Modern Learning: A Look at One of the Most Promising Methods Used in Education Today
Ask any teacher if they believe the modern education system is working for our kids, and you’re likely to receive a long, detailed response about the failings of “assembly line” education. Class sizes are too large, and our textbooks are often outdated and written more with an eye toward profit than engaging the child. Worst of all, teaching to educationally dubious standardized tests occupies too large a share of already precious classroom time.
All this occurs while we have modern methods available to us that would provide not only an overall increase in student productivity, but also a renewed sense of the joy of learning.
Nowhere is it written that education must be boring, or that in order to learn, young children must sit at their desks for 6 hours each day and listen to an adult lecture at a blackboard. Maria Montessori is one educator who believed we could do much better, and set out to reinvent how the world thinks about education.
The Montessori method begins by integrating students into general age groups rather than years, supplanting the artificial and inherently hierarchical structure imposed by strict grade levels. Children may begin in a Montessori program as early as one year of age, where they are grouped with others up to age three. Obviously, a traditional classroom is out of the question at this level of development, and this is where it first becomes clear how unique a Montessori program can be.
Rather than teaching the entire class, the instructor, with the help of one or more aides, focuses on working with individual students. Class sizes average around 30, yet in truth the attention children receive is almost always one on one. Within this safe space, the student is guided to work on projects they will genuinely enjoy, yet that are still highly educational. This self-selection of work ensures that children stay motivated, and allows the educator to provide personalized feedback without criticizing the child in front of the class or inviting peer ridicule. As a result, students learn far more under the Montessori system, while teachers spend much less time disciplining students who exhibit patterns of disruptive behavior.
Another advantage of the Montessori program and others like it is the ability to let children work at their own pace without any attached stigma. For example, implementing math programs for struggling students becomes simple, because each student is evaluated privately and individually, and the personalized curriculum is easily adapted based on student performance.
If we are to advance, we must first experiment. Implementing the Montessori method in public schools is an example of one of many safe, proven ways to improve our outdated educational system.