• Emphasis is on rote knowledge and social development.
  • The teacher’s role is active and dominant. The children are passive participants.
  • The teacher is the main enforcer of external discipline.
  • Individual and group instruction adheres to an adult’s teaching style.
  • Same-age grouping.
  • Most teaching is done by the teacher. Collaboration is discouraged.
  • The curriculum is designed with little regard for children’s interests.
  • The children are directed to concepts by the teacher.
  • The children are typically given a set time for work.
  • The instruction pace is set by the teacher or the group norm.
  • The teacher corrects errors.
  • Learning is supplemented externally by rewards and discouragements.
  • There are few materials for sensory and concrete manipulation.
  • There is a small emphasis on instruction or classroom maintenance.


  • Emphasis is on cognitive structures and social development.
  • The teacher has an unobtrusive role. Children are active participants in learning.
  • The environment and method promote internal self-discipline.
  • Individual and group instruction is refined to fit each student’s learning style.
  • Mixed-age grouping.
  • Children are motivated to help, teach, and collaborate with each other.
  • Children can choose their own work based on their abilities and interests.
  • Children devise concepts from self-teaching materials.
  • Children are allowed to work as long as they want on a chosen project.
  • Children can set their own learning pace to adopt information.
  • Children spot their own errors through feedback from their material.
  • Learning is supplemented internally through children’s own repetition of activity and internal feelings of success repetition.
  • There are multi-sensory materials for the development of physical exploration.
  • There is an organized program for learning care of self and self-care of the classroom environment.


Dr. Maria Montessori

Born in 1870 in Ancona, Italy to an educated, middle-class family, Maria Montessori was a woman ahead of her time. Montessori grew up in a country regarded as most conservative in its views toward women, yet, even with the substantial opposition of her father and teachers, she pursued a scientific education and became the first woman physician in Italy. As a practicing physician associated with the University of Rome, she was a scientist and not a teacher.

The Montessori Method emerged nearly by accident from an experiment that Dr. Montessori was conducting on the side. Her brilliance comes not from her teaching ability; rather, it stems from her understanding of the significance of what she had stumbled upon.

Dr. Montessori specialties as a physician were pediatrics and psychiatry. She taught at the University of Rome’s medical school and, through its free clinics, she was able to have frequent contact with children of the poor and working class. These experiences made her convinced that intelligence is not rare and that a majority of newborns come into the world with potential that will barely be uncovered.

Montessori’s premier productive period lasted from the establishment of the first Children’s House in 1907 to the 1930s. Throughout this period, she carried on with her study of children and also developed a tremendously expanded curriculum and methodology for the elementary level. Montessori schools were put up throughout Europe and North America, and Dr. Montessori stopped her medical practice to focus all her energy on advocating for the rights and intellectual potential of all children.