Sometimes it is easier to understand the differences between traditional forms of education and that of Montessori pedagogy when the two ideologies are placed in a side by side comparison. Below is a chart that juxtaposes both with regard to the method of instruction, environment and the role of the teacher.

Traditional Classroom Montessori Environment
  • Child is led toward textbook-driven curriculum; pencil and paper, worksheets and dittos primary source instructional material dependence from adults
  • Adults are the main providers of learning, discipline, social problem solving
  • Prepared kinesthetic materials with emphasis on conceptual understanding; incorporated control of error; specially developed reference materials

The Goal is to lead children toward independence, academically as well as through social problem solving

  • Working and learning without emphasis on social development
  • Working and learning matched to the social development of the child
  • Narrow, unit-driven curriculum
  • Unified, internationally developed curriculum
  • Blanket approach to teaching - everyone doing the same thing at the same time
  • Education is set to each child's academic individual academic level; subject choices made by student
  • Block time, period lessons
  • Uninterrupted work cycles that allow the child to complete tasks before moving on to the next
  • Single-graded classrooms
  • Multi-age classrooms
  • Students passive, limited to desks; problematic transition times
  • Students active, softly conversing, with periods of spontaneous quiet; freedom to move
  • Students fit mold of school, primarily designed for middle level achieving students
  • School meets needs of all students, from the academically gifted to the challenged
  • Limitation on cooperative learning- students in direct competition with each other
  • Cooperative learning is encouraged; students willing to aid one another
  • Product-focused report cards
  • Process-focused assessments, skills checklists, mastery benchmarks
  • Environment is prepared for the teacher to be the sole and center of attention
  • Environment is prepared for the child; apparatus is systematically placed in accordance by the progression (difficulty) of the materials
  • Teacher acts as dispenser of knowledge. Greater part of learning is presented, in auditory fashion, from the teacher; or read from text books
  • Teacher acts as facilitator of knowledge. Greater part of learning comes from child's own discovery and work with the materials
  • Instruction primarily dealt within units; no particular order, later to be tied into a whole concept
  • Instruction presented in the whole, in chronological fashion, then broken into parts