Please explain how constructivism relates to the educational practices of Maria Montessori.
Montessori schooling is one of the oldest and perhaps most famous types of education designed around enacting constructivist principles. Maria Montessori began her inquiry into the nature of children, learning and education in the early 1900s through her work with 'troubled' and 'learning disabled' children. Her technique of cultivating children's sensory-motor skills and thereby enhancing cognitive development found early success with children who had previously been deemed 'idiots' and beyond help. It is not hard to imagine that her highly child-centered approach, uncommon at that place and time, was instrumental in working with children who were outside of the reach of traditional methods.
In 1907, while working as the director of a day care in an Italian slum, she repeated the successes she had enjoyed with handicapped children, this time with the poor but otherwise 'normal' children of the slum. The fascination and focus she observed, on the part of these children playing with the developmental tools she had designed for use with her handicapped students, resulted in some of the early formalizations of her method. Central to this method was the idea of the child as a self-directed individual. Montessori wrote,
"...(W)e have realized that even in his choice of activity the child is guided by strong inner motives. The child who chooses his activities on his own can express and satisfy an inner need in this way. The child alone knows what is necessary for his development, and an activity which is forced upon him disrupts his development and his equilibrium " (1934, p.27).
Such a reformulation of the role of the learner led to attendant changes in conceptualizations regarding the teacher. As one Montessori educator wrote,
"The Montessori teacher who is responsible for...the prepared environment (of ) the child should perhaps not be called a teacher at all. Montessori called her a 'directress'. This translation from the Italian still does not convey the role the Montessori teacher plays in the child's life, however, for her approach is actually an indirect rather than a direct one. It is similar to that used in therapy, where the goal is not to impose the will of one person on another, but to set free the individual's own potential for constructive self-development..." (Polk Lillard 1972, p. 77).
This view of the child extended beyond the classroom and school to society as a whole. Montessori's prescriptive view for society saw the remedy for so many social ills was to be found in acknowledging the unique needs and contributions of every child and ...
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