Teacher Reflections

8 Principles of Montessori Education

The following are notes from an excellent book by Angeline Lillard on the philosophy and practice of Montessori Education. Learning about Montessori Education made me wonder:

 Is Montessori Education just good educational practice that all teachers should be applying?  
  1. What portions of the model should be applied to a high school setting? 
  2. What are the shortcomings/downfalls of Montessori Education?  
  3. How can Montessori Education be applied, if at all, to a 21st century classroom with technology and tests? 


  1. Movement and cognition are closely entwined, and movement can enhance thinking and learning.
  • Our brains evolved in a world in which we move not remain sedentary at a desk
  • Thinking is expressed by hands before it can be articulated
  • For young children, thinking and moving are same process
  • Therefore, Montessori classrooms include many manipulations

  1. Learning and well-being are improved when people have a sense of control over their lives  


  • Students thrive on having choice and control in their environment 
  • Developmental process should allow students to have increasingly levels of choice 
  • Good programs impose definite limits on freedom, however Montessori children get to make more decisions than traditional classrooms: 
    • what to work on, how long to work, with whom to work on it, etc. 

  1. People learn better when they are interested in what they are learning
  • Learning best occurs in contexts of interest 
  • Interest can be personal or situational 
  • Dr. Montessori created situational  interest by designing materials children would want to interact with 
  • Take advantage of interests students have at particular time periods (e.g. preschool children want to develop language)
  • Students are encouraged to pursue their imaginations but not at expense of broad swath of decided curriculum

  1. Extrinsic rewards to an activity, like money for reading or high grades for tests, negatively impacts motivation to engage in that activity when the reward is withdrawn
  • Gold stars and grades are disruptive to a child’s concentration 
  • Sustained, intense concentration is central to Montessori education 
  • Rewards of education should primarily be internal 
  • Most children already like to learn; it’s best sustained when extrinsic rewards are not part of the framework 

  1. Collaborative arrangements can be very conducive to learning
  • Elementary age children are generally intensely social 
  • Students may work alone by choice 
  • They pursue knowledge and create products in self-made groups 
  • Working with other students is consistent with their psychological needs 

  1. Learning situated in meaningful contexts is often deeper and richer than learning in abstract contexts
  • The application and meaning of what students learn should be clear to them 
  • Instead of learning primarily from teachers or texts they should learn by doing 
  • e.g. students who have developed interest in bridges can go interview an structural engineer 

  1. Particular forms of adult interaction are associated with more optimal child outcomes
  • Adults set clear limits but set children free within those boundaries 
  • Adults should sensitively respond to children’s needs while maintaining high expectations 
  • Leads to students demonstrating maturity, achievement, empathy 
  • Traditional schools have too much teacher authority and progressive schools too little 
  • Montessori advocated for authoritative parenting 

  1. Order in the environment is beneficial to children
  • Montessori classrooms are very organized, both physically (in terms of layout) and conceptually (in terms of how the use of material progresses). 
  • Order is helpful to learning and development 
  • Order has a positive neurological impact on children’s senses. 
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