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24.6.2024 | Karin Metsäpelto |

Exploring Montessori-Inspired Practices From New Perspectives

Child-centred approaches and progressive education are often critiqued as being an exclusive or elite model of education which is less equitable or accessible to the general public. Learner-centred measures are perceived to require extra resources or focus on less practical goals. However, child-centred approaches can be, and are, implemented in diverse educational settings.

To bring light to the multitude of child-centred approaches, HundrED and Montessori Global Education are launching a Spotlight on Child-Centred Learning to highlight the most impactful and scalable innovative solutions from all around the world. 

Embracing the Opportunities 

This balancing of teacher and learner-centred models is crucial for preparing children to navigate a world requiring creativity, uniqueness, and proficiency with 21st-century skills. Innovative practitioners are already doing this and finding resourceful ways of thinking about the relationship between the adult, the child and the learning environment. 

Increasingly, digital solutions have been offered to teachers as a way to provide individualised instruction for each student. However, there is a distinction between digital individualisation, which can train behavioural responses to digital prompts, and centring the learner, which also opens up opportunities for wider social, emotional, and cognitive learning experiences. We are interested in seeing how teachers are using and blending different modalities, including but by no means limited to digital or online resources, to nourish students’ creativity and curiosity while guiding them in their understanding of the national curricula.

Where is the focus?

“Our goal is to identify innovative practices that focus on child-centred learning. We think it’s important to explore all the ways educators, parents and other actors are coming to the child as a whole person, with their own interests and curiosity in different parts of the world. We take inspiration from Maria Montessori’s pedagogy, but we also have seen that using child-centred practices does not require educators to be certified Montessori trainers. Many educators who have studied Montessori’s work have diffused elements of her practices internationally. Montessori is still innovative over a hundred years on,” says Crystal Green, Research Director at HundrED. 

The ultimate goal of the Spotlight project is to empower educators with examples of innovative, child-centred pedagogies and solutions that nurture creativity, adaptability, and collaboration and can be scaled to various contexts.

“By providing training and support to educators, child- centred methods can be adapted to suit various contexts and resource levels, making them more accessible to a broader range of learners. Our mission is to highlight innovative, scalable and adaptable practices that firmly place the child at the centre of the learning experiences within the context of their environments. We firmly believe every child has the right to the best start in life, where the child’s intrinsic desire to learn is facilitated through the prepared environment that has been seeded with activities and resources based on the observations of children’s developing needs, interests, and stages of development and empathetic educators. We recognise that these learning environments will be unique to each context, and we welcome submissions that embrace this whilst staying true to the five main principles of Montessori pedagogy,” says Preeti Patel, Director of Education at Montessori Global Education.

The HundrED research team is interested in seeing evidence of educational experiences for children that change the focus, placing learner agency at the forefront and observing how child-driven approaches centre each student and their individual learning path, passions and interests. These approaches would also speak to the barriers to adopting child-centred practices and demonstrate that there are ways to promote successful implementation.

Learn more: Spotlight on Child-Centred Learning

What is Child-Centred Learning?

Child-centred learning follows the interests and motivation of the child in determining the path of their education. In a child-centred approach, the adult takes responsibility for designing, curating and structuring the child’s learning environment in terms of the use of time, space and learning materials. This structure provides safe, healthy and reassuring limits within which the child is encouraged in the individual pursuit of their own curiosity and passions. A child-centred approach to learning allows children to experience the intrinsic rewards and inherent joy of learning. In order to achieve this, the teacher must make an intentional practice of observing the child.

Child-centred approaches prioritise equity and inclusion by recognising and valuing the unique strengths and needs of each learner. As child-centred approaches emphasise the importance of cultural relevance and responsiveness in education, they also recognise the diverse backgrounds and experiences of students. By integrating students' cultural identities, languages, and perspectives into the curriculum, these methods create a more meaningful and enriching learning experience for all learners.