In 1870, Maria Mostessori was born in Chiaravalle, Ancona province in Italy. In 1896 she became the first female physician in her country after graduation at the University of Rome. She represented her country in two women’s conferences, in Berlin (1896) and London (1900). Her clinical observations during her medical practice served as bases for her analyses of children’s behaviour. This has persuaded her to return to the university and pursue psychology and philosophy. In 1904, she became a professor of anthropology at the University of Rome.
Thus, she made a paradigm shift from physiological aspect of man to mind (“Maria Montessori: A brief Biography,” n. d. ). In 1906, she relinquished her medical and teaching professions to establish Casa dei Bambini, or “Children’s House” wherein she nurtured the 60 children of working parents in San Lorenzo, Rome. In her institution, she made scientific observations on the children’s spontaneous learning process and eventually developed her methods of educating young minds.
Her findings moulded her to be an advocate of educational reform in teaching principles and methodologies, and teacher training programs (“Maria Montessori: A brief Biography,” n. d. ). Alexander Graham Bell and his wife, together with other colleagues such as Thomas Edison and Helen Keller, founded the Montessori Educational Association at Washington DC in 1913 in the same year when Maria Montessori visited the United Sates. During the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco in 1915, Maria Montessori amused the world with her “glass house” school room.
She also trained teachers and graced the gatherings of both the National Education Association and the International Kindergarten Union during this second U. S. visit. In addition, in 1917, the Spanish government invited her to grace the opening of a research institute and started her series of teacher training programs in London in 1919 (“Maria Montessori: A brief Biography,” n. d. ). Maria Montessori became a government inspector in Italy in 1922, however, forced to leave her country in 1934 because of her opposition to Mussolini’s fascism.
During the Spanish Civil War in 1936, she was rescued by a British cruiser in Barcelona, Spain. She also graced the opening of the Montessori Training Centre in Laren, Netherlands in 1938 and started a series of teacher training programs in India in 1939. Together with her son Mario, she continuously trained educators in India amidst the World War II in 1940. Then, she founded the Montessori Centre in London in 1947. In her pursuit of educational reform, she was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize for three consecutive years (1949-1951).
In 1952, Maria Montessori passed away in Noordwijk, Holland but through her Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) she founded in Amsterdam, Netherlands in 1929, the fruits of her works have been treasured in the field of education (“Maria Montessori: A brief Biography,” n. d. ). The Montessori Method Maria Montessori began practice her professional work in the field of psychiatry by visiting children who were believed to be mentally deficient in asylums. She observed how children in the asylums crawl on the floor, grab for crumbs of bread, chase and fight with each other.
She reasoned out that children acted in this way because this is their only means to relieve their boredom for being locked up in a naive room. This mental deficiency according to her was pedagogical in nature. She also affirmed that these “feeble-minded” tagged children only lack experience but are capable of learning just like other normal children. Then, she avowed her educational theory in 1907 by combining the methods of sages in medicine, education, and anthropology. Her new method, both experimental and miraculous in nature, enhanced the scientific qualities of education and created teachers as social engineers.
Her Casa dei Bambini in Rome has served as laboratory in asserting her theories. She led in teaching children in a worst environment and trained her teachers in moulding young minds. The Casa dei Bambini has trained children to learn on their own by doing learning exercise without adults’ assistance. As a result, her pedagogical theories and methods have transformed the unruly children into refined individuals. Children learned not only writing and reading but also self respect (Flaherty, n. d. ). Didactic Materials
In the Casa dei Bambini, Maria Montessori observed the children’s lack of interest in toys and drawing materials but on didactic materials. She thought that those children were already disgusted of toys with a single function, thus, they have much interest in materials which can be manipulated. She interpreted this as the children’s willingness to solve problems by trial and error gaining joy at they successfully finish the task (Flaherty, n. d. ). Learning by Doing Maria Montessori believed that the school is a place for learning cognitive skills and self-reliance. She focused on learning skills that can be practically applied.
These skills should be learned by the through self-exploration. To facilitate the learning process, she designed the classrooms conducive for learning. Each room has a set of learning materials designed for the children’s age level such as small tables and chairs, low washstands, and nook for other materials including pets (Flaherty, n. d. ). Stages of Learning Maria Montessori established the notion that the combination of sensory observation, repetition, and teacher guidance should direct learning in order to for the child to understand completely the sequence of the learning activity (Flaherty, n.
d. ). Hence, for her education of the senses is important before the education of the intellect. For instance, if children have runny nose they could not appreciate different smells and if their hands are filthy they will fail to identify different textures. Thus, achievement and maintenance of cleanliness promote not only motor activity but also learning cognitive skills. In addition, she emphasized that children are intrinsically motivated by the learning activity and not by any external reward (“Maria Montessori: The Woman and the Method,” n. d. ).
