Pedagogy Maria Montessori – why is it updated?

Although the Montessori educational system was established at the beginning of the twentieth century, thanks to timeless assumptions, it is still up-to-date and is present in more than 25,000 educational institutions around the world. Dr. Iona Zwierczewska, Associate Professor in the Department of Early Education at UMCS, writes about the unique and objective nature of the Italian-born doctor’s programme.

Universalization of Montessori education in the Lublin region

In 1992, the UMCS Institute of Education in Lublin began collaborating with Hogeschool Gelderland in Arnhem and the Center for International Education in Nijmegen in the Netherlands. This cooperation included the implementation of a three-year program entitled “Individual Education in Poland” based on the pedagogy of Maria Montessori. As part of the project, the Dutch prepared a group of teachers from Lublin to work in Montessori institutions, they equipped the workshop at the Institute of Pedagogy of the Maria Curie-Skodowska University at the Institute of Pedagogy of the Maria Curie-Skodowska University and many pre-school departments and classrooms aimed To create experimental groups with basic Montessori teaching materials. The Polish-Dutch project led to the development of Maria Montessori pedagogy not only in the Lublin region, but also throughout Poland. The Institute of Pedagogy at UMCS, as the first research unit in our country, began training Montessori teachers in 1994 as part of postgraduate studies. More than 330 students have graduated from previous courses of studies. In the thirty years since the establishment of the first Montessori branches in Lublin, there has been a gradual increase in interest in Montessori educational theory and practice, in the implementation of Montessori teaching methods for other educational institutions in the Lublin region.

A few words about Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori was born on August 31, 1870 in Chiaravalle in the Italian province of Ancona. Thanks to perseverance and determination, she was one of the first women in Italy to graduate from medical studies with a diploma in medicine. She began her career at the University of Rome’s Psychiatric Clinic, where she took care of children with intellectual disabilities. By observing her patients, Montessori paid special attention to the need for activity, which she considered a necessary condition for development. The young doctor was convinced that her fees needed an educational impact more than clinical care. So I started educational studies, and explored knowledge in the field of special education. It also focused on developing educational aids that it implemented to work with children. The pedagogical experiment conducted was a resounding success – mentally handicapped children who received her education obtained higher results on examinations covering reading and writing skills than their peers who were properly developed. The effectiveness of Maria Montessori’s original methodological solutions for children who do not show developmental difficulties has also been confirmed. Founded in 1907 in Rome, the first “Casa dei Bambini” (Children’s House) began to create institutions using the assumptions of the Italian pedagogical concept, which in subsequent years gained international recognition. When talking about Maria Montessori, it is impossible to ignore her social activities: throughout her adult life she took an active part in international medical and pedagogical conferences, fought for the rights of women and children, was an advocate of education for peace (she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize). Maria Montessori died on May 6, 1952 in Noordwijk aan Zee, Netherlands. On her tombstone there is an eloquent inscription: “I ask you, dear children who can do everything, to build peace with me among people and in the world.”

Montessori education phenomenon

The pedagogical concept of Maria Montessori was developed in response to criticisms of the traditional Herbart School. Observations and experiences gained from many years of educational practice gave Montessori the basis for putting forward the thesis that the child – thanks to his innate developmental potential, specific abilities, talents and inclinations – is able to build his own personality, has his own nature. development plan. However, a condition for the implementation of the individual development plan is the activity of the child, which can manifest itself only in a properly prepared environment. Therefore, the task of the educational institution and the teacher is to create an environment in which the child can develop normally, acquire skills and knowledge without pressure, and at an appropriate pace for him. Upbringing – from a Montessori perspective – stems from helping to achieve independence and independence and supporting the child’s spontaneous and multilateral activity. It is defined as indirect education, in keeping with the guiding idea of ​​Montessori pedagogy: “Help me do it myself.”

The philosophy of Maria Montessori based on respect for the child, the emphasis on his personality, independence and activity in access to knowledge or the need to stimulate the general development of the pupil has received great interest from theorists and practitioners of pedagogy. Moreover, the views of Montessori that form the theoretical foundations of its pedagogical concept have been confirmed in modern science and are in line with current trends in child education. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Maria Montessori was ahead of her time with discoveries many years ago that were confirmed in pedagogy and psychology today.

The beginnings of Montessori pedagogy in Poland

Assumptions of the concept of education created by Maria Montessori surprisingly quickly gained publicity and recognition both in Italy and in other countries, including Poland. The first references to Montessori teaching methods reached our country since 1912. A year later, a Polish translation of the Montessori book “Il metodo della pedagogia scientifica applicationato all’educazione infantile” (Children’s homes. The method of scientific teaching used in the education of young children) was published, and in 1914 The first Polish woman Montessori completed a method course in Rome. Interest in Montessori pedagogy in Poland was reflected in numerous publications created mainly in the interwar period, as well as in the adaptation of Montessori ideas to the work of preschool institutions. Unfortunately, the political situation in our country after the Second World War prevented the development of alternative forms of education for many years. The revival of interest in the Montessori method in Poland is observed only at the turn of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, when institutions of various levels of education, operating according to the Montessori pedagogical concept, associations and teacher training centers began to appear. Maria Montessori pedagogy was integrated into academic education, and research was conducted on the effectiveness of Montessori education. A variety of theoretical and methodological publications on Montessori have appeared on the publishing market.

Montessori education as a response to the challenges of modern education

The dynamic changes that occur in all areas of work of modern man require him to be highly flexible, open, creative, independent and independent. This imposes new tasks on the school, which, in order to meet the challenges of today’s world, must deviate from the transferred and adaptive model of education and pedagogy. There is no doubt that the student, who hitherto been closely subordinate to the teacher, should be placed in the center, should become an active individual, have the right to choose and take responsibility for the learning process. Such an organization of the educational process is characteristic of Montessori institutions, which base their education on the activity and self-treatment of the child, respect for his individual needs, opportunities and interests, and support for his comprehensive development.

In a Montessori class, it is not important to provide the student with as much knowledge as possible. Rather, it is the acquisition of tools for self-knowledge, self-development, self-education and self-education. The child, with the support of the teacher, takes independent actions that give him a sense of agency, but are also responsible for the choices made and the tasks performed. In conditions of freedom and freedom, but at the same time with respect for established rules, norms and restrictions, it has the opportunity to develop at its own pace. A properly organized educational space helps him with this. The equipment of the rooms, characteristic of Montessori facilities, with attractive and carefully designed educational materials, displayed on open shelves and at the sight and knowledge of the child, encourages them to reach out to them and carry out independent activity. On the other hand, the age differentiation of children within a preschool group or school class (usually one section in Montessori includes children from three years old) implies the individualization of educational interactions. Children with different needs and interests, and, finally, the level of developmental and educational achievements, freely choose subjects, work at an individual pace, adapt to their abilities, repeat the exercises they perform as necessary, without feeling stressed. All children at the same time.

The value of a Montessori education takes on a special dimension, especially today, when the sense of security is seriously disturbed. Education for peace postulated by Maria Montessori is manifested in practice in the creation of conditions that enable the child to develop in an atmosphere of freedom and liberty, without the imposition of external discipline and the compulsion of obedience resulting from the use of rewards and punishments. Acceptance of each child, individualizing educational interactions, exiting from competition for cooperation and showing help develops independence, responsibility and self-discipline in the child, teaches respect for self and others, leads to a feeling of love for people and the world. It seems that thanks to these timeless values, Montessori pedagogy is no longer a thing of the past, and the Montessori educational model can be an interesting proposition in the modern education market.

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