Education is always changing. There is always a new theory out that helps teachers shape their instructions. Teachers get inspirations from the past to help shape the mind of the future. Not all theorist believe in the same thing or have the same way of teaching and that is perfectly fine. We need to have an offset to create different outcomes in the learning process. What will happen if two educational methods that do not work together on paper, but in action actually work together.
Keywords: Collaborative Play, Hands-On Learning, Montessori, Self-Directed Learning, Traditional Classroom
Changing the Way Students Learn: Incorporating the Montessori Method in a Traditional
In the world of education there is a number of theorist that shape the way teachers teach their students. There is Erik Erikson who believed that a child development depends on external factors like parents and society. He states that every person must pass through a series of eight interrelated stages over their entire life cycle. You also have Jean Piaget who developed his cognitive developmental theory based on the idea that children actively construct knowledge as they explore and manipulate the world around them. Another theorist we focus on is Lev Vygotsky who’s theory is one of the foundations of constructivism that has three major themes regarding social interaction, the more knowledgeable other, and the zone of proximal development. Lastly we have Maria Montessori who’s method of education is based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning and collaborative play. Each of their theories, plus others have shaped the way teachers teach, so why not blend them into the everyday traditional classroom to make the education for our students better.
What is Montessori
. The Montessori method of education was developed in 1907 by Dr. Maria Montessori. It is a child-centered educational approach that is based on scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood. Steered by her discovery, that children teach themselves, Dr. Montessori designed a “prepared environment” in which students could choose from a number of developmentally appropriate activities freely. The Montessori method has been tested through time, with over 100 years of success in diverse cultures throughout the world.
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What make this type of education so different is that it is view of the child as one who is naturally eager for knowledge and capable of initiating learning in a supportive, thoughtfully prepared learning environment. It is an approach that values the human spirit and the development of the whole child physical, social, emotional, cognitive.
The traditional model classroom is what most of us experienced while attending school. In this model the teacher stands between the students and the knowledge. He or she is the facilitator and tells the students what they need to know. This leaves the students with little to no knowledge about the subject when they come to class. In class, they get taught all the knowledge, and it’s often the basic knowledge about a subject. Students have to do the more comprehensive knowledge at home which is called homework. The process of thoughts is mostly viewed after doing a test.
Making the self-directed approach work with lecture style of teaching
In a Montessori classroom you will see students engaging in the self-directed learning approach. In its broadest of meanings, self-directed learning describes a process in which students take the initiative in their education, they are in charge of diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes (Knowles, 1975, p. 18). This concept of learning have been implemented in the Montessori method of learning since it was created. This approach give the students the freedom to learn what they want to learn without consequence.
In the traditional classroom setting you will see more of a lecture style of learning. The lecture style of teaching is the method that the teachers use to impart knowledge to students through oral language (Yang and Deng 2005). This method of teaching is also considered teacher-centered and entails lengthy lecture sessions or one way presentations.
This two styles can work well together when presented to the student. In a early childhood classroom their should be freedom to learn with a little direction. In the Montessori classroom there is 3 hours of self-directed learning that teachers are not allowed to interrupt. In a traditional classroom a teacher stands in front of the class and teach for fifteen to twenty minutes while the students have about thirty to thirty-five minutes to experience self-discovery.
To make these two concepts work, the lesson times have to change. The teacher can introduce the lesson for the same amount of time, but give the students more time to grasp the information. Instead of three hours of self-directed lesson, the teacher can give the students a hour and a half to really understand what they are learning. To achieve this the teachers can place all the needed manipulatives out and let the students do what they want to do with it. For example if the teacher is talking about shapes they can place square blocks out and see what they students will make with them, they can have different types of circles out and see what the student will associate with it, and so on and so forth. Blending these two forms will not be much of a stretch, it will just call for a change of instruction time.
Blending hands-on learning with activity style teaching
Another major form of teaching that the Montessori method include is encouraging a hands-on learning environment. Hands-on learning is described as a learning style that requires the student to carry out a physical activity and get what they are learning by themselves, rather than just sitting in a hall listening to a lecturer or watching a demonstration. Hands-on learning gets the students up and physically involved in what they choose to learn (Alice 2013).
In the traditional classroom some teachers adapt the activity method of teaching. This teaching style allows the teacher to emphasize his or her method of teaching through activity in which the students participate rigorously and bring about efficient learning experiences. It is a child-centered approach and it requires students to participate both mentally and physically.
Not only is both approaches approtiate for a early childhood classroom, it is wildly needed. Too often there are four and five year old children sitting at their desks, listen to the teacher, and receiving instructions. They are sitting there learning with paper and pencil assignments instead of getting involved in their lesson. Blending both styles will make for a better learning experience and outcome. The students will have free reign over a classroom with a variety of educational activities at their disposal, instead of being told what to do. It is proven that working with their hands gives the student a more solid understanding of learning materials, and the information that is given is absorbed more effectively.
How does collaborative play match the group style of teaching
In a Montessori classroom you will see students engaging in collaborative play. Collaborative play is a learning method that involves two or more students learning or attempted to learn something together (Dillenbourg 1999). Collaborative play is a type of play that typically begins at around 2 years of age, or when children enter a school setting for the first time (daycare included), when toddlers are mature enough to begin taking turns with playmates, sharing playthings, following rules, and negotiating with others (Ryan 2018).
In the traditional classroom you can see the group style of learning during group lessons. In an early childhood classroom that would be small group time. Small group time is used for the benefit of the student’s academic readiness for the next step. It is also a time for the teacher to spend instructional time with small groups of students who need additional support in specific skill areas. The pros of this method is that the guided discovery and inquiry-based learning place the teacher in an observer role, rather than a dictator, that inspires students by working in tandem toward common goals.
Mergering these methods together will give the students a chance to work on lessons as they see fit together and the teacher the chance to observe how they interact with each other and how well they grasp the lesson taught. This will allow the teacher to see if they need to change the way they deliver the instruction that is given, or if it works. This will still give the students freedom to learn, but the teacher will be involved.
Blending these methods does not seem like the impossible thing to do. Yes there will be work, and yes there will be adjustments that have to be made, but it will be worth it to give students the best education we can possibly give. Both the Montessori and the traditional classroom settings have the same goal, giving the students the best education they can possibly get. It is important that we try to do everything we can to teach the next generation.
- Alice, S. (2013). Learning styles: Hands-on Learning. Blog Post.
- Dillenbourg, P. (1999). Collaborative Learning: Cognitive and Computational Approaches. Advances in Learning and Instruction Series. New York, NY: Elsevier Science, Inc.
- Knowles, M. (1975) Self-directed learning: A guide for learners and teachers, New York: Cambridge Books.
- Montessori, M. (2013). The Montessori method. Transaction publishers.
- Ryan. M. (2018). How Collaborative Play Benefits Toddlers. VeryWellFamily
- Yang Li-Naing, Deng Jun, “Seminar: Training graduate students scientific research ability of the effective way”, China’s geological education, vol.3, pp. 5-7, 2005.