Montessori: An Education that Promotes Innovation
Some of the greatest innovators of 21st century attended Montessori schools, whilst this is interesting to know, kudos for the Montessori method grows when we understand the links between these great minds.
Larry Paige and Sergei Brin the founders of Google, George Bezos the founder of Amazon, Jimmy Wales the founder of Wikipedia and Will Wright the developer of The Sims game series to mention a few, all attended Montessori schools.
By reflecting on the impact of their early education, these tech entrepreneurs have identified the following key points of the Montessori approach that they have taken forward (Pearce, 2020).
The promotion of:
- Self-motivation, questioning and curiosity.
- Pursuit of individual interests.
- Creative and critical thinking.
- Collaboration and communication.
- The joy of discovery and building ideas based on own discoveries.
- Freedom for experimentation with the risk of failure.
- Using failure as a springboard for adjustments, mirroring the Silicon
- Valley approach of fail fast, fail forward.
- Following through with small and achievable steps that ultimately lead to innovation.
- The Development of a Growth Mindset (Dweck, 2007).
- Commitment to life-long learning.
has set up a Montessori school for the children of his employees at his headquarters in Texas, (Hess, 2023).
In her book “Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius’ Lillard (2017), explains exactly how these thinking skills are developed in Montessori schools. The answer lies in the triangular relationship between the Montessori Teacher, the Montessori Environment, and the Child . It is a dynamic relationship; the child gets feedback from both the teacher and the environment; the teacher gets feedback both the child and the environment, all underpinned by the key points of the Montessori approach as listed above. This is a departure, from the factory model of education where one expects a one-way interaction from teacher to child, denying the opportunity for thinking and experimentation, simply providing curriculum content and preparing the child to give correct ‘answers.’
In the Montessori school the child has time to follow interests and is guided in their hands- on exploration of the Montessori teaching materials by their teacher who promotes curiosity and encourages questioning and innovation. It is nature of this support that allows for the development of a growth mindset approach, where any error is not seen as the wrong answer, but as an opportunity for mastery.
In the most popular TED Talk of all time, Sir Ken Robinson (https://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_do_schools_kill_creativity/com) argues that the mainstream ‘factory’ model of education is outmoded and kills creativity. He advocates ditching this, in favour of a system that allows creativity to grow. It is by providing an education system that generates motivation and initiative that we can future proof our children and propel them to be the next generation of game changers. Montessori pre-empted this over 100 years ago, opening her first school in 1907, and today, far from outmoded, the method is of increasing relevance.
Right now, all over the world, there are children attending Montessori schools: working in a self-directed and collaborative way with the materials under the thoughtful guidance of their teachers. Their parents may have chosen the school based on its’ academic reputation, caring teachers, or their personal understanding of Montessori, for reasons too many to list. But the greatest spin off from their choice of school is the way that their children will learn to think, collaborate, take risks, and innovate. Ironically, it is not by including tech in the early years of education that will make children potentially successful with tech. It is by developing thinking skills and an approach to challenges that will lead to innovation with tech and, in many other fields.
Lucy Cronje, 2023
Founding Principal, Ocean View Montessori School
Dweck, C, (2007). Mindset; The Psychology of Success, New York, Ballantine Books,
Hess, F. (2023), Bezos’s Bold Bet on Montessori Pre-school [online] available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/frederickhess/2023/03/14/bezoss-bold-bet-onmontessori-preschool/?sh=14e0d51e3a13 (Accessed 3.04.2023)
Lillard, A. (2017), “Montessori; The Science Behind the Genius” Oxford, Oxford University Press.
Pearce, K. (2020), Why the Montessori Method Creates Innovators [online] available at: https://www.diygenius.com/the-montessori-method-creating-innovators/ (Accessed 3.04.2023)