What is Montessori School of Thought

The pedagogical teachings of Maria Montessori. A scientific review of their concepts

Table of Contents

0. Introduction

1. Who was Maria Montessori in a nutshell

2. Basic anthropological assumptions and specific terms Montesso
2.1 "inner blueprint
2.2 "Sensitive Periods"
2.3 "Nebule", "Mnem
2.4 "Absorbent mind", "Horm
2.5 "Mathematical Mind", Order and Structure
2.6 Development of the senses and physical movement (Spor
2.7 "Polarization of Attention", "Normalisatio

3 The educational worldview summarized

4. Concrete didactic material
4.1 Exercises in everyday life
4.2 Sensory and dimensional material
4.3 Language
4.4 Mathematics
4.5 Cosmic material
4.6 Erdkinderplan
4.7 Peace values ​​and religious education

5 characteristics of scien

6. Montessori and neuroscience
6.1 Introduction to Neuroscience
6.2 Neuroscience and the Sensitive Phase
6.3 Brain development
6.4 Restriction to a requirement area
6.5 Development of attention
6.6 Flo
6.7 Autonomy and learning
6.8 Advantages of free work

7. The Hattie Stud
7.1 Study design and results
7.2 Criticism of the Hattie-Stu

8 selected individual students
8.1 Study design
8.2 Results of the Stud

9. Montessori - Social Significance

10. Montessori conclusion: what to take with you, what not


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0. Introduction

In view of the popularity of Montessori pedagogy and the many schools that are based on Montessori's teaching, the question arises to what extent theory and practice can be scientifically supported. Do the concepts stand up to testing using modern scientific methods? The basic thesis of this term paper is that a scientific review is possible and, furthermore, that the teaching weakens in central points. The aim of the thesis is to present the empirically hardenable and the less hardenable of the educational school of thought.

First, the Montessori teaching method is discussed in detail. It begins with a short biography, followed by the basic assumptions about people, their own terms and the educational worldview of Montessori, a description of specific didactic materials in all areas. Finally, a swing is made to empirical science, about what science is and means. This is followed by the field of neuroscience, including the sub-areas of brain development and Flow with the corresponding links to Montessori. This is followed by a compact description of the well-known study by the educational scientist Hattie and whether there is a refutation of the pedagogue. Then a selected individual study on the subject of Montessori teaching and creativity is described, then the focus is on the social significance of Montessori teaching. This text ends with a summarizing conclusion.

In 1907 Montessori worked as the manager of a day care center for three to six-year-old children from the working class (Casa dei bambini) and continues her success with able-bodied children.

With her book "Il metodo della pedagogia scientifica" from 1909 she achieved international fame. Today there are many Montessori schools that are oriented towards Montessori pedagogy, but without one of these schools being officially considered an ideal school. Especially in educational practice it becomes clear where your thoughts lead. In other European countries, such as Italy and the Netherlands, Montessori education was more likely to penetrate the institutions than in this country.

Popular mottos associated with Montessori are: "Help me do it myself!"12 or "First the whole, then the detail and back to the whole"3, or "teaching details means creating confusion. Establishing relationships among things means conveying knowledge"4

Maria Montessori's educational concept is largely coherent and appears to be all of a piece. It is biographically based in some respects, as most of Montessori's books are the result of lectures and courses in which she often incorporated personal practical experiences5.

Central categories form the basic anthropological assumptions and a very unique image of the child, educational conclusions and main goals, as well as the practical implementation.

2. Basic anthropological assumptions and Montessori's own terms

What is essential in Montessori is the idea6 that the position of man in the cosmos is not simply that of existing, but that man has to exercise a certain function in order to overcome emergencies and to perfect the cosmos. In her remarks on a divine plan, Montessori is similar to Johann Amos Comenius (15921670).

According to Montessori, the divine work is considered in the child. Montessori is close to the Catholic Church, but wants to stand up for all children of the earth and regards religion as a universal feeling for all people. She also held an interfaith event during her stay in India.

