Education is an important aspect that enhances executive functioning in the modern-day environment. Besides, parents, students, learning institutions, and the government invest heavily in this sector. It is widely agreed that quality education is supportive of sustainable growth and development. Further, it equips individuals with relevant skills, competencies, and knowledge that enable them to perform well and attain excellence in the current turbulent environment (Lillard & Jessen, 2003). An experience in the Montessori educational environment exposed me to various aspects of quality education. The philosophy that this system advocates for are consistent with the provisions of lifelong learning.
The basic premises of this educational system acknowledge the contributions of students to the process of learning. Put differently, the approach is learner-centered and allows students to play active roles in initiating and sustaining learning. With effective guidance from the instructors, learners explore various principles individually as well as within group settings. The learning institutions are responsible for overseeing the process and ensuring that students grasp important information and exercise creative and critical thinking at all times. This system of education has varied implications on both the learners and instructors. Most importantly, it influences the quality of education that students attain and the personalities they develop.
Understanding Montessori Education
In her review, Montessori (2009) indicates that this system of education is learner-based. It relies on the scientific information pertaining to the growth and development of individuals from their initial years to adulthood. This principle of education has successfully been employed in diverse learning environments for a long time. The system recognizes that a child has a compelling urge to learn and is able to initiate this process. For this reason, it accords students the entire responsibility of learning. The system of education values the holistic development of students and as such, its prepositions nurture the cognitive, physical, emotional, and social development of the students. Fundamentally, the educational system has distinctive characteristics that distinguish it from other approaches.
Lillard (2008) indicates that its settings comprise teachers, students, and ideal learning materials. Besides emphasizing order, teachers encourage freedom and independence during the preparation of the classrooms. Students are at liberty to request assistance or any form of support from the instructors at all times. According to Lillard (2008), Montessori classrooms are multi-age. The groups enable young students to learn from their older counterparts. In addition, the environment allows older students to reinforce the concepts that they have already learned and mastered. Arguably, the arrangement is reflective of the real-life environments that encourage interaction with individuals from diverse backgrounds.
This system of education appreciates the fact that in the course of their growth and development, students experience various opportunities for learning. During such periods, learners are in the best position to benefit from education. The education system identifies the opportune periods to optimize the learning experience. By providing appropriate materials and lessons during these sensitive times, learning institutions ensure that students acquire relevant skills that enable them to perform well. During the initial stages of development, students benefit more from sensory-motor activities. By working with relevant materials, students at the elementary level organize their knowledge and begin applying the same to real-world experiences. Knowledge organization at this point in time is imperative for preparing students to face the emotional complexities of teenage (Montessori, 2009).
Experience at Montessori Magnet School
This institution enrolls students from different racial backgrounds. The programs accommodate students aged between three and twelve years that pursue learning in primary, lower, and upper elementary rooms. The primary rooms serve students between the age of three to six, the lower rooms serve children between the age of six and nine years, and the upper rooms accommodate students aged between nine and twelve years. Upon enrolment at the age of three years, the students pass through the entire three-year cycle and complete their elementary education at the age of twelve years. At all levels, a typical day begins with a three-hour uninterrupted period of learning. The instructors are also referred to as guides and play an important role in providing necessary guidance in the settings. All learning environments in the classrooms have sufficient materials. During the observation period, various concepts of this system of education emerged.
As aforementioned, adults play integral roles in this particular learning environment. However, Lillard and Jessen (2003) indicate that their roles differ considerably from those of a typical teacher. In these environments, they were responsible for preparing the classroom and ensuring that the available learning materials meet the educational objectives of the day. Then, they proceeded to help students connect with the environment constructively. The lessons were very brief and presentations were offered to both individuals and small groups pursuing similar objectives. One of the notable characteristics of teachers in these settings pertained to their observation tendencies. In most instances, they refrained from interfering with learning sessions. They particularly kept off from students that were concentrating and deeply engrossed in their work. According to Montessori (2009), this molds positive behavior and encourages exploration.
The students were exposed to a wide range of vital sensorial exercises using various materials. In their review, Pedersen and Pedersen (2008) indicate that respective activities trigger a sense of exploration in the students. The materials in the primary class are bright colored and as such, their employment in learning enhances the visual refinement of the students. The students in these settings were tasked with matching and grading the colors accordingly. Seemingly, a significant percentage of materials in the classroom achieve multiple learning objectives. For instance, at one station, a student was expected to master a geographical map. Besides helping in understanding the spatial geographical conception, this activity allowed the student to grasp vocabulary that is essential for effective writing.
Although the classrooms at these institutions were quiet, they were not completely silent. Since students had the freedom to interact with one another as well as with their guides, there was a hum of activity. The institution allows students to engage in individual work for a period of three hours without unnecessary interruption. Naturally, they exhibited high-level concentration and commitment to their work. Besides discouraging disruption, the orientation enhances the focus of students on important concepts. Through repetitive experiments, they were able to explore different conceptions and master them accordingly. At the end of such periods, most of them seemed satisfied and overjoyed.
