Montessori: The Science behind the Genius

By Angeline Stoll Lillard | Go to book overview

4: Interest in Human Learning

The secret of success "in education" is found to lie in the right use
of imagination in awakening interest, and the stimulation of
seeds of interest already sown.

—MARIA MONTESSORI (1948/1967, pp. 1-2)

Montessori education is designed to awaken interest and to allow children to pursue learning about issues that already personally interest them. This is a natural corollary to a system of education based on choice: one chooses to do what one is interested in doing. It is also necessary to a system that is based on intrinsic motivation, rather than on extrinsic motivators such as grades, as discussed in chapter 5.

Interest researchers discriminate two types of interest. Personal interests, such as hobbies, are subjective and not universal. In contrast, topic interests have broad appeal and therefore are shared by most people. Montessori education capitalizes on both types of interests.

In terms of topic interests, Montessori materials and activities have been very carefully developed over many decades to appeal to children's interests. Dr. Montessori would create a material and then test it, observing how children interacted with it. Materials that did not capture their interest and serve their learning were rejected, and she revised each material until she got good results. This same care was put into the development of the lessons. In thorough Montessori teacher training courses, future teachers are taught every lesson for the level at which they will work. The teachers write each lesson down like the script of a play, replete with illustrations, creating albums of the entire curriculum. While practicing these lessons with each other and the teacher trainers, Montessori teachers-in-training

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Montessori: The Science behind the Genius
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Notes on the Book xiii
  • Contents xv
  • Montessori 1
  • 1: An Answer to the Crisis in Education 3
  • 2: The Impact of Movement on Learning and Cognition 38
  • 3: Choice and Perceived Control 80
  • 4: Interest in Human Learning 114
  • 5: Extrinsic Rewards and Motivation 152
  • 6: Learning from Peers 192
  • 7: Meaningful Contexts for Learning 224
  • 8: Adult Interaction Styles and Child Outcomes 257
  • 9: Order in Environment and Mind 289
  • 10: Education for Children 325
  • Works Cited 347
  • Name Index 379
  • Subject Index 389
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