Schools that provide a Montessori education can be found across the country, but many people have no idea how they differ from traditional institutions.

In a nutshell, Montessori education aims to engage young learners by allowing them to develop academically in a more personalized manner. Students are given looser curriculum guidelines and allowed the leniency to follow their own natural interests.

Montessori education was first developed by educator and physician Dr. Maria Montessori. She developed many of the hallmarks of a Montessori education near the turn of the twentieth century as a way of teaching poor, inner-city children in her native Italy. Today there are over 5,000 Montessori schools across the United States and 22,000 around the world.

What Is Different about a Montessori Education?

Montessori educationAccording to the American Montessori Society, a few hallmarks of the Montessori educational approach include:

  • Multi-age groupings that foster peer learning
  • Uninterrupted blocks of work time
  • Guided choice of work activity

Competitive methods of evaluating work, such as grades or tests, are discouraged in favor of a focus on individual progress. The Montessori method has received some criticism over the years for being too laid back, but studies assert that students benefit from a Montessori education as much as or more than they might from a traditional curriculum.

The Potential Benefits

Montessori educationA study published in the journal Science in 2006 found that students with a Montessori education tended to be more socially adaptive and creative. The same study found that the Montessori students, who were divided into groups of youth aged 3-6 and 6-12, fared just as well as traditional students on tests across a number of subjects.

“We found significant advantages for the Montessori students in these tests for both age groups,” said University of Virginia professor and study co-author Angeline Lillard. “Particularly remarkable are the positive social effects of Montessori education. Typically the home environment overwhelms all other influences in that area.”

Montessori Education in Public Schools

While the majority of Montessori education institutions are private, about 400 public schools in the U.S. have also adopted this method of teaching. Public Montessori schools do require students to undergo the same state standardized testing requirements as other public schools and must comply with all federal education guidelines. Teachers employed by these schools are also required to be licensed by an accredited Montessori teacher education program.

Implementing a Montessori approach requires a huge shift in both the school structure and philosophy. Whether you support the Montessori education methodology or a more traditional model, it’s important to be aware of this growing trend in public education.

Do you have an interest in less traditional educational techniques? Read on to find out more about blended learning, a process that incorporates multiple teaching strategies in the classroom.

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