How Montessori Promotes Disruptive Innovation

One of my favorite sessions at the recent SXSWEdu conference was a panel session entitled, “How Montessori Promotes Disruptive Innovation”.  

“As traditional education fails students, educators are questioning the purpose/delivery method of education. Professionals have developed learning styles to address this problem resulting in “flipped” classrooms, peer instruction and hands-on learning. However, outcomes these methods aim to produce—critical thinking, problem solving, entrepreneurship and creativity—are already available with Montessori.”

Panel participants are highlighted below:

 James Moudry, Post Oak School

James Moudry, Post Oak School

 Kathy Minardi, Aidan Montessori School

Kathy Minardi, Aidan Montessori School

 Laura Shaw, Oak Knoll Kinderhaus

Laura Shaw, Oak Knoll Kinderhaus

 Maura Joyce, Montessori Redlands

Maura Joyce, Montessori Redlands

- and here is an excerpt of my twitter stream from the discussion:

  • Montessori #SXSWedu kicking off with "what is school for?" Typically content delivery, not developing children pic.twitter.com/5KCLAf9HzL
  • Children developing their own authentic voice through Montessori - not 'time on task', but 'authenticity on task'
  • Montessori #sxswedu human beings crave reality - classroom not enough for older children pic.twitter.com/9xFeF9sCuX
  • What is Montessori? The complete developmental package:  http://buildingthepinktower.org  #DisruptEdu #SXSWedu "What will you bring to the world?"
  • #SXSWedu Montessori interdisciplinary curriculum, could this be the disruption of industrial framework of schooling? pic.twitter.com/K8u5qmohzv
  • Montessori mafia :) #DisruptEdu #SXSWedu the Disruptive innovators are already out there pic.twitter.com/Xi2QbXEIBS
  • Our world is demanding entrepreneurs and our factory model of education has not been producing them for over 100 yrs Montessori #SXSWedu
  • Montessori developed a comprehensive developmental model producing socially minded entrepreneurs - 100 years ago #SXSWedu #DisruptEdu
  • We are facing adaptive challenges, not technical problems as a citizenry - Montessori builds the adaptive muscle #SXSWedu #DisruptEdu
  • Provide as much scaffolding as is needed in the moment and no more -then take it down as quickly as possible Montessori #SXSWedu

The panel discussion kicked off by asking “What is school for”? The answer in response was "teaching kids to learn how to learn through a highly integrated, interdisciplinary curriculum" and that at a Montessori school "You learn to do hard things".

Prior to the session, I had only read about Maria Montessori’s work. It was wonderful to see four passionate Heads of School bring the Montessori method to life and relating it to the broader context of how Montessori can take us into the future.  The panelists noted how we have become very individualistic as a society - yes, our individual rights are important - as are the rights of others.  Children in Montessori classrooms experience this from the get go as there aren’t two (or more) of everything in the classroom. Children understand if they break something it will impact everyone else.

I was reminded of Ron Heifitz’ work on Leadership Without Easy Answers.  It’s the framework I return to again and again as I wrestle with how large systems change and the capacity within that system for the individual to have impact. Imagine if we began graduating a generation of young people who had facility with complex adaptive changes, understood their impact (for good or for ill) on the collective, and were equipped to “do hard things”.