Born on this day in 1870 (August 31), Maria Montessori’s educational theory contrasted vastly against other methods of the time. As the first woman in Italy to receive a degree in medicine, her intellect could not be argued as she argued against the concept that children are born as “clean slates.” Her claims stated that each child has unique characteristics and that instructors must hone in on those unique characteristics to most effectively teach each student. It is for this reason that classes under the Montessori approach are not led by the teacher, but rather are self-guided by the student whom is able to learn through exploration.
In modern day, many U.S. elementary schools and preschools follow the Montessori approach. Although there are applications at the middle level and above, there is much smaller number of schools following the Montessori approach at those levels. In practice, this method often allows students to begin working on material above grade level before their public school peers. Furthermore, students struggling with grade level content receive individualized help from instructors. Typically, it is easier to accommodate struggling students because the teacher does not need to provide instruction to a large group and is more of a facilitator for students’ independent exploration.
There is no doubt that varying learning styles exist, and because of the Montessori approach, students may learn in the means best fit for their individualized learning.
Beyond her achievements in educational method, Maria Montessori was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, and showed intellect above her peers, which enabled her to attend an all-boys technical school as a child. Her own experiences prove her educational theory to be true: hone in on unique differences and embrace them as her school did by allowing her to attend a boy’s school, and the outcomes could far surpass what anyone imagined.