Apart from these basic religious-ontological theses, her pedagogy is based on the following basic assumptions, using and coining the terms in quotation marks:

2.1 "internal blueprint"

... describes the openness of development in humans, contrary to connotations to the contrary. Humans go through two embryonic phases: the physical embryo is formed before birth, and the spiritual or psychological "embryo" after birth. The second phase is not subject to any genetic restrictions and is only subject to the environment. This phase lasts for the first three years of life.

In addition to being open to the world, the individual creative power of humans is decisive.

The four childlike levels are a) Time of the unconscious creator, apparently purposeless activity, e.g. kneading a softball. b) Refinement of the activities, from here on the "conscious worker", e.g. painting "beautiful" pictures c) Performing transfer services, e.g. transferring numbers from the fingers to objects. d) Phase of social empathy, e.g. setting the table for the whole kindergarten group and not just for yourself.

Montessori's premise here is that children cannot be brought up in the first years of life. The individually different blueprint of humans unfolds autonomously and from within. The child as the "master builder of man" means that the child forms the people of the future by himself by absorbing his or her environment. The active part on the part of the human environment is to do everything that the child cannot yet and to offer mental protection, like the shells of an embryo.

2.2 "Sensitive Periods"

Reception periods like a spotlight, some are faded in, others are in the dark. It is a particularly difficult task for the educator to determine which sensitive phase the child is currently experiencing. This is done through close observation. The periods do not only exist in the linguistic and mathematical area, but also in the subject and natural history or social and emotional area. If one assumes that certain skills can be acquired without any problems in sensitive periods, then these phases must be considered educationally.

2.3 "Nebule", "Mncmc"

According to Montessori there are no laws of inheritance. The environment alone is decisive. Nebule is about nebulous potentials, existing possibilities in the newborn that strive for differentiation and content, but there is still no fixation. For example, an Indian child adopted as a baby learns English in America, language skills are such an unfixed possibility.

Mneme describes a different mental quantity, a type of memory that decides, depending on the situation, which learning content is vital for the organism.

Learning contents not only describe the language, but also mathematical skills, religious and moral ideas.

The pedagogical conclusion is that children's potentials must be perceived and appreciated by the adult environment in order to be able to develop better.

2.4 "Absorbent spirit", "Horme"

The absorbing spirit is the property of small children to absorb impulses from the environment like a sponge; in the constructivist sense it corresponds to an incarnation of impressions.

The drive of curiosity goes hand in hand with an individual vitality that Montessori called Horme. Educational influences can strengthen or weaken this drive. An environment with many sensory stimuli has a preventive effect.

2.5 "Mathematical Mind", Order and Structure

The mathematical spirit goes back to the mathematician Blaise Pascal (1623-1662). Man strives for order. The ordering frame of orientation serves all subsequent processes of thinking and understanding. Order is sought in all learning content, mathematics, art, music and language. The need for structure is fundamental in children.

2.6 Development of the senses and physical movement (sport)

With the use of the senses and the hand, the child's intelligence is perfected. Satisfying the child's urge to move leads to a healthy development of the senses and intelligence. Movement serves cognitive learning and mental health. Movement, thinking and feeling form a holistic unit.

In line with this, Montessori denounces the unhealth of school desks7. Body and mind are constrained and there is a risk of curved backs.

2.7 "Polarization of Attention", "Normalization"

Polarization of attention is a very central aspect. It describes the concentrated and repeated activity, it is about inner harmony. One of Montessori's key experiences is as follows: A three-year-old girl was absorbed in her work with wooden cylinders. The child kept repeating the same work over and over and seemed very focused. Other disturbances such as placing the child on a table and starting a song left the child cold. After countless repetitions, the child paused and appeared satisfied and happy. Montessori called this magical active state the polarization of attention. The related term normalization describes the process with which human development ultimately manifests itself8. It fits into the constructivist scheme of the child as the "builder of man". Educationally, this means creating a protected but also stimulating objective framework that is based on voluntariness.

3. Summarized the educational worldview

According to Montessori, the teacher should observe the child closely,9 to offer help for self-help, because every child is individual and autonomous. The systematic stimulation environment is provided by the teacher as a prepared environment with didactic materials. This environment creates a polarization of attention that leads to self-education and self-control.

