What is the opposite of Montessori? The opposite of Montessori education is a more traditional, teacher-centered approach to learning. The direct-instruction method in which the teacher is the primary source of information and the curriculum is rigidly structured could be considered the polar opposite of Montessori. Keep reading to learn more about different models of education and what makes Montessori unique.

Key Points of Traditional Teacher-centered Teaching Style

  • Children are encouraged to sit quietly and absorb information as a single teacher lectures for a set period of time.
  • Authority and authoritative rule will generally be prioritized over self-instruction.
  • Individuality is generally held at a higher importance than collaboration in learning and teaching styles.
Traditional classroom setting with teacher at the front of the room, and students seated at desks with their hands raised.All of the children, who look about 8 years old, and the teacher are all light- skinned. Many of the dozen or so children visible in the frame are wearing plaid shirts, though one is wearing stripes. The room is bright with sunlight from the windows, frame left. A white dry erase board and a green chalkboard are visible in the fan of the classroom, upper right to center frame.
In the direct-instruction method, the teacher is the primary source of information and the curriculum is rigidly structured

©Ground Picture/Shutterstock.com

Educational Philosophy: A Brief Overview

Western Education Philosophy

The very earliest methods of education resulted in two separate visions of what it meant to be educated. Western educational thought is based on the idea of rationalism, which emphasizes the use of reason and logical thinking in education. Even in its earliest models (think Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle) the teacher is seen as an authority/authority figure. Western thought focuses on individualism and the importance of individual development and self-expression. Western educational thought also often emphasizes the role of education in transmitting knowledge and culture to future generations. It also includes a strong focus on academic subjects, such as math, science, literature, and history. The Western approach also relies on the use of standardized testing to assess student learning.

Right frame: Stone carving/statue od fSocrates. He has longish hair ad a beard. He is not wearing any visible clothing, and his nipples are visible. His right hand is resting on his chin. His left arm is resting on something that isn't visible in the frame.
Even in its earliest models, the teacher, like Socrates, is seen as an authority/authority figure.

©vangelis aragiannis/Shutterstock.com

Eastern Education Philosophy

Eastern educational thought refers to the philosophical and cultural traditions of education in Eastern cultures. Confucius, Laozi, and the Buddha were some of their earliest founders and teachers. These traditions often place a strong emphasis on holistic development. Moral and ethical education, are considered as important as the cultivation of inner wisdom and self-discipline. Additionally, Eastern educational thought often emphasizes the importance of the teacher-student relationship. The role of the teacher is as a guide and mentor. This is different from Western educational thought which tends to focus on individualism and the acquisition of knowledge and skills.

Full frame , black background: A gray stone carving/ statue of Confucius holding a scroll in his hands. His face is tilted down as if he is reading from the scroll. His hair is tied at the top of his head. He is wearing a flowing robe.
Confucius was one of the earliest teachers of Eastern education philosophy.


Montessori Education Philosophy

Western Influence

The Montessori method borrows from both the Eastern and Western models, separating the chaff from the grain. In doing so Maria Montessori conceived and birthed one of the most enduring and widespread education models in the world. From Western philosophy, she took the ideals of individual development and self-expression. She also observed that children learn through the methods of logic and reason.

Eastern Influence

From the East, she incorporates the holistic approach to teaching, recognizing the importance of developing all facets of the child, including a sense of responsibility to oneself and to one's community. The student-teacher bond in Montessori education is a strong one. Montessori teachers, like their Eastern predecessors, act as guides and mentors rather than authority figures and experts.

black and white portrait of Maria Montessori. She is facing the camera, and appears to be serene. Sh is light-skinned and has wavy dark ear-length hair that she parts in the left. She is dressed in black. hair
Maria Montessori conceived and birthed one of the most enduring and widespread education models in the world.

©Nationaal Archief 119-0489, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons – License

Incorporating the best of both worlds, Maria Montessori created a model of education that has stood the test of time. You can learn more about this amazing woman and her eponymous model of education here.

What is Traditional Education?

When you think about traditional education, you are no doubt considering the direct instruction approach. It's the model in which a teacher imparts information, skills, and strategies through systematic and structured lessons. These lessons often consist of the teacher lecturing a class of students who are seated at individual desks in tidy rows. The students are encouraged to sit still. This approach tends to focus on rote learning, memorization, and the transmission of information from the teacher to the student, rather than on the student's own interests and self-directed learning. It is characterized by clear and specific teaching objectives, a highly structured lesson format, and a focus on active student engagement and immediate feedback.

Direct instruction relies on textbooks, homework assignments, and exams to evaluate student learning. The direct instruction approach has been used in a variety of settings, including primary and secondary schools. And, while it's not the ideal method, it tends to work out all right for the majority of students.