Thus, the selection and design of any learning activity is crucial in propelling children for further learning. The Teachers According to Maria Montessori, teachers should treat children with the highest regard. They must understand children through observation and analysis (“Maria Montessori: The Woman and the Method,” n. d. ). By this means, teachers can cater to the needs of every child. She suggested that some teachers should live within the school to effectively manage the activities of the institution. They should be open-minded, ready to participate to all undertakings of the school, and must willing to adopt special methods.
Moreover, there should be technical and visiting teachers who will give lesson based on their field of proficiency or craftsmanship. This will help children to learn things that are practically useful in everyday living, thus, training them for independence (Flaherty, n. d. ). Montessori’s Contributions Maria Montessori pioneered in the psychology of early childhood education. The materials and design of her Casa dei Bambini such as small and child-sized tables, chairs and washstands, and her didactic materials became a model of the present childhood education in a lot of countries.
Her pedagogical principle, education of the senses before the education of the intellect, has gained a wide acceptance because this paved not only for the sensori-motor skills development but also for the development of the cognitive skills (“Maria Montessori: The Woman and the Method,” n. d. ). Hein (2008) discussed the tenets of Montessori’s concept of early education that became the backbone of the present early childhood education. Maria Montessori believed that education should cater to the needs of every child.
Since children are fascinated by the beauty of nature, they should not be virtual prisoners in a classroom. Instead, nature must be used as their learning environment where real objects are used in every learning activity. In the Montessori system, children should actively engage in every learning activity at their own pace. The teacher should not be autocratic and must not force learners for a non-interesting lesson. Limitations of the Montessori Method Modern educators through the contemporary researches in educational psychology have seen some limitations of the pedagogical practices of Maria Montessori.
First, her method does not really give opportunity for “learning to learn” (“Maria Montessori: The Woman and the Method,” n. d. ). Modern educators describe Montessori’s learning tasks as rigid, compartmentalized, and an end-state reached once it is done. This means that when the child has correctly done the activity, learning stops. In the real world, children need capabilities to create and adapt to their changing environment. Thus, they should not only train with compartmentalized activities. Second, her method is a method of perfection (“Maria Montessori: The Woman and the Method,” n. d. ).
One the child has correctly reached the end of the task, learning has already done. This will not develop creativity and innovation in the child for the didactic materials’ design limit the creative freedom (“Maria Montessori: The Woman and the Method,” n. d. ). Hence, the method will not pave for the development of multiple intelligences. Moreover, her method is limited in scope and flexibility (“Maria Montessori: The Woman and the Method,” n. d. ). There is a single way to correctly accomplish the task on didactic materials, thus, limited the child’s initiative to use the materials in his own way.
If a child has manipulated the materials of his own way, the teacher encourages him to continue working until such time that he completed it based on pre-determined parameters. This impedes the development of genuine inner initiative, creativity, and individuality (“Maria Montessori: The Woman and the Method,” n. d. ). Recent findings have proven that Montessori’s Method is merely just a cost-effective and highly efficient way in the preparation of children for formal learning (“Maria Montessori: The Woman and the Method,” n. d. ).
No matter what the recent researches in the field of educational psychology revealed against Montessori’s Method, it is still a fact that Maria Montessori made a great educational reform in the early childhood education. She pioneered in the advocacy of child-centred learning process, development of the sensori-motor and cognitive skills through her “education of the senses before education of the intellect” dogma, and training children for self-reliance by giving learning experiences with practical applications and using the nature as learning environment.
Nonetheless, she proposed the roles of teachers in the educative process as non-autocratic. The educator should observe and analyze the nature of the learners, create learning environment and learning materials that support and encourage further learning, and must cater to the needs, interest, and ability of every child.
Some of the Montessori’s principles that are still ubiquitous in the contemporary teaching methods are: nature, science, observation based; respect for individual differences; community of learners; care of self and environment; time and space to practice and perfect; the three-period lessons (introduction/demonstration, practice/assimilation, independent expression); control of error; peer learning and teaching; and isolation of learning objective (“Maria Montessori: The Woman and the Method,” n. d. ). References Flaherty, T. (n. d. ). Maria Montessori.
Retrieved October 24, 2008, from http://www. webster. edu/~woolflm/montessori. html Hein, S. (2008). Notes From the Work of Maria Montessori. Retrieved October 24, 2008, from http://eqi. org/maria. htm#Introduction%20and%20Summary Maria Montessori: A Brief Biography. (n. d. ). North American Montessori Teachers’ Association. Retrieved October 24, 2008, from http://www. montessori-namta. org/NAMTA/geninfo/mmbio. html Maria Montessori: The Woman and The Method. (n. d. ) The Swaraj Foundation. Retrieved October 24, 2008, from http://www. swaraj. org/shikshantar/montessori. html
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