I have yet to teach a course online, so I will limit my comments to my current practice.

I am not sure which theory Maria Montessori espouses but there is definitely some of Piaget’s Cognitive Theory, some Humanist theory, and some Constructivism.

I think that she ,too, might have been influenced by the Proverb (22:6 NRSV) “Train up a child in the right way, and when old, they will not stray” (Proverbs 22:6, NRSV). There are several ways to look at this proverb and to interpret the meaning of the words ‘train’, ‘children’, and the ‘right way’.  One way is to teach young people according to their temperament or disposition and to tailor the learning activities to suit their natural talent or individual character, and this will prepare them for lifelong learning.

Teaching apprentice carpenters at the college level, I am working with young people who have chosen their vocation and who want to excel in it. The teaching strategy that I use in my courses borrows heavily from the Montessori Method. In 1907, Maria Montessori taught the children of the poor workers in Italy and she developed a teaching method that values the whole child – the physical, social, emotional, and cognitive. Children are respected as different from adults and different from each other. Her method is based on the two principles of ‘Freedom within Limits’ and ‘A Carefully Prepared Environment’ (MontessorriMom). The sense of order is captured by “A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place”. As explorers by nature, children from birth to six are sensorial, from six to twelve conceptual, from twelve to eighteen humanistic, and from eighteen to twenty four they become specialized explorers seeking their niche from which to contribute to the universal dialogue (MontessorriAmi).

The shop facility is prepared for the apprentices so that, when they get there, the structure and order is evident. Tool cribs are colour-matched to the tools, and each tool has a specific home. Construction materials are organized by type and size. Personal project and tool belt storage locations are clearly identified. They are ‘limited’ by time and space and by the safety requirements of the industry. After I have completed safety demonstrations on the tools and have explained the project parameters, they are allowed to work at their own pace on their project. I roam about, manage safety matters, and assist when called upon to do so. The apprentices learn from each other and from me, and I learn from them. We discuss the different approaches that each one takes, the use of materials, and the impact on time, energy, and the environment.

The apprentices are sent to school as part of their training. There are 3 terms of 8 weeks each. Many of them are there with the specific goal of learning enough to pass the Red Seal exam so that they can obtain their carpenter’s licence.  The licence carries with it status and higher pay. Our mission is to be role models and to enthuse them about the skill and the knowledge of the trade and to point them in the direction of managing their own jobs, whether for their bosses or for themselves. Teaching them to take responsibility from beginning to end, dealing with the client, getting permits, reading plans, coordinating the other sub-trades, getting the job done on schedule, and finishing proud with a fine product, that these are all part of being a craftsman. Getting the licence will fall into place.


MontessorriMom, http://www.montessorimom.com/what-montessori-method/

Montessorri-Ami, http://www.montessori-ami.org/montessori/approach.htm

Steve Denning, Is Montessori the Origin of Google & Amazon?, Forbes Magazine, 8/02/2011


2 Comments on 3 Learning Theories

  1. khaines says:

    I like how you broke down the different stages in the Montessori model. I always through the Montessori model (and Montessori schools) where a tad “fluff-fluff” with the whole idea that the child will learn when the child is ready to learn (at least that is how it was always explained to me) was a little backwards versus the theory of always trying to push a child/learner to the zone of proximal development i+1 (which I suppose is what we use a lot in teaching … at least I did with my grade 5/6 crew). Seeing the Montessori model broken down into sensorial, conceptual, humanistic, and explorers stages makes a lot of sense to me and definitely gave me that whole ahhh-haaa moment as everything finally clicked together.

  2. Michael says:

    Thanks Kendra. I wish that I could have afforded to send my sons to Montessori school. I first learned about the school and the system while working as a carpenter in Pointe Claire, Montreal. I did most of the building upgrades and during the winter the owner of the school kept me on to build the props for the class, like the Pink Tower, the shelving, and the geometric shapes, etc. I couldn’t believe it when all of the kids (about 40)would go and get a carpet sample (about 2′ x 3′) and have a nap in the afternoon. If I hadn’t seen the open concept classroom with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it possible.

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