The central aspect of freedom means that the teacher takes a back seat to allow the child to practice their own freedom. "Help me do it myself" implies that the child expects help to help themselves from within. The inner blueprint is individual and must be discovered by the teacher.

The development of the child or adolescent happens in three main periods:

1. From 0 to 6 years old: the absorbing spirit in relation to cultural goods. The inner potentials are realized during sensitive phases. There is a transition from the unconscious to the conscious playful learning of the child.
2. From 7 to 12 years: Social skills and morals are developed.
3. From 12 to 18 years: The young person finds his role in the world and develops a concept of life.

In the sensitive phases in which it is easier to learn certain things, the teacher is an observer and not an authority. The teacher reacts to what has been observed by providing a prepared environment in which the senses can be independently trained. The collective term "prepared environment" refers to the overall context including didactic materials (see below), age-appropriate furniture, open shelves from which the children can help themselves, but also plants and pets.

The central aspect in the lesson is that the student goes through an active cycle of self-activity at least once a day. This consists of three phases: The preparatory phase - the attunement, the big work (possibly several days) (-> polarization of attention) and the turning into oneself as a break in which the progress is processed.

The most important teaching mode is free work with the following features: Usually three age groups are summarized, the individual education by oneself receives a social complement to the togetherness, the child chooses the learning materials and learning partners himself, and decides for himself on the type and duration of his learning activities. The child's own learning pace is tolerated here.

The teacher may only be active on the child's periphery with his education and influence on the child's discipline, the center is reserved for the individual and includes the child's personal freedom.

Role of the teacher:

In the context of cosmic education, according to which every single being with its determination is useful for the preservation of the whole, the teacher suggests to understand the holistic * relationships among things. On the one hand, the teacher is a narrator, an enthusiast, and is strongly oriented towards ecology and peace education from the age of six. The teacher leads to self-education, taking into account the needs of the child and creating an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust. The teacher does not allow himself to be dissuaded by setbacks and ensures that only the insurmountable hurdles are removed.

Special features in schools:

Several years are grouped together, the hourly rhythm is abandoned, there are free work blocks lasting several hours. In the secondary level, value is placed on interdisciplinary project work.

Overall, external coercion is dispensed with in favor of child orientation and appropriate learning materials, and, as I said, a climate characterized by freedom and mutual respect is promoted.

4. Concrete didactic materials

What is meant are tangible materials with which the children can playfully and independently learn as well as the learning progress of the children. The variety of materials allows an individual fit and a step-by-step abstraction.10

Qualitative features of the materials for free work are:

- A single property is varied in isolation (e.g. color-nuanced unit blocks).
- Your own error control is possible (e.g. insert kit).
- Aesthetic aspects that exert a corresponding attraction.
- Possible activity, movement and use of all senses is possible.
- Organizing restrictions, e.g. a material is only available once in a prepared environment.

Preparatory steps with the goal of orderly relationships are:

- Adapt the equipment and structure of the room.
- Cultivating rules of conduct, e.g. what has been started is brought to an end, even if it can take days or weeks; everything has its place and is being put back.
- The teacher introduces the nature and system of the materials.

1. Who was Maria Montessori in a nutshell?

Maria Montessori lived from 1870 to 1952. She was the first woman in Italy to be admitted to study medicine. This detail refers to the patriarchal circumstances of her lifetime. As a doctor, she initially worked with mentally handicapped children. Influenced by the therapeutic pedagogy of the French doctors J.M. Itard and E. Seguin develop Montessori didactic materials for the human senses with which the mentally handicapped can be encouraged.


1 See Burkard, F./WeiB, A .: 2008, p.109.

2 Montessori, M. In: Burkard, F. / WeiR, A .: 2008, p.109.

3 Montessori, M. In: Schumacher, E .: 2016, p.28.

4 Montessori, M. In: Burkard, F. / WeiR, A .: 2008, S.lll.

5 See Schumacher, E .: 2016, page 28.

6 See Schumacher, E .: 2016, p. 30 f.

7 Cf. Montessori, M .: 1909, p.12 f.

8 See Anonymous: https://www.montessori-material.de/content/normalisation/

9 See Burkard, F./WeiB, A .: 2008, p.109 f.

10 See Schumacher, E.: 2016, p.57 f.