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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Montessori is not activity based learning

Because of the numerous activities used in Montessori method, Montessori is often confused with Activity based learning. However, Montessori method instead strives to re-configure the balance between EAN ( Execution Attention Network) and DMN ( Domain mode Network). EAN is used when the child does activities, while DMN is used with the child is doing internal focused tasks like, daydreaming, reflecting, and changing the perspective. When a child uses activity alone, it is considered to be autistic because he is using too much of EAN, and when a child uses DMN, we consider it to be schizophrenic. The key is balancing EAN and DMN.

Here is how Montessori method balances the EAN and DMN in a pre-school: 

1. Utilising Sense of order

Montessori method uses the time before and after an activity. That is why it stresses on the importance of taking the kit from the shelf as well as keeping it back on the shelf. It also uses the child's sense of keeping things in order such as when the child keeps the boots on the rack, hanging the bag on a specific place and so on. These 'non-activities' use the DMN network of a child.

2. Doing an activity end to end

In Montessori method, EPL activities for instance, have several steps before the activity and after the activity. For instance , pounding activity has several steps before the activity (taking the apron, using oil cloth, taking the nuts in a vessel, putting it in the pastle) of pounding. Similarly, there are activities after pounding. Infact one of the central activity is sharing the pounded nuts with other children. This series of activities enable the child to look at the 'purpose' of an activity and not just the key activity. Shifting the attention to the purpose of activity enables the child to balance between DMN and EAN networks.

3. Creating child-centric method

Unlike any ABL method, the child can 'chose' his own set of activity and perform it as many time as he wishes. As long as the child sits on the working mat, child has freedom of not doing anything in Montessori method. In Montessori, child's voluntary efforts to do any activity are considered to be important if his learning has to happen. Montessori method is student-driven method while ABL is teacher-driven method.

4. Focus on behavioural pattern of child to imbibe the learning habits 

In Montessori, there are EPL, Sensorial, Language and Mathematical activities arranged according to the age of child. These activities, although predetermined, are offered to the child according to his age and the challenge it offers to the child. The focus is not on teaching a 'concept' to a child like in ABL. The focus is on developing three 'behavioural habits/patterns' of a child that aid the child in deepen his learning such as choice, mistake-fearlessness, and patience. Montessori method is development centric method, while ABL is learning-centric method.


In short, Activity based learning is learning-centric teacher-driven methodology while Montessori method is development-centric student driven methodology.

On the surface, Montessori method looks like an activity based method. But if you scratch the surface and delve deeper, you will realise that activity is used as a 'tool' to serve a different 'end'. In Montessori, Activities are used to help the child to develop the foundation of the personality of a child while in Activity based method, activities are used to help the child learn something better and faster.

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