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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Unique feature of Montessori

There are many features in Montessori. However, if I was asked to name just one feature and leave the rest, i would name this one: Montessori method is development-centric as compared to learning-centric methods of other traditional pre-schools.

Dr Maria Montessori's ( 1870-1952)

Learning-centric method promotes intelligence building. In these schools, the primary emphasis is on learning language, arithmetic, or any other subject. Although intelligence facilitates development, not all learning results in development. For instance, when a child between 2-5 is taught A to Z, or 1 to 100, the child 'absorbs' this content indiscriminately and may also repeat everything without a mistake. We call this 'mugging' in common parlance. This kind of learning does not promote development.  Secondly, learning-centric methods rely more on 'direct' learning. That is why you see traditional schools use instruction and blackboard as its major tool.

Development-centric method like Montessori, on the other hand, primarily focus on developing a child's personality. That is why, you will find, the method focusses on developing traits like concentration, patience and others. Development-centric methods rely on 'indirect' tools to promote development, because one cannot 'teach' patience and concentration by exhorting or urging children. For instance, in the earlier blog, we saw the amount of effort the montessori invests in creating the right environment for the child to promote his social development.

Out of different traits, Montessori method specifically focuses on developing 'concentration' in children by coordinating different variables in a Montessori environment such as letting child chose his activities, designing material ( and its activities) that progressively challenge a child to perform the activity repeatedly, and letting the child be with an activity for as long as he wishes. By the way, developmental psychologists believe that long attention-span (in other words, concentration) is a biggest differentiator that separates talented from average individuals. Montessori prepares this foundation at a young age. 

Development-centric methods also approach learning in a very different way. For instance, Montessori uses these three variables to promote learning: 

1. Active engagement: A child can learn only when he performs his own activities and repeats them ad infinitum. That is why Montessori materials are designed in a way that keeps on throwing challenges to a child and keeps him engaged in performing activities repeatedly. A set of 4 cylinder blocks enable a child to perform 100+ different activities, each with a different type of challenge.

3. Isolating one concept at a time: In order to avoid confusion, the child is always introduced with one concept at at one time in Montessori. For instance, one set of  cylinder blocks isolates 'thick and thin' diameters of cylinder by keeping the length of a cylinder block same, another set of cylinder blocks isolate 'short and long' cylinders by keeping the 'diameter' same. If you see this video of cylinder block on You tube, you will understand what i am saying. Only after the child is introduced to varying diameters and lengths, the child is introduced to third set of cylinder blocks  that changes both the diameters and lengths at the same time. 

In language-learning, this method causes confusion in the parent's mind. Out of five different sounds of 'a', the child is initially introduced to only one sound of 'a' vowel  ( which is  'a' as in cat). Because of this, the child pronounces some words 'wrongly' where 'a' is pronounced differently. For instance, until the child is introduced to other four sounds of 'a', child pronounces even the 'a' in ball as 'a' in cat. Montessorians have to often caution parents to avoid correcting the child at this stage. 

3. Making unconscious conscious : A child of less than 5 can learn anything unconsciously, because his mind absorbs everything like a sponge. Dr Maria Montessori calls it an absorbent mind. Learning however happens only when the child converts 'unconscious impressions into conscious'. For instance, a child learns to  speak a word unconsciously. But he learns only when he consciously distinguishes the sound of each syllable and then convert those sounds into 'words'. Montessori follows this method everywhere.

Because of the money in education, many chains have entered this pre-school segment at a national level. Today, as parents, it is therefore necessary to understand different methods of education and not get drowned in the 'jargon' of education. As parents, you are today compelled to separate wheat from chaff and take an informed decision for your child, because your child's future is at stake. 

Which approach do you think is a better approach to develop and teach your child? Montessori or other Pre-schools ? If you have any doubts, please feel free to ask.

1 comment:

  1. This is the study which points that long attention-span differentiates talented performers from average ones