Besides performing tasks individually, the classroom settings encouraged the interaction of students with their peers. In some instances, students were seen working individually and at certain points, they formed groups to undertake tasks jointly. From my observation, the classroom was akin to a workplace that consisted of equal-minded adults. Pedersen and Pedersen (2008) agree that this is an important aspect of personality development. In this regard, productive functioning depends on both individual efforts and group collaborations. Through effective teamwork, students have a chance to develop strong interpersonal skills. These are essential for the development of viable relationships that enable them to work together for a common goal. In such an environment, they place more emphasis on mastering important concepts as opposed to pursuing negative competition.
During the learning sessions, students in the institutions exhibited high-level independence. Montessori (2009) indicates that one of the main goals and objectives of this education is to enable students to navigate their environments confidently and exercise self-regulation. The desirable state of independence in these settings is attributable to the orderliness that adults uphold. They design learning materials in such a way that it encourages deep concentration and meaningful engagement in the respective tasks. Independence was apparent when students chose their work and proceeded to their stations individually. In this respect, they assume responsibility for their learning progress and engage in other important activities, such as preparing their snacks, tidying shelves, and clearing tables amongst others.
Implications of the Experience
As an educator, the Montessori system of education taught me important lessons regarding the characteristics of quality education and the role it plays in sustainable growth and development. At this point, it is worth appreciating that the modern environment requires individuals to exercise executive functioning at all times. Montessori education goes beyond equipping learners with relevant skills and knowledge. It gives them a chance to develop their potential to the fullest. Students from this system become competent, responsible, engaged, and respectful members of society. What’s more, they acknowledge the fact that learning is a continuous process of acquiring essential knowledge. In a dynamic environment, such individuals exercise flexibility and adapt to changes effectively.
Admittedly, effective learning does take place in social settings. From this experience, it is apparent that just like the rest of the population, students require assistance from peers and guides in order to benefit fully from the learning experience. Certainly, working in teams is important in all settings. It accords one an opportunity to interact effectively and benefit from the resources that the communal environment presents. The multi-age groups of this educational system allow young students to benefit from the guidance of older children. Through constant support, they gain confidence that enables them to face emergent challenges with ease. Older students on the other hand enjoy an enviable stature as role models (Montessori, 2009). Equally, the imperative is the important role that instructors play in this system. By believing in harmonic conflict resolution, teachers model an ideal and secure environment for learning to take place. More than ever, I appreciate the systemic nature of the learning environment.
The experience exposed me to the diverse learning environment and helped me acknowledge the unique abilities that each student exhibited. Although there are various types of instructional methodologies, I realize that not all of them are best suited for the student community. Adopting the best learning strategy for each student optimizes favorable outcomes. This system allows students to learn at a pace that they are comfortable with. Using personalized learning styles, teachers help students to advance through the curriculum steadily (Lillard, 2008). By paying attention to the individual needs of each student, this approach can enable me to improve the learning experience of multicultural student communities.
The experience taught me that learners are active seekers of educational knowledge. They can play important roles in knowledge acquisition as well as generation. Through educator guidance, learners of this institution make individual decisions regarding the course content as well as their learning progress. This is a sustainable approach to learning because students feel a part of the critical decision-making. Ultimately, it encourages lifelong education as students become more enthusiastic about the learning process. They develop a positive attitude and curious character. Thus, they are able to pursue learning in both home and school environments. By providing them with relevant tools for learning, teachers also encourage creative thinking. This fosters innovation and equips students with skills to address complex issues with ease. Lifelong learning tendencies equip one with essential knowledge to address complex problems that modern society grapples.
Quality education is vitally imperative in enhancing executive functioning at all times. Learning environments give students a chance to acquire essential skills and competencies. These enhance their performance and enable them to excel through life. The Montessori system of education recognizes the abilities of students and their contributions to the learning process. Learning institutions that adopt the system provide sufficient materials that help student to undertake self-directed education. Teachers assume the responsibility of designing and preparing the learning environment, guiding students through education, and supporting them to connect with their learning environment. The experience at Magnet school made me to appreciate that knowledge acquisition is complex and takes place in communal settings. The contributions that all stakeholders make are critical in enhancing learning. Most importantly, it taught me the attributes of quality education. Certainly, lifelong learning equips one with knowledge constantly.
Lillard, A. (2008). Montessori: The science behind the genius. Oxford: University Press.
Lillard, P. & Jessen, L. (2003). Montessori from the start: The child at home, from birth to age three. New York: Schocken.
Montessori, M. (2009). The Montessori method. New York: Wilder Publications.
Pedersen, H. & Pedersen, J. (2008). What is Montessori? A basic guide to the principles, practices and benefits of Montessori education. New York: Sandpiper Press.