Saturday, January 14, 2012

Observation - Nature and Significance

Observation is the cornerstone of our work in the Montessori Method and in all the work that the trained adult performs. 

Scientific observation is the identification, description, experimental investigation and theoretical explanation of a natural phenomenon.

Types of observation - both are used in the Montessori Method.

  • quantitative: seeks specific information to support or deny a particular hypothesis

  1. requires a hypothesis
  2. more rigidly scientific 
  3. structured

  • qualitative: greater emphasis on this one in the Montessori Method

  1. does not require a pre-formed hypothesis 
  2. largely unstructured
  3. relies on the skill of the observer to recognize, record and interpret behavior that is seen in a particular area of focus.

The ability to be a keen observer supports the Montessori prepared environment in 

  1. assuring that the environment is truly meeting the child’s needs, 
  2. observing where the child is going in development and preparing beforehand for the next step, as well as in 
  3. confirming and supporting all the reasons for having a prepared environment and discovering the nuances of the normalized child. 

Quantitative observation describing particular behaviors without preformed biases is key to the adult’s work with the children.

“Child psychology can be established only through the method of external observation. We must renounce all idea of making any record of internal states, which can be revealed only by introspection of the subject itself.”[1]


[1] Maria Montessori. The Montessori Method. Schocken, 1964.

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