Montessori vs. Traditional Education

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Parents making critical decisions about their child’s education have a lot of tough choices to face. It can be helpful to compare Montessori vs traditional education.

An article in EdSurge points out that Montessori schools within the U.S., because they are mostly private institutions, leave those unfamiliar with the Montessori method of education thinking these schools are to serve children from upper-income families who can afford the cost of private tuition. More and more innovators in public school education are finding ways to bring Montessori methodology into their public school systems. Indeed, the original Montessori school, Casa dei Bambini, was designed to educate children from Roman slum neighborhoods to improve working-class conditions and enable children from high-poverty areas.

Montessori vs. Traditional: Student numbers

Because traditional schools must educate every child efficiently, budget constraints force students into classrooms with rows of students and high student-to-teacher ratios. Most classrooms remain teacher-centered with the teacher being a transmitter of the knowledge and ultimate source of the correct answers. 

On the other hand, Montessori schools are, by their nature, student-centered. Smaller groups and individual-driven learning allow for more student-centered focus upon learning as well as the opportunity for discovery and experiential learning. The lack of time restrictions, coupled with a self-paced plan of instruction and open-ended activities result in children finding their own answers. Explorations often lead to deeper and more engaging questions. Such methods nourish curiosity and foster learning outcomes whose results continue throughout students’ entire lives. 

Montessori vs. Traditional: Instructional time 

In traditional schools, students attend a variety of classes in which lessons begin and end upon the ringing of the bells. Teachers are continually at the mercy of the clock, which forces them to pace their instruction against prescribed curricula geared toward preparation for standardized tests. Greater emphasis is placed on grades, meeting pre-established goals and objectives, and performance on year-end tests. 

Montessori schools emphasize student inquiry, allow students to pursue their own self-paced curriculum, either individually or in small groups within a freer, less rigid learning environment. They enjoy longer blocks of time with fewer interruptions by tones, bells or buzzers telling them, “Time’s up!” 

Montessori vs. Traditional: Grouping

Students in traditional schools enter grade-level groups according to their chronological ages. They enter kindergarten at age 5 and, their grades permitting, advance one grade level each year afterward, remaining with their appropriate age group. Such grouping allows teachers to efficiently parcel out what students need to know when they need to know it. Class size and time limitations allow for little departure from the well-beaten path.

Instead of attending designated sessions with classmates their own age, Montessori students learn in a non-graded environment, collaborating in groups that include students two to three years younger or older than they are. Such variance in age allows for older students to mentor younger ones, a set-up that fosters leadership and individual learning.

Montessori vs. Traditional: Methods of service delivery 

Traditional schools rely heavily upon a one-program-fits-all form of service delivery in order to meet the mandates of state graduation requirements for its diverse student populations. A set number of units, required courses and pre-requisite courses, and orderly progressing through a more-or-less uniform catalog of courses — all factor into how a school determines where students fall into their respective middle and high school careers. Little modification, other than limited selection of course electives, is available for students on the basis of learning styles, interests in an area of passion, or ways in which students are “gifted.”

Within the Montessori school, because learning is self-directed with children making their own choices, vital elements such as preferred learning styles, student interests, talents, and areas of giftedness find their way into the learning process in a natural, organic manner. Rather than compartmentalize knowledge and learning into individual subject areas, students can integrate subjects as they surface during lessons, projects, and individual or group investigations. 

Contact us if you have more questions concerning a Montessori education.

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