Fundamental Differences between Montessori and Traditional Education


  • Respect for individual differences;
  • Self Motivation and child centered learning process;
  • Multi-age grouping whereby students learn “horizontally” from observation of other peoples work, directly or indirectly;
  • Students learn by practicing their subject matters while in school with the supervision and assistance of the teacher as needed;
  • The classroom is used as a library or resource room for projects and studies: the children are free to move and tire less;
  • Knowledge is acquired through the use of concrete materials, scientifically designed to enhance the conceptual thinking and lead to abstraction.
  • Testing is built into the method as the third period of the “three-period-lesson” and is applied routinely when the individual is ready. Testing aims at self-correction, repetition and competence.


  • Emphasis on conforming to the group
  • Emphasis on grades, punishment or rewards as motivating factors
  • Students grouped chronologically to suit teachers pre-planned lessons
  • Subjects are taught in lecture form and students must change classes and attend lessons all at the same time
  • Students must practice on their own and be graded on “busy work” or home work that is often done without close monitoring
  • Students work at desks and passively sit to listen to lectures for long periods. The work must be interrupted frequently
  • Knowledge often consists of memorization of irrelevant information from abstract concepts unrelated to the child’s daily experience
  • Scheduled testing does not take into consideration the preparation of each individual. Students are intimidated and taught that passing is more important than knowing.
Montessori World Education Institute
San Luis Obispo, California
Used by permission by author, Ruth V. Dresser