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Montessori versus Sudbury Teaching Methods

Updated on October 30, 2015

Over the years, the continuous need for educators to understand the different needs of their students have paved the way for more efficient methods of teaching. Using all the possible tools and resources to further improve different processes, ideals and principles to be applied, these newer approaches such as the Montessori and the Sudbury methods of education have set new ground rules on how to instill learning in students of all ages.

An Overview of the Montessori Approach

An approach established in 1907, it was founded by Dr. Maria Montessori, the first woman physician in Italy. She applied scientific methods in analyzing how different children learn and came up with the conclusion that children are actually capable of learning on their own, if given the chance and the proper environment to do so.

Montessori versus Traditional Education

Where traditional education focuses on reading, watching or listening, the Montessori way puts emphasis on the use of all five senses as the perfect tools in learning. Children are encouraged to learn according to their own pace, with the understanding that each child is different from the other and would therefore have their own speed and style of learning as well. With children often grouped according to their own age bracket, different groups are also encouraged to interact with one another under the expectation that the older kids would share their knowledge with the younger ones. Each group would include three-year age groups, setting clusters of kids from 3 to 6 years old, 6 to 9 years old, and so on.

Montessori education gives the children the freedom that they need to learn effectively based on their personality with only a few limits set, unlike traditional education where each child is expected to strictly perform and behave according to a consistent set of standards that the institution has outlined. Adults and children are expected to interact in a setting where adults expose the kids to the kind of environment that offers them endless possibilities to learn while children are given the liberty to respond according to the experiences set out for them.

Montessori learning also gives emphasis on how different children are from each other as well as from adults especially in the different ways that they learn. With the knowledge that the first six years of a child’s life allows them to cross the line between unconscious and conscious learning, the heightened level at which children of these ages are able to absorb knowledge is maximized. Where adults would usually work at something to reach an end goal, children are seen as individuals who work at an activity because they enjoy the entire process of working, and not just what they get out of it. Thus, the Montessori method aims to take advantage of this fact by instilling the love of learning and discovering new things in a child’s mind.

An Overview of the Sudbury Method

The Sudbury approach was first used at the Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, Massachusetts which was founded in 1968. Although there are over 30 schools around the world that use the same approach, they are seen as independent entities and do not have any formal association linking them to one another, except for the fact that they are all mutually supportive of each other’s ideals. Sudbury schools operate based on their theory that children are already equipped with the behaviors that they would need when they step into adulthood and would only need to be presented with the right environment to exercise these behaviors. Democracy plays a very big role in these institutions’ framework, allowing children to decide on a lot of things that would affect their learning.

Sudbury versus Traditional Education

The Sudbury method is definitely a far cry from traditional learning in the way they see children and how they are supposed to be guided to learn. Traditional learning finds the need to dictate everything that a child does under the idea that they have to be taught everything that they know, not only in terms of academics but also in terms of behavior, discipline and values. The Sudbury method, however, believes that they already have all the behavioral aspects that an adult has; the only edge that adults have over children is experience. These aspects include creativity, curiosity, alertness, responsibility, thoughtfulness and judgment. Following this train of thought, adults in a Sudbury setting are expected to present children with all the ways for them to earn experience, allowing them to make decisions on their own.

In a Sudbury school, the students have as much right as the adults to decide on how the school will be governed. There are regular meetings held where school rules are made and amended, and both the staff and the students would have equal rights on making their opinions heard. Due process is followed in dealing with complaints, with students made to understand how each of their actions would have a corresponding consequence.

Students are also given the freedom to choose what they want to learn. Because of this system, there is also no way to compare or rank the students accordingly. This means that students are not given evaluations or tests.

Montessori Method versus Sudbury Method

Seeing how different the Montessori and Sudbury methods are from traditional learning, they have truly created a means for students to learn more effectively, and for parents to have more options in supporting their children’s development.

The two styles are similar in such a way that they both respect the abilities that a child has regardless of their age. This means that both approaches believe that children are already born equipped with what they need; all the adults have to do is present them with the opportunities to develop these abilities.

However, they are also different from each other especially on the way they see the role of adults in the child’s development. In Montessori learning, adults would still play the role of a mentor who guides each child towards the direction where they are supposed to go. In the Sudbury approach, adults and children are seen as equals.

The Montessori style of learning also shows a more tailored curriculum despite their belief in a children’s ability to learn on their own. The things that they learn would still be based on what adults think they would need to equip them when they eventually cross the line towards adolescence, and eventually, adulthood. The Sudbury approach on the other hand, does not set any limitations or restrictions at all. Considering the fact that children have free reign over their every move, adults are given little to no control over what the students learn and how they plan on doing it.

Both methods have their own advantages, but they also have their own share of risks. At the end of the day, it would all depend on how parents would want their kids to be raised. Ideally, parents should choose a school that applies the teaching method complementing their parenting style the most. This allows consistency in the child’s learning both in and out of their home. Of course, one big factor that would affect a child’s development would still be their life at home. The values that they pick up from home and the foundation that the parents will build for them would still be one of the deciding factors on which path a child will take. Parents should still have their own roles as educators and should not leave the teaching to the teachers that their kids would have in school.

Which teaching method do you prefer for kids?

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      Geri Mileff 2 years ago from Czech Republic

      Hey thanks @Liliam! We're glad you think our hubs are informative. :)

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      Liliam 2 years ago

      I love reading these articles because they're short but inotfmarive.