Montessori is a comprehensive approach to education from birth through adulthood based on the scientific observation of children's needs in a variety of cultures all around the world. Beginning her work in January, 1907 as the first woman in Italy to become a physician, Dr. Maria Montessori developed this art and science after coming to an understanding of children's natural learning tendencies as they unfold in "prepared environments" for multi-age groups (0-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12 and 12-14).
The Montessori environment provides specially designed, manipulative "materials for development" that invite children to engage in learning activities of their own individual choice, progressing at their own pace. Under the guidance of a trained teacher, children in a Montessori classroom learn by making discoveries with the materials, cultivating concentration, self-motivation, self-discipline, independence and a love of learning.
The Montessori method is an educational method for children, based on theories of child development originated by Italian educator Maria Montessori in the late 19th and early 20th century. It is applied primarily in preschool and elementary school settings, though some Montessori high schools exist.
The method is characterized by an emphasis on self-directed activity on the part of the child and clinical observation on the part of the teacher (often called a "director", "directress", or "guide"). It stresses the importance of adapting the child's learning environment to his or her developmental level, and of the role of physical activity in absorbing academic concepts and practical skills.
The Montessori philosophy is built upon the idea that children develop and think differently than adults; that they are not merely "adults in small bodies". Dr. Montessori advocated children's rights, children working to develop themselves into adults, and that these developments would lead to world peace. The Montessori method discourages traditional measurements of achievement (grades, tests) under the premise that it is damaging to the inner growth of children (and adults). Feedback and qualitative analysis of a child's performance does exist but is usually provided in the form of a list of skills, activities and critical points, and sometimes a narrative of the child's achievements, strengths and weaknesses, with emphasis on the improvement of those weaknesses.