An important aspect of tradition is that it is only traditional in name. According to the Atlantic, the factory or traditional style of education started in Prussia in the 1850s and was imported to the U.S. during the late 1890s. This style was designed to create an equal and judgment-free society by paring all children together. However, given the time period, the factory model was the only way to scale production quickly and would generally provide children with a base education to work in factories as they grew up.

A male presenting child is visible center frame wearing a school uniform of a white long-sleeved button fromt collared shirt , over which is won a navy (blue0 sleeveless sweater vest. A tartan plaid tie is visible at the color. He is light-skinned . His arms are crossed in from of him on the desk that he shares with a mother student, right frame who looks remarkably similar to the first boy. Ten other similarly dressed light-skinned students are seated around them, but are not subject t the camera's focus. All of the children have their arms crossed in front of them. There are four female appearing students with white hair bows.
These lessons often consist of the teacher lecturing a class of students who are seated at desks in tidy rows.


Montessori Education


Montessori education is a child-centered educational approach that emphasizes self-directed activity, hands-on, experiential learning, and collaborative play. It was developed by The Montessori method is based on the belief that children have an innate desire to learn and that they learn best through self-directed play and exploration. It is characterized by mixed-age classrooms, trained teachers, and a prepared learning environment that allows children to learn at their own pace. Children are not subjected to tests or the subsequent grades they produce. Rather, they are observed by the class teacher. They, in turn, will communicate milestones and concerns with parents through casual conversations and written narratives. Such communication paints a more thorough picture of a child's abilities than a letter or number grade.

Full frame of a Montessori classroom toward the front of the frame is a round wooden table at which three young children are seated. A young brown-skinned girl with black curly hair wearing a shirt-sleeved pink t-shirt toward the left part of the frame seated at the table which is child-sized, playing with a wooden block with graduated holes the smallest being toward the front of the frame getting increasingly larger as you go towards centerpoint. A light-skinned male child With light brown hair wearing a seafoam green short-sleeved T-shirt is facing the camera and playing with three pink blocks that he has stacked. Frame right is the back of a light-skinned boy whose left arm is extended across the table reaching for a pink block he is wearing a shirt-sleeved salmon colored T-shirt. In the back of the frame arethree children and an adult man seated at a rectangular child sized table. The adult male is hunched down leaning against the table using his elbows for support, next to him is a light skin boy with longish blonde hair wearing a button front shirt that is plaid mostly red white and blue. He is looking down at some thing the teacher is doing but is obscured by the head of the child wearing the green shirt. Across the table from the teacher and the blonde haired boy are two little girls whose backs are facing the camera the girl on the left is wearing a sundress that is primarily magenta with orange accents the girl on the right is wearing a navy and white striped dress. The background consists Of an L-shaped sofa with blue and pink pillows, Upper right frame and then the upper left frame an adult size desk with a Charles Eames chair. The chair is white.
Montessori education is a child-centered educational approach that emphasizes self-directed activity, hands-on, experiential learning, and collaborative play.

©Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com

Collaborative Learning

Teachers in the Montessori classroom act as guides rather than authorities. And though it can be noisy and disorderly, at times, the benefits of self-directed collaborative learning have been time-tested and well-proven. Collaborative learning is a method of teaching and learning in which students work together to achieve a common goal. This can involve students working in small groups, or in pairs, to complete tasks or projects, or to discuss and share their understanding of a subject. The emphasis is on active participation and interaction among the students, rather than passive absorption of information from a teacher or textbook. The goal of collaborative learning is to help students develop critical thinking skills, problem-solving abilities, and the value of teamwork.

Center frame 10 pairs of light-skinned and brown-skinned hands are visible all placed on top of one another. The arms are all extending from the center of the frame out. For example, at 6 o’clock and 5 o’clock are light-skinned arms wearing a blue and white plaid long sleeve cotton twill shirt with button cuffs. On the right wrist is a wrist watch. Arms extending out at 5 o’clock and 4 o’clock are two very light-skinned arms wearing long sleeve yellow shirt at four and 3 o’clock are olive skin hands wearing long sleeve orange shirt at two and 1 o’clock are brown skin hands wearing a shirt over which they are wearing a dark jacket. Next to them at 12 o’clock or light- skinned hands wearing a short sleeve shirt that is out of frame mostly. Next to them at 11 o’clock are light-skinned hands/arms wearing a long sleeve Brown shirt next to them at eight and 7 o’clock or olive-skinned hands wearing a green shirt.
The goal of collaborative learning is to help students develop critical thinking skills, problem-solving abilities, and the value of teamwork.


The purpose of education is to acquire knowledge and develop skills and abilities that will allow individuals to live fulfilling lives. Montessori education also helps individuals become critical thinkers, problem solvers, and lifelong learners, who live with purpose, and a reverence for life in all of its forms.

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