How do we measure human development? Can testing alone be enough to assess children’s abilities, interests, and development? Montessori administrators and teachers would say “absolutely not!” Montessori schools provide different kind of learning environment, characterized by hands-on learning, child-centered learning, and peer teaching. There is minimum testing in Montessori schools. Instead of testing, there is an assessment protocol that captures not only Math, Language and Science test scores, but outcomes such as perseverance, independence, and compassion. This is a method moving away from a narrow focus on subjects to emphasis of development of whole child.
Montessori teachers keep observation notes and refer to them frequently. They observe the classrooms and children regularly as children’s interests ebb and flow. Each didactic material has its own purpose and careful and daily assessment made by teachers ensure each child’s work with variety of materials, their progress, and development. Older children are often working in groups helping and teaching each other, which is more developmentally appropriate way of learning. Subjects are not compartmentalized and taught according to the school schedule. After they get lessons from the teachers, they can work with materials at their own pace with freedom of repetition until they develop good understandings. The teachers check students’ work and progress regularly and guide them, but children’s interests are at the center of their learning. The fact that Montessori children have age-appropriate freedom in the classroom helps the teacher to observe true nature of each child.
When students and teachers must spend a lot of time and energy preparing for the tests, it is hard to focus on conceptual learning and personal development. Test performance alone does not measure learning, and it can distract us from what really matters. When we turn our eyes to children’s internal development as well as what is visible outwardly, we can better understand each child’s needs and development as a unique person.
“We discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being.” ~ Maria Montessori