Tag Archives: pedagogy

What children get out of a Montessori education

While I was thinking about what I wanted to say in this post, I took a peak at what Jenny Luca had been writing recently, and ended up commenting about why I had chosen a Montessori education for my boys in their preschool years.

‘As far as what parents want for their children – I’ve just revisited the Montessori education online; watched a couple of videos. Both my sons had a preschool Montessori education before going mainstream in primary school. I love so much about Montessori, but the reason I chose it in the first place was because I looked at how young children naturally loved to learn and initiated their own learning, then I looked at the middle years students I was teaching – often disengaged with traditional classroom teaching – and I thought: something is not right. I desperately wanted my children NOT to lose touch with that fire within them that lit up so many areas of learning.

Yes, I care about whether they get the marks to enable them to go on with their tertiary learning, but more than this, I want them to be empowered, independent thinkers and lifelong learners, part of the local and global community, taking responsibility, solving problems, making decisions, caring about people and the environment, connecting with others.

If these ideals are at the base of our desire to integrate new technologies into teaching and learning, then we can honestly say that we use them as tools to enable new ways of lifting off the page of a textbook and into a global world of limitless possibilties and connection.’

Apart from an excellent core education with an integrated curriculum based on choice, Montessori educators prepare students for the world, firstly by giving them a context in the world (literally by showing 3 year olds where they are located on the world map) and giving them a firm sense of belonging on this earth. Then by instilling in them the belief that life has meaning and value, and that they need to value themselves, others and life itself; that their decisions are important, and that they will learn and develop from their mistakes. In this way education is empowering; it teaches children to live in a community, to build communities, to be part of a team. Montessori students develop into flexible, self disciplined, independent learners.

The next video, Joyful scholars – Montessori for the elementary years, asks the question of parents that I think begs deep thought –
‘What kind of child do you want at 18 years?’
Hopefully, the answer to that question would include something more than a student with a good ENTER score.

Have a look at a summary of the Montessori educational principles.
There are many points that are worth a closer look. For example,
The premises of a Montessori approach to teaching and learning include the following:
That children are capable of self-directed learning.
That it is critically important for the teacher to be an “observer” of the child instead of a lecturer.

Montessori or other type of education – let’s think personal, communal, global. Let’s think about preparing students for living in the 21st century.

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Open assessment task controversy

A topic close to my heart raised by Chris Betcher in his blog, has sparked debate and given the opportunity for many to voice their opinions (and frustrations). Chris teaches at PLC, Sydney, and blogs about the controversial move his school has taken by having open assessment tasks, testing not content memorisation, but student response using what is available to them, eg. the web, iPod, mobile phone, etc.

John Connell responds in his blog:
“Chris is worried by some of the comments that have been posted in response to the Sydney Morning Herald’s piece on the PLC move. He has no reason to worry, unless, like me, he simply feels concern for the evidently lamentable understanding of the nature of knowledge and the purpose of education of all those who are criticizing the move”.

And yes, we should all be worried. I agree with Chris, John and others about the desperate need to revise the examination systems, and this presupposes a re-evaluation of and massive shift in thinking where education or learning is concerned. As far as I’m aware, this shift is only happening in small, isolated pockets of the education world.

I laughed at John Connell’s vivid image of students vomiting their learned knowledge ‘onto a piece of paper on command’ (ready, set, go!) and laughed even harder when he added his frustration with exams being written ‘with a pencil!’ Actually, there’s nothing funny about that at all. Capable, intelligent students are in some cases compromising their results when, like my older son, currently doing year 12 International Baccalaureate (heavily exam-based), they have illegible handwriting and they have to write quickly in exams. This is a laptop school.

My younger son (same laptop school) comes home regularly with homework he has copied from the board into his exercise book – a set of questions, out of context, which the students have to tackle using the latest in pedagogy – INDEPENDENT RESEARCH – which, according to the teacher, is comprised of solitary googling – passing up a trip to the well-resourced library, with no scaffolding, etc. (excuse the pent up frustration with an otherwise excellent school, but I think many schools would be similar).

Homework is also up with the latest technology, and projects regularly assume the form of tables or powerpoint, with powerpoint being the all-time favourite. My son feels guilty if we have a discussion before his homework task, because ‘it’s cheating’ (the independent bit). I’m trying to change his mindset, telling him that it’s the learning process that’s important, and that this process gains much from discussion and questioning, in fact, that’s what learning is all about. It’s a struggle to change from a focus on ‘the right answer’ and ‘a good mark’.

When I was doing my teacher librarian degree through distance education at Charles Sturt University, we had an online student cohort and I used to ask all the ‘dumb questions’. I thought I was slower than everyone, until I started getting emails from students secretly thanking me for asking the questions they were too afraid to ask. Mindset CHANGE needed here!

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