The Montessori Paradigm

This project constitutes the 3rd Intellectual Production for ETEC 565B, under supervision of Dr. Suzanne de Castell. This production required us to select a theorist and create a paradigm chart for them, modeled on the paradigm chart in the de Castell and Luke (1986) paper defining literacy in North American Schools. As someone who attended a Montessori school for my pre-primary education, I was curious to revisit this perspective and do an analysis and overview of Montessori’s theories. A brief explanation and key concept summary of Montessori’s educational approach will be provided, followed by a paradigm chart and reference list. If you wish to download only the paradigm chart, you can click here.


Maria Montessori, the first woman in Italy to gain the title Doctor of Medicine, observed that children have an innate path of psychological development. She classified these paths and their associated tendencies into four separate learning planes, each of which have specific characteristics, learning modes, and developmental imperatives. From this foundation, she developed an educational model which had specific approaches and educational activities for each of these developmental periods (Montessori, 1966). Montessori’s educational paradigm is child-centered and based on her scientific observations which framed children as naturally eager for knowledge, primed to learn particular information/skills at certain stages of development, and able to independently learn in supportive, well designed environments. Suggesting that learning under pressure would not result in long-term retention of information, Montessori motivated for educational practices which value the individual, caters to physical, social, emotional, and cognitive aspects of a child, and varies based on each learner (Wentworth, 1999). In this sense, Montessori education is aimed more at student’s personality development than learning, whilst still addressing effectively learning from a bio-psychological perspective.

The Montessori classroom therefore provides materials relevant to a child’s current psychological plane and encourages independent work and self-discovery; a teacher introduces materials and guides where needed but generally allows children to direct their own learning. This intends to foster and enhance curiosity, joy with successes, and wonder about the world so that children come to love learning and the processes associated with it (Montessori, 2015). By maximizing independent learning and exploration, children also become able to discover answers and make corrections themselves. Education therefore results in well-integrated, happy, free thinking individuals able to use judgement and reasoning, good habits, and a sense of responsibility throughout their lives.

This leads us to one of the the most notable aspect of Montessori’s educational paradigm, which is that she motivated for education as something that should prepare a person for all aspects of life. Specifically, it should prime an individual to be able to think freely and autonomously, without reliance on instructions from another in order to act. With motivations to create a better society, Montessori could not personally restructure the political aims of the country but could shift the educational models she designed. Situated in the early years of modern democracy, Montessori used her work as an educational scientist to build an educational model that had the goal of producing well-integrated and happy human beings who could choose their desired type of social organization (Wentworth, 1999). The primary outcome of Montessori education can therefore be understood as intending to assure that humans are autonomous free thinkers who can be involved in building and participating in a caring, peaceful, and productive society.

A Paradigm Chart for Montessori Education

Reference List

de Castell, S and Luke A: (1986) Defining Literacy in North American Schools: Socio Historical Conditions and Consequences in de Castell, Luke and Egan (eds) Literacy, Society and Schooling. Cambridge University Press.

Montessori, M. (1966). The Human Tendencies and Montessori Education. Amsterdam: Association Montessori Internationale.

Montessori, M. (2015). The education of the individual. NAMTA Journal, 40(2), 15.

Wentworth, R. A. L.. (1999). Montessori for the new millennium: Practical guidance on the teaching and education of children of all ages, based on a rediscovery of the true principles and vision of Maria Montessori. Mahwah, N.J: L. Erlbaum Associates.