For my theorist research assignment, I selected Maria Montessori. It was an easy choice for me not only because her name is Maria like me, or the fact that she was an empowering woman during a time when women’s rights were minimal, but because I believe in the Montessori Movement that she developed. Below is the biographical information.
Maria Montessori was born on August 31, 1870, in Chiavarelle, Italy. Both of her parents were well-educated, middle class citizens. During the time that Maria was growing up, Italy held conservative values about women’s roles. From a young age, she consistently broke out of those proscribed gender limitations. After her family moved to Rome when she was 14, Maria attended classes at a boy’s technical institute, where she furthered developed her aptitude for math and her interest in the sciences – particularly biology.
Montessori faced her father’s resistance but was armed with her mother’s support, she went on to graduate with high honors from the medical school of the University of Rome in 1896. In doing so, Maria became the first female doctor in Italy.
After graduating, Montessori worked with mentally disabled children. This was the start of her future in educational work. She read and studied the work of physicians and educators Jean Marc Gaspard Itard and Edouard Seguin who greatly influenced her work and focused on children with learning difficulties. Montessori believed that medicine was not the answer, but rather education. She shared this idea at a 1899 pedagogical congress. As a result, she became the director of an Orthophrenic clinic (school for the mentally ill). Her knowledge of children mostly originated from the two years of closely observing these children.
Montessori’s work with these children proved to be so successful that her children eventually passed a public examination given to “normal children.” Montessori soon gave up her work in the clinic to continue her studies in philosophical education and pedagogical pathology. She also became a lecturer in the University of Rome in 1904.
In 1906, Montessori opened a housing project in a slum area, district of San Lorenzo. It was her desire to work with normal children that were less fortunate. The parents of these children were not able to take care of their young due to work. Montessori was given a room to care for these children. She equipped the room with child sized tables, chairs, and materials similar to those she used in her work with the mentally ill children. In this room, Montessori observed children and formed her principles. She observed children concentrating on graded wooden cylinders. She also observed the child’s need for repetition which fulfilled the child’s need. She then decided to give children the liberty to be able to accomplish their task. This paved away the freedom of choice for the child to choose their work as well as a regard for respect and a sense of order. All of these observations and changes she made over the 12 months, in January 1907 she started “Casa dei Bambini” (Children’s House) which is the classroom that are in place in Montessori schools today. Her fame of the children’s house and method quickly spread. Many visitors from overseas would go to the children’s house to observe these children.
In 1909, Maria Montessori wrote “The Method of Scientific Pedagogy as Applied to Infant Education and the Children’s Houses”. In 1914, Montessori went to America and was welcomed by Thomas Edison and an American Montessori Society was formed with Alexander Graham Bell as its president.
Montessori’s writings were translated in different languages and schools were opening up worldwide in countries such as Japan, China and Canada. She continually gave lectures around the world. She continued her research and application of her principles to school aged and preschool aged children as well as infants from birth. In 1939 she flew to India where she met Mahatma Gandhi. She was detained in India until the war finished in 1946. She then wrote “Absorbent Mind” (1949).
Montessori continued to give lectures around the world with her son Mario. He followed her footsteps and had the task of protecting the sincerity of the Montessori Movement. On May 6, 1952 in Noordwijk aan Zee in the Netherlands, she passed away at the age of 81.
The inscription on her tomb says “I beg the dear all powerful children to unite with me for the building of peace in Man and in the world.”
As part of this assignment, I found the common theories with other theorists below:
- Student Centered Approach
- Social Learning Theory
- Experiential Learning Theory