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Maria Montessori transformed early childhood education through her theories of early childhood education. Scholars consider Montessori to be among the earliest and accomplished educators. Currently, educators are using Montessori’s ideas and methods in teaching from early childhood to the university level. Montessori was an Italian native of Chiaravelle origin.
Theory of Learning
Montessori viewed learning as a process that emanated from controlling the environment and acquiring knowledge through the use of senses. Montessori believed that every child had Absorbent Mind (Montessori, 1967). The Absorbent Mind enables the child to take the environment as it is and then analyze it. The stages of analysis enabled the child to recall, understand and think.
Teachers encouraged children to undertake their own projects and discover their own knowledge. In this processes, children made mistakes. According to Montessori, mistakes enabled children to critically analyze their problems and solve them on their own without any assistance. Feedback from the project itself was useful in acquiring new knowledge.
Consequently, teachers avoided identification of mistakes to enable children to do their own self-evaluation. At the same time, teachers gave children the freedom to choose their own materials for their projects. In short, Montessori insisted that knowledge acquisition occurred only through socialization, proper environment, and through practice and mistakes.
According to Montessori, the Absorbent Mind forms the basis of how children acquire knowledge. For instance, teachers create encouraging and relaxed environments to provide children with the opportunities to learn on their own through interactions, and in groups. These processes enable children to acquire knowledge from the environment. Therefore, learning must occur in reality, practical and organized environment.
Theory of opportunity
Montessori’s theory of opportunity stresses that any child in the society can learn regardless of disability and become a contributing member of the society. Montessori developed this theory when she was working with children with special needs. During that time, society did not provide any education to children with special needs. Montessori proved that these children could learn like other normal children (Morrison, 2009).
This theory is necessary in teaching children of different races, abilities, classes, and gender. Montessori viewed education as a lifelong process. She observed that children who never acquired education did not make any progress in the society. Teachers use this theory to accommodate all learners in their classrooms. These learners include low achievers and high achievers, slow and fast learners. Opportunity is necessary because education is a matter of individual’s experiences.
Theory of knowledge
Montessori viewed knowledge as life. This theory is related to the theory of learning and acquiring knowledge from the environment and training of one’s senses. The knowledge people acquire from training their senses and the environment enables them to be productive members of the community. According to Montessori, children must be able to control their environment in order to gain and understand the world processes (Gutek, 2004).
Montessori believed that practical knowledge from the environment was the best tool in preparing an individual for a better life in society. In addition, Montessori stressed that people create knowledge from their ability to examine, analyze, observe, criticize, and get meaningful information from the environment (Hainstock, 1997). Therefore, early childhood education is critical of this theory.
Teachers give children opportunities to explore their environment by using their senses and derive meaning out of the environment. For effective acquisition of knowledge, educators encourage the use of research and practical application in learning situations. At the same time, educators also motivate and encourage learners to work hard and advance their interests in learning.
Gutek, G. L. (2004). The Montessori Method: The Origins of an Educational Innovation. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Hainstock, E. (1997). The essential of Montessori. New York: Plume Publishing.
Montessori, M. (1967). The absorbent mind. New York: Henry Holt and Company, LLC.
Morrison, G. S. (2009). Early childhood education today, 11th ed. Upper Saddle River: Pearson.