What defines a Montessori school?

By: Jaap de Brouwer (1) and Patrick Sins (2)
(1) Montessori teacher trainer and researcher in the research group Alternative Education, Saxion University of Applied Sciences. 
(2) Professor Alternative Education, Saxion and Thomas More University of Applied Sciences.

In our work as educational researchers we regularly visit Montessori schools in the Netherlands and have noticed that there is great diversity in the way these schools realise Montessori education. With more than 100 years of experience, one would expect that there is an unambiguous implementation of the Montessori concept. Dutch Montessori schools apply Maria Montessori’s ideas on education in idiosyncratic ways. And so we ask ourselves: what actually defines a Montessori school? And how can we assess the diversity in the implementation of the Montessori concept?

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MERGe meeting in Dublin

The MERGe  meeting was attended by researchers and  experts in the field of Montessori teachers’ training. The discussion was about the purposefulness, principles and organisation of action research by teachers of Montessori classes. Some examples of teachers’ research projects were presented. The participants agreed that action research is an important part of the Montessori teachers` training programme as it serves personal, professional development, contextualizes teaching practice and maintains the attitude of being a reflective practitioner. The ability to conduct action research supports the idea of being responsible for the educational work according to Montessori core principles. The specificity of action research is the practitioner’s involvement in changing her/his own practice through the recognition of the sources of limitations and problems concerning children’s development. Though teachers` projects are associated with small and or local changes, they relate to the fundamental problems of everyday school life.
Read the complete report here

The goals achieved by MERGe and the plans for further group activities were presented at the Annual General Meeting of Montessori Europe members. The workshop “What defines a Montessori school? Lessons from research” was led by MERGe members Dr Patrick Sins and Jaap de Brouwer. On the second day of the congress (12.10), Dr. Patrick Sins moderated the panel discussion: “Think big, start small: Improving Montessori teaching from the inside through research”. Among the invited panelists were Penny Johns, Sarah Kennedy-Berge, Dessy Stoeva, Mina Walsh, and Fabiola Neto. A lively debate was held about the scientific value of action research and its methodological rigor. It was emphasized that the greatest advantage of teachers research was to instill in educators the need to conduct analyses and reflections, cyclical changes in their own educational practice, and to support the Montessori teachers community. It turned out that small teacher projects (start small) are important for the development of teachers themselves, but also to verify the idea of organising education according to the principles developed by Maria Montessori (think big).The idea to include students and practitioners to present their action research during the next congress was strongly recommended by all meeting participants.

Feel invited and join us and contribute with your voice and opinion via Mentimeter.

MERGe also asks your cooperation by participating in a European Montessori study. The aim of this research is to investigate how Montessori teachers implement the Montessori concept in their own classroom. Montessori teachers who are currently teaching early childhood (3-6) or an elementary group (6-12) are invited to complete this questionnaire by responding to a number of statements about how they apply the Montessori concept in their classroom. Completing the questionnaire takes no more than 15 minutes of your time and can been done during conference. Are you not going to the conference or do you want to participate now? Please follow this link to go to the questionnaire.

Stories from Montessori schools and MERGe Handouts

There are subpages to the MERGe page:

On Stories from Montessori schools you can find reports from research conducted by teachers, students and academic researchers. Reports on all kinds of research focused on Montessori education are welcome, such as: small scale research projects, results of observations, case studies, action researches, scientific projects. Please, contribute to this activity: research instruments, teachers projects (master or bachelor thesis) and reports of big scale research projects.

MERGe ME Congress handoutsthese are research-related documents and presentations, which were offered by speakers, workshop and break-out sessions leaders.

For more information read the document How it works.

Research Group: Improving the Montessori practice through inquiry

The deep understanding of Montessori Education must come from research and studies developed in the context of the contemporary world. To reach this aim, Montessori Europe has initiated the Research Working Group, MERGe. The main task of this group is to search for issues that fit in with the interests of the members of the group and to define actions around shared activities.

The Research Working Group will start by setting up (a) how to establish and proceed with projects and (b) how to communicate and organize meetings of members involved. So setting up the operations of the working group will be “discussed in action”. But the most important thing is that ideas arise “at the source” of Montessori education.

Update November 2018
MERGe at the ME Congress in Sofia
The full report  of the MERGe activities during the ME Congress here. For a summary of the presentations: read the complete report here. For a summary oif the panel discussion:  read the complete report here

Beata Bednarczuk and Patrick Sins

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