Montessori vs. Traditional

A visual comparison between Traditional Education and Montessori Education.

Montessori vs. Traditional 

Children working independently alongside one another without interruption or distraction.  This is a very typical scene in a Montessori environment.  Children develop the ability to concentrate for long periods of time, without interruption, while others are busy working around them.


Emphasis on:  cognitive structures and social development

Teacher has unobtrusive role in classroom activity; child is an active participant in learning

Environment and method encourage internal self-disclipine

Instruction, both individual and group, adapts to each student's learning style

Mixed age groupings

Children are encouraged to teach, collaborate, and help each other

Child chooses own materials and work from interests and abilities

Child formulates own concepts from self-teaching materials (in the prepared environment)

Child works as long as she/he wishes on chosen project

Child sets own learning pace to internalize information

Child spots own errors through control of error or feedback from the material

Learning is reinforced internally through the child's own repetition of an activity and internal feelings of success (often referred to as 'process over product')

Muti-sensory materials for physical exploration throughout the entire learning environment

Organized program for learning care of self and environment (Examples include:  preparation of food, mopping messy spills, feeding class animals, watering plants, etc.)

Child can work where she/he is comfortable, moves around and talks at will (yet disturbs not the work of others); group work is voluntary and negotiable

Organized program for parents to understand the Montessori philosophy and participate in the learning process


Emphasis on:  rote knowledge and social development

Teacher has dominant, active role in classroom activity; child is a passive participant in learning

Teacher acts as primary enforcer of external disclipine

Instruction, both individual and group, conforms to the adult's teaching style

Same age groupings

Most teaching is done by teacher and collaboration is discouraged

Curriculum structured for child with little regard for child's interests

Child is guided and taught to concepts by teacher through assigned daily lessons

Child generally given specific time limit or time frame for work

Instruction pace usually set by group norm or teacher

If work is corrected, errors usually pointed out by teacher (as self-correction is typically absent)

Learning is reinforced externally by rote repetition and rewards and discouragements or better known as behavior modification

Fewer materials for sensory development and concrete manipulation

Less emphasis on self-care instruction and classroom maintenance leading to an environment maintained entirely by the adult

Child usually assigned own chair; encouraged to sit still and listen during group sessions which are typically not voluntary (group work and interaction is teacher controlled)

Voluntary parent involvement, often only as fundraisers, not participants in understanding and learning process

Montessori children are usually adaptable.  They have learned to work independently and in groups.  Since the have been encouraged to make decisions from an early age, these children are problem solvers who can make appropriate choices and manage their time well.  

Children in Montessori learning environments are encouraged to exchange ideas and discuss their work freely with others.  Their good communication skills ease the way in new settings.  Research has shown that the best predictor of future success is a positive self-esteem.  Montessori programs are based on self-directed, non-competitive activities, which help children develop positive self-images, enabling them with the confidence to face challenges and change with optimism.

Italicized words are adopted from The American Montessori Society