The Montessori Difference

The goal of both Montessori and traditional schools is the same:  to provide learning experiences for the child.  The biggest difference lies in the kind of learning experience each school provides and the methods they use to accomplish this goal.

Montessori educators believe these differences are important because they help shape how a child learns, his/her work habits and his/her future attitudes toward themselves and the world around them



  • Teacher has unobtrusive role in the classroom.
  • Teacher is the controller and center of the classroom.
  • Environment and method encourages self-discipline.
  • Teacher acts as primary enforcer of discipline.
  • Mainly individual instruction.
  • Group, whole class and individual instruction.
  • Mixed age grouping to encourage children to teach and help each other.
  • Same age grouping with most teaching done by the teacher.
  • Child chooses own work.
  • Curriculum is structured for the child.
  • Child works as long as he wishes on chosen project.
  • Child generally allotted specific time for work.
  • Child sets own learning pace.
  • Instruction pace usually set by group norm.
  • Child spots own errors from feedback of material.
  • If work is corrected, errors usually pointed out by teacher.
  • Child reinforces own learning by repetition of work and internal feelings of success.
  • Learning is reinforced externally by repetition and rewards.
  • Organized program for learning care of self and environment (e.g. polishing shoes, cleaning the skin).
  • Less emphasis on self-care instruction.
  • Child can work where he/she chooses, move around and talk at will (yet not disturbing work of others).  Group works voluntary.
  • Child is usually assigned own chair, encouraged to participate, sit still and listen during group lessons
  • English language proficiency is less important due to emphasis on individual lessons.
  • English language proficiency important in order to understand group lessons.
  • Prepared kinesthetic material with incorporated control of error, specially developed reference materials.
  • Textbooks, pencil and paper, worksheets and dittos.
  • Working and learning matched to the social development of the child.
  • Working and learning without emphasis on social development.
  • Unified, internationally developed curriculum.
  • Narrow, unit-driven curriculum.
  • Integrated subjects and learning based on development psychology.
  • Individual subjects.
  • School meets needs of students.
  • Students fit model of school.
  • Special help comes to students.
  • Students leave for special help.
  • Process-focused assessment, skills checklists, mastery benchmarks.
  • Product focused report cards.