Permission to Intervene:
*NOTE - The term teacher is used for practical reasons but as outlined below, the teacher is more of a facilitator or guide.
In the book, Maria Montessori – Her Life and Work, Standing states that “It is through this experience of objects in his environment…that he goes over again in the impressions that he has already taken in…” and “It is by means of this “work”…that he becomes conscious, and constructs himself.” (Standing, 1957. Pg. 111)
Elaborating further, Standing explains how understanding this interaction with the environment enables us to understand that teachers are unable to actually teach children but children actively construct their conscious mind through their own interaction with the environment. We can only enhance this process through ensuring a well prepared environment (see prepared environment link in navigation bar).
In the Montessori environment it is important to understand the development of the child, human tendencies, sensitive periods, planes of development, the materials and their scope and sequence and the need to facilitate not direct the self-construction of the child - to "follow the child." Most important of all is the need to know the child and to recognise their need for development, not see repetition or careful movements as merely "toiling" and "wasting tme," (Montessori, 1998. The Discovery of the Child).
Maria Montessori discovered that children had a great desire to engage in meaningful work and that they would develop deep concentration and self-discipline if allowed to do so. In the prepared envionment (see link on navigation bar), a child is able to calmly engage with appropriate materials. When a 'teacher' observes that a child is interested in a particular material then she may offer to share a lesson. The child's interest is one of five 'permissions to intervene' (Arnold).
Sharing stoies enables the child to make connections and access learning that might otherwise be beyond their reach. As they engage in the story, they may have other questions and this questioning is another permission to intervene.
Through observation and anecdotal notes, the teacher is able to ascertain if any key concepts have been missed (testing is unnecesary), and intervene to give a lesson for the purposes of interpolation so the child can move on confidently and euipped to self-construct. Sometimes a child does not do this naturally and observation will help determine why and when it is appropriate to move them on (extrapolation). An example of intervening for the sake of interpolation might be that a teacher has observed the child using the checkerboard for multiplication but the child is confused about exchanging ten ones for one ten, so the teacher may go back over the lesson or if the problem observed is more than a little error, and more like a lack of understanding of the concept of tens then they may revisit the hierachical golden bead tray before revisiting the lesson on the checkerboard.
'Permission to intervene' is necessary to not hinder the natural progress and processes of the child. If a child is engaged in meaningful learning or mastering a skill then they should be allowed to continue without interruption or interference. When the need arises, through positive and intentional interactions with the child and based on observation as a tool for identifying the necessity to intervene, a teacher will be able to make a professional judgement about what intervention is necessary to support the learning. Interventions should be limited to only what is necessary and based on a comprehensive knowledge of the child. This also allows for extra support in situations when the child is experiencing stress or their family has experienced events that may affect the child's learning. The teacher is able to fully support the child to make their own choices, a key component of empowering children to take ownership of their own learning. Sometimes a teacher may need to delay intervening to ensure they do not hinder the natural pace and progression of the child.
This intention or deliberate act to not intervene in a child's learning unless it is appropriate seems to be in direct contrast to mainstream education, yet the NZ Curriculum document clearly states...
“The principles put the students at the centre of teaching and learning, asserting that they should experience a curriculum that engages and challenges them, is forward- looking and inclusive, and affirms
It also aligns with the United Nations premise that.....
“The education of the child shall be directed to the development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential”
- United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child .
...and the work of Piaget and Vygotsky.Piaget’s developmental theory of learning and constructivism is based on providing various activities that allow students to construct their own knowledge in a meaningful way (Ozer).
Vygotsky who penned the term 'Zone of proximal development.' In this he advocated teacher support to explain the most developmentally appropriate learning conditions, allowing a child to be scaffolded enough but this was based on completing tasks set by the teacher, not the child's own selected tasks.
Montessori methodology enables students to construct their own learning but it is similar to Vgotsky in that Constructivism was seen as a new approach in education. Like Maria Montessori, Lev Vygotsky's constructivism claims that children are better able to understand learning that they are able to construct by themselves. In both methodologies, learners are considered to be central to the learning process (Atherton, 2013).
"...to learn a craft, especially if it is of an artistic or refined nature, means that one must develop his senses and the movements of his hands..." Montessori - a rationale for the use of didactic materials to construct meaning/build unerstanding (Discovery of the Child, p147).
Montessori goes far beyond today's 'inquiry learning' framework and through observing actual needs, rather than testing theoretical ones, she found a way of education that promotes intrinsic motivation, independence and peace.
In The Absorbent Mind, Montessori outlines how the teacher becomes a guardian/custodian of the environment... and how "the environment holds the attraction that will polarize the will
of the children." Here, the teacher's role is critical, mantaining order, giving lessons, protecting the learnig environment so children have time to perfect their learning and having a thorough knowledge of the material. The teacher also preserves the three hour work cycle, identified as necessary for children to overcome 'flse-fatigue' and deeply concentrate on their work. He or she is the main connection to the materials (Montessori, 1988).
(See more in the links 'the prepared environment" and "role of the adult")
In summary, through understanding human development and tendencies, the sensitive periods identified by Maria Montessori, a deep knowledge of the child, a thorough understanding of the scope and sequence of the materials and careful observation, it is possible to determine the child’s next learning steps and needs and offer appropriate support (intervene) when a gap is identified, a child needs to push on but seems reluctant or they have become disengaged. This moving on process can involve inviting the child to a particular lesson, arranging a time for a new lesson or telling a story that generates interest. In all interactions, cosmic education, connecting the child to the universe, should be an integral part of a true Montessori programme.
- by Maria Montessori on the importance of allowing the child to have freedom with responsibility and the need to avoid hindering them
Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.
The greatest sign of success for a teacher... is to be able to say, 'The children are now working as if I did not exist.'
Allow the child to construct their world!
"Every external object and ... every external activity which hinders that frail and hidden vital impulse which, even though it is still unknown, acts as a guide to a child, will be an obstacle. A teacher can therefore become a child's main obstacle..." -
If an educational act is to be efficacious, it will be only that one which tends to help toward the complete unfolding of life. To be thus helpful it is necessary rigorously to avoid the arrest of spontaneous movements and the imposition of arbitrary tasks.
Click link above to go to references page.
STREAM ---------------------------------> STREAM is an assessment tool developed by Steven Arnold Lecturer, AUT university), to monitor and observe students in a Montessori environment. STREAM stands for Suggest, Time, Record, Evidence, Assess, Monitor. Using this type of tool enables the 'teacher' to suggest appropriate progressions for students, note the child's interests, and provides evidence of the need for extrapolation (the next step) or interpolation (repeating to fill a gap in knowledge). The latter are three 'permissions to intervene.' and observations may provide for the fourth permision to interevene through things noted in anecdotal notes. The fifth permission to intervene is through questioning.
*NOTE - This file above, STREAM, has been stretched out from the original one page document to include one page per aspect of the tool.
Careful observation is needed to fully understand a child's needs. See how to improve your obserational skills below.
Of course, how a teacher intervenes is very important as well. After a teacher, through careful observation, has decided to intervene, the goal of the intervention is not to punish, but to redirect the child into work that will absorb him (Chattin-McNichols, 1991, p. 64).