The Montessori approach is called a modern approach. The goal of the education, the classroom environment, the role of the teacher and the materials in the Montessori class are different from those in traditional education.
The aim of Montessori education is “to develop each person’s abilities to the fullest extent while celebrating and enhancing his or her uniqueness and cultural background. The goal of education is the development of autonomous, competent, responsible, adaptive citizens-lifelong learners and problem solvers.” (Barron, 1992). Which means that education is for life, not merely for the intellectual accomplishment, the world is open to them, so their whole being (physically, emotionally and spiritually) could be fully and properly developed.
Through observation, Montessori found that children have a need of Prepared environment where child-sized furniture and well-designed materials are prepared. The class is a mixed-age group, so children could learn informally from others. In Montessori class, because children have different interest and developmental stages, individual work is encouraged as well as team work, which foster independent and collaboration. Children are free to move, to explore and absorb. Children choose their own work and choose who to work with, what work to do and when to do , they also can choose not to do any work as long as not to disturb others; this freedom “allows the children to grow in social grace, inner discipline and joy”. While in many traditional schools, children usually sit on chair, they cannot move freely, they do a lot of workbook exercise and spend a lot of time preparing for test, in those school, students tend to memorize facts and concepts, only to quickly forget them when exams are over.
In many traditional schools, teachers are the center, teachers decide what and when children will do the work. In Montessori school, children are the center of the class. Teachers are observers. Through daily observation, record keeping and discussion with other teachers, they set up a realistic goal and activities for each child according to their need. “The teacher is the architect of the environment, the resource person, and she or he plans the varied array from which the child will choose.” (Loeffler, 1992) Teachers are facilitators, they “stand behind the child and allow him to go forward as far as he can, where the other method is to stand in front of the child and prevent him from going further than limits imposed upon him by the teacher.” (Montessori, 1961).
Materials in the Montessori class are well-designed according to the developing need of children. They are unique. First of all the materials are designed with built-in control of error and auto-education. Control of error gave children feedback, clue and recognition when they make mistakes. Secondly, isolation of difficulty helps a child to understand and discover a single piece of material. Thirdly, the materials are designed from concrete to abstract, from simple to complex, with a clear sequence as a unit. In traditional school, they do not have as many materials as Montessori class and you will find many toys are for commercial purpose and manufacture made for satisfying parents, not children.