Early childhood development is a critical topic that has gone through many reformations throughout the past decades. However, conventional techniques remain prevalent, while there are more progressive approaches that can show higher rates of success and can be implemented on a global scale. The Montessori method is one of such options, and it is focused on independence, creativity, and inclusion. Notably, it uses intrinsic motivation as the primary reason behind educational activities performed in Montessori classes (Kiran, Macun, Agrin, & Ulutas, 2021). In her article “Montessori as an alternative early childhood education,” Angeline Lillard outlines why this approach is highly acclaimed in the recent media and scientific papers, drawing a significant amount of attention to its potential and current application. The primary argument of Lillard’s article is that there is evidence that the Montessori method is more fruitful, rapidly gains popularity, and needs to be implemented in preschool programs on a massive scale. This paper will analyze the reasons behind the overwhelmingly positive responses to the Montessori preschool education method among modern teachers and children’s parents.
The Montessori method is based on the individualistic approach to a child’s learning motivation. This technique stems from observations of the efficacy of self-motivated learning encounters in early childhood (Denervaud, Knebel, Hagmann, & Gentaz, 2019). Children are found to be eager to explore their environment, interact with their peers with little to no support, and able to learn from such experiences at a considerable pace.
This technique requires several special preparation steps in order to be functional. A teacher must be taught how to encourage students to interact with their chosen subject of matter in a meaningful way and have high social competence (Dereli İman, Danişman, Demircan, & Yaya, 2017). One of its most prominent features is the lack of feedback from a teacher in the form of grades and tests, making observational evaluation a critical skill as well (Denervaud et al., 2019). As the teaching process differs significantly from conventional methods, such classes often require separation from common study rooms.
The Montessori method often combines game elements into the educational process. Lillard (2020) argues that, for children, “sitting still, listening, and memorizing is work,” which is “developmentally inappropriate” (p. 2). Students are less engaged, willing to perform tasks by themselves and acquire information at a slower pace (Lillard, 2020). Play is a critical concept in this technique, as it serves as a primary activity of knowledge transfer.
Reasons Behind the Popularity of the Montessori Technique
To understand the benefits of this method that led to its rising popularity, it is essential to review why the processes and educators outlined above help with achieving better results. There are several factors that need to be analyzed, including teachers’ roles, social interactions, perceived and actual achievements, and equality in study opportunities. As the Montessori technique remains a niche form of education, there is also a question on why do educational facilities avoid switching to it if it shows excellent results.
Outcomes of this technique are convincing in their findings regarding the efficiency of the Montessori method. Lillard et al. (2017) reveal that “the Montessori children fared better on measures of academic achievement, social understanding, and mastery orientation, and they also reported relatively more liking of scholastic tasks” (p. 1). Average scores in several critical assessments among children who were taught using this method were revealed to be higher than among those who were taught using the conventional methods (Denervaud et al., 2019). The authors’ arguments show evidence that clearly suggests that the Montessori method has better outcomes.
It is vital to note that the reviewed approach promotes equality and inclusion better than the conventional ones. Standardized tests may be biased and result in unsatisfactory and demotivating performance, making children less likely to be interested in exploring the subject on their own (Lillard et al., 2017). Unlike the conventional methods, the reviewed technique gives more space for a student to fail since there is no punishment that would force them to strive for good grades to avoid negative reinforcement. Highly individualized courses help students to progress through the material at their own pace. At the same time, Montessori classes are designed to promote student cooperation, which helps lagging students to acquire the knowledge that they might have missed by themselves.
A significant portion of arguments in favor of this technique reveals core flaws in the conventional teaching methods that are based on the fact that children need to work hard to become educated. The lack of extrinsic motivation is a notable feature that was not previously considered as a viable option for childhood educational facilities. However, the success of the Montessori method shatters this idea, pointing out that feedback-based performance promotes following goals that are the easiest to perform (Lillard et al., 2017). At the same time, the Montessori technique gives students the ability to focus on what might be harder to master yet more fruitful later in life (Lillard et al., 2017). Therefore, this method increases both satisfaction from the current tasks and the motivation to master something that is meaningful for a student.
