how it works
how it works
how it works
how it works
how it works

How it works

Traditional schools are based on the "factory" model. Children are told what to do, when to do it, and all are expected to produce results within a narrow range of acceptability to earn a good grade. The Montessori philosophy is the result of endless hours of observation and study on the best ways of learning for a child at the appropriate time. Therefore the environment is very different from a traditional school.

In Montessori schools, children base their learning on the Montessori materials and tasks designed by their teacher rather than learning from coursebooks. The learning is based on work periods of up to three hours and not the traditional system of forty-five minute lessons with short breaks.

Overall approach

Traditional Schools:

Montessori Schools:

Emphasis placed on rote learning

Emphasis placed on cognition

Emphasis placed on rote social behavior

Emphasis placed on social formation

Primarily group instruction

Primarily individual instruction

Same age children

Mixed age children



Traditional Schools:

Montessori Schools:

Specific time allotted on projects

Child is allocated time to complete lessons

Learning pace set by group

Learning pace set by individual student

External reinforcement of learning success

Internal reinforcement of learning success

Rewards and punishments

Personal feelings of progress or lack thereof

Normally assigned a specific location in class

Child is free to work in the classroom

Group participation required

Group participation elective

Self-care left to parents

Method for self-care learned - sensory materials


The role of the teacher 

Traditional Schools:

Montessori Schools:

Teacher instructs child on concepts

Self-teaching materials help child learn concepts

Teaching is conducted by teacher

Teacher encourages collaboration with teaching

Teacher assigns work

Child chooses their own work

Teacher highlights child’s errors

Child discovers errors

Teacher controls the classroom

Teacher acts as guide or director of classroom

Teacher is the only disciplinarian

Environment and method promote self-discipline


‘The teacher's task is not a small easy one! She has to prepare a huge amount of knowledge to satisfy the child's mental hunger. She is not like the ordinary teacher, limited by a syllabus. The needs of the child are clearly more difficult to answer.’
Maria Montessori