In traditional schools, retention of material is measured primarily with regular standardized testing and grading. This method of assessment is given after-the-fact as a seal on what the student has (or hasn’t) learned. It is known as summative assessment as it purports to show the sum of a child’s learning. The structure of traditional classrooms further limits assessment. Teachers have students, all of the same age, for only one year, limiting their time horizon. And typically the teacher is the only source of feedback.
Montessori classrooms avoid these limitations. Assessment is mainly formative, meant to guide the child during learning. It occurs in the context of a longer time horizon. And it enables the child to learn from her peers or directly from the world. Activities are open-ended, encouraging exploration and creative thinking, and as such do not lend themselves to grading.
In a Montessori classroom feedback is given partially by the teacher, but mostly through the child’s direct experience with materials and peers. Most materials have a control of error that allows the child to know whether they have used the material accurately without waiting for a teacher. Younger children can also receive help from older children who have been in the classroom longer.
The multiage classroom promotes familiarity and trust among a community of learners that includes children and adults. Returning students have an institutional memory of classroom procedures and rituals, and their daily management of many aspects of the classroom frees adults to teach individually and to carefully observe each child’s progress. Such personalized assessment provides more nuanced information than most forms of testing can reveal.
Primary children take ownership of their own progress through their daily work journal, weekly individual conferences with their teacher, by requesting specific lessons as the need arises, and by maintaining portfolios of work completed. These materials, and detailed daily observations of each child by the teacher, form the basis of reporting to parents.
Not only is comparative reporting often misleading for parents, and a cause of unwarranted anxiety, it is discouraging for students who score “poorly”, detrimental to both their self-esteem and their willingness to persist, as well as potentially negative for those who do “well’ by encouraging the valuing of high scores over the inherent satisfaction of learning.
Students in the Adolescent and Senior Phase program use the national curriculum (although it is delivered in a different way than you would find in a mainstream school) and they can undertake OP subjects and are graded accordingly. But other paths to university have been created, and the International Baccalaureate will be introduced to the College in the next couple of years.
Montessori International College respects individuality – and what you wear is often a reflection of your individuality. Independence is also highly valued in MIC, and choosing appropriate clothing – which later becomes your personal style – is one of the ways to practise making decisions for yourself. Uniforms tend to obliterate individual differences and create the illusion that students’ membership of a school community is more important than their individuality.
Although Montessori schools are non-competitive, the playing of sport and non-competitive games is encouraged. There is a programme for all children with regards to gross motor development. Initially the students are taught developmentally appropriate skills which include activities involving movement and hand/eye co-ordination. These skills are built upon and in primary there is often a specific time each week for non-competitive games and skill development. Our aim is on the acquisition of skills, however emphasis is also placed on being a member of a team. There is a non-competitive element to all sports during these lessons.
Yes. Montessori International College is a big believer in children learning languages other than English. Children start learning Mandarin at three with the help of a dedicated Mandarin teacher – and those lessons can continue until students graduate.