of mixed-age classrooms is that this setting facilitates the natural curiosity of children and allows them to develop social and collaborative skills. The older students are able to mentor younger students and this approach fosters independence, reinforces learning, builds confidence, and helps develop important social skills.