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Differences Between Montessori and Traditional Schools

October 17, 2016

Student-oriented and focused lessons and activities

Montessori teachers use a student-focused approach to lessons. Traditional school teachers build lesson plans based on pre-approved criteria. These traditional school lesson plans focus on rigidity and compartmentalized learning. Instead of forcing children to learn at the same pace across the board, Montessori schools focus on allowing children to learn at their individual pace and skill level.

Hands-on and active self-discovery by the students

In a Montessori school environment, children are encouraged to explore and discover on their own. Hands-on learning helps children understand abstract concepts. Through self-discovery, children are more engaged, take ownership for learning and develop a genuine love of learning.

In traditional school environments, teachers place standardized lesson plans and topics across the entirety of their class. These lessons are typically “taught” verbally to students, who are expected to listen passively and memorize items without concern for full comprehension.

Self-paced learning, no forced/artificial time limits

In Montessori classrooms, children have adequate time to approach, learn, and fully grasp concepts and lessons. In a traditional school environment, teachers establish a rigid timeline for when students will learn specific topics.

Montessori teachers avoid interrupting children whenever possible. This interruption avoidance provides children with the freedom to learn at their personal pace, using methods that work best for them.

1-to-1 attention and care based on child need

Perhaps the most important aspect of a Montessori education is the relationship between the teacher and the student. Montessori teachers are there to provide personalized guidance and individual attention to each student on an as-needed basis.

Students in a traditional school have minimal, if any, personal one-to-one time with their teachers. Montessori students, however, work directly with their teachers, taking as much time as they need to grasp concepts and gain the confidence to keep diving into learning.

Students are in age groups, not grades

The flexibility of Montessori schools compared with traditional schools is further illustrated by the grouping of children based on developmental range, i.e., 0-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12 years of age.

Traditional schools tend to group children more directly by age, and children are expected to keep up or stay behind with other students their same age. Children that grasp certain concepts faster are forced to maintain pace with the other students. Students that need more time to understand lessons are shuffled through to the next grade without being fully prepared or are forced to repeat the grade year due to failing.

Flexible curricula based on child need

Traditional school curricula are predetermined and rigid. Teachers in traditional school environments have minimal to no flexibility in their approach to helping students understand concepts. Instead, they are expected to meet minimum testing standards to validate student comprehension.

In Montessori schools, teachers expand their methods and curricula according to students’ needs. Student understanding of a subject takes precedence to “testing well” on a subject. Children also get to follow their own passions at their own pace, with teachers directing them to relevant materials and activities.

Confidence built on self-pride, not outside judgment

Perhaps the most critical factor in a developing child’s learning is confidence in their ability to learn. Traditional schools focus on negative reinforcement through testing and a “just enough to pass” mentality.

Montessori schools focus on coaching children to learn to enjoy the very essence of learning new things. Children manipulate and investigate Montessori materials until they master the lesson inside, and the self-correcting nature of the materials builds independence and confidence.

Enhance child’s natural desire to want to learn

Children are born curious. It’s in our very nature to want to learn new things. Montessori education is built entirely around this concept. By focusing on the innate desire to learn, teachers of Montessori students tap a natural wellspring of motivation.

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