Maria Montessori, PhD


Montessori Method


Life: 1870-1952;
Major work: 1912


First woman to receive a medical degree; persisted even though dismissed by male colleges several times.
She was very much a scientist – it is why the male dominated academic and medical communities could not deny her work. She was one of those few who could use science to create something centered on concern for the individual child and their development – not something cold and emotionless.
She had a son out of wedlock that she gave up as a “fosterling”; Mario Montessori, born in 1989. He came back into her life at age 15 and was her assistant for a long time – around the same time as her work with children.
It is silly to think this didn’t impact her work, yet it is never discussed. Would discussing events in her life as a women and mother discredit her work? Obviously moved by the ideas of motherhood for the rest of her career!
Impact on Education:
Her work started with the very poor and “disabled”, then progressed to the “general” population. She believed each child had a unique potential to express, and NOT that each child was born a blank slate.
Focused on carefully planned learning environments and letting learners progress at their own discretion in a mixed age community.
Classrooms had small, mobile furniture, available toys, plants and animals, chalk boards, unrestricted access to playground and garden, etc. These were new concepts; thought children would break things, but the opportunity to make own decisions empower them! (Reminiscent of Dewey’s concepts of “self-control”.)
Teachers trained under her were given rigorous scientific training in observation techniques; must be able to correctly analyze learner’s development, academic, emotional, and morphological. However, schools calling themselves “Montessori schools” today are not required to provide such training!
Montessori said “Liberty is activity”, so allowing free activity was important, but not without guidance! “Active discipline” was important as well, when needed, to prepare the child for real world. “Liberty” is limited by the “collective good”.

Major Works:

"The Montessoria Method" published in 1916;
"The Absorbent Mind" published in 1949


Application to Learning Transfer:

Learning transfer is impacted at points A and B by her theories and methods.
At point A: Her theories require knowledge and resources to be accessible and freely available to all levels and ages present; learners can access it at their own discretion and pace. Also, she emphaises a collaborative aspect, with multi-aged groups and classes, asking the more experienced learners to help teach and guide younger or newer learners.
At point B: Her theories emphasis that each learner is a unique individual, and knowledge must be applied to their own life experience in their own unique ways.