Thursday, June 12, 2014

Maria Montessori's Universal Human Tendencies

So much of education is concerned with what children will need 15 years in the future. What will children need in 15 years? It is the constant conversation in school reform, beginning with curriculum reform and going on to more emphasis on technology. The problem with these new education reforms is that they are soon discarded after their implementation.

In 1905, Maria Montessori established the first Casa de Bambini. How can the method have been so successful 109 years later as a valid, contemporary method? The method is focused on the fundamental human needs at a developmental level. The longevity is also connected to the international application; it is suitable for a variety of cultures and places. Montessori is the most recognized measure of education in an international level: Association Montessori Internationale has had a seat on the UN/UNESCO as a non-governmental organization since 1962, as the only educational body to be represented on an international basis.

The method applies to people with differing learning styles and needs, from special requirements to the most general. The versatility is derived from congruence with natural developmental processes within all children. These are the needs of the ever-present in the child, not of a hypothetical 15 years in the future.

Dr. Montessori was not principally an educator; she was a scientist, physician, and anthropologist. The method was developed over decades during her research on foundational child psychology. The agent in Montessori learning is the child in a prepared environment, with specifically designed materials. The teacher is the guide, the link, and the preparer, but not the agent. It is a creative, constructive process, most suited to the developmental phases of the child. Contrast that model to the traditional learning model of the teacher being the active agent delivering knowledge to the passive student, the "taught".

Because the essential human needs for human development do not vary from place to place, the Montessori method has changed very little in 109 years. According to Dr. Montessori, "One of the tasks of the child is to build himself adapted to his environment." Creation and adaptation is a creative, constructive process. What does the child have to help realize this process? Certain habits fuel the way humans meet these needs. We inherit certain tendencies to behave in certain ways across the Universal Human Tendencies, which serve as guideposts for understanding:
  1. Orientation - how I know where I am
  2. Exploration - curiosity to discover
  3. Order - creating patterns for learning, managing space and social order
  4. Abstraction - observing patterns and taking away the core
  5. Imagination - applying the abstraction
  6. Activity, work, movement - working towards the purposeful end
  7. Self perfection - repeating activities, taking control of movements
  8. Association with others - a feeling of belonging, interdependence
  9. Communication - sharing thoughts and feelings, interweaving ideas and discoveries
Related, recommended reading, "Human Tendencies" by Mario Montessori.

Jeannot Jonte Boucher is a Montessori educator and parent in Dallas, Texas. 

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