The last argument in favor of the Montessori method is the evidence of its efficiency from the past results. It is highly convincing that this technique positively affects one’s creativity when people learn that the founders of Google, Amazon, Wikipedia, and other overwhelmingly successful projects attended Montessori classes (Lillard et al., 2017). While it is arguable that decisions can be made based on this evidence, it supports the idea that freedom is beneficial for child development at that stage.
Parents’ Perceptions of the Montessori Method
Since parents are the crucial stakeholders in their child’s education, their perceptions must be valued as well. The study by Lillard et al. (2017) has shown that the majority of participant parents found this method to be “effective in their children acquiring positive behavior,” such as assertiveness, autonomy, and self-confidence (p. 11). However, these views are often distorted by schools that use the Montessori method as a temporary intervention since parents are commonly left without proper knowledge regarding the program and its exact benefits (Lillard et al., 2020). It also appears possible for parents to remain highly critical of this system due to the perceived imbalance in Montessori curriculums. As their child will be given more freedom, some people may be fearing that crucial knowledge may be left unexplored entirely.
Despite its apparent benefits outlined in this paper, there are troublesome points that may hinder the mass application of the Montessori method. As has been noted, it is difficult for educational facilities to adequately address parents’ concerns regarding the opportunities that this method gives to their children. Having experienced the conventional educational process themselves, parents often expect to receive similar reports of their children’s successes from school in a clear and concise form (Lillard et al., 2020). While such demands are not unreasonable, they imply the need for closer cooperation between schools and parents that will allow the latter to give an insight into students’ activities and progress.
The second concern that often puts educational facilities off is the structural complexity of Montessori lessons. Curriculums must be highly individualized alongside ith the class equipment, making schools spend significantly more finances on educational accessories (Lillard et al., 2020). New requirements for teachers play a major role as well since the dimensions of teacher-student interaction are entirely different from the regular classes. Support that must be provided to children throughout Montessori programs calls for higher standards of emotional intelligence among educators.
In conclusion, the Montessori technique provides a unique opportunity for children to develop skills that they are drawn to due to their natural curiosity and the strive to explore the world. The article by Angeline Lillard explores many opportunities that this method provides and criticizes public schools for lagging behind the modern studies that show the prominent results of the Montessori method. However, the popularity of this approach is steadily growing, as many educational facilities began to recognize evidence of the superior outcomes for children and the positive impact on their development after studying in Montessori classes. There is a definite need to usher people to adopt this method into public schools to improve equality, promote passion, and encourage social interactions between children without unnecessary constraints. The analysis of the collected evidence reveals that the barriers for implementation are either superficial or resolvable within a reasonable time period.
Denervaud, S., Knebel, J., Hagmann, P., & Gentaz, E. (2019). Beyond executive functions, creativity skills benefit academic outcomes: Insights from Montessori education. PLOS ONE, 14(11), e0225319. Web.
Dereli İman, E., Danişman, Ş., Demircan, Z. A., & Yaya, D. (2017). The effect of the Montessori education method on pre-school children’s social competence – behaviour and emotion regulation skills. Early Child Development and Care, 189(9), 1494-1508. Web.
Kiran, I., Macun, B., Agrin, Y., & Ulutas, İ. (2021). Montessori method in early childhood education: A systematic review. Cukurova University Faculty of Education Journal, 50(2), 1154-1183. Web.
Lillard, A. S. (2020). Montessori as an alternative early childhood education. Early Child Development and Care, 191(7-8), 1196-1206. Web.
Lillard, A. S., Heise, M. J., Richey, E. M., Tong, X., Hart, A., & Bray, P. M. (2017). Montessori preschool elevates and equalizes child outcomes: A longitudinal study. Frontiers in Psychology, 8. Web.