The Role Of Observation In The Montessori Classroom
Observation plays a key role in the Montessori classroom. Observation is a way of looking, at something very carefully. A child feels safe and secure when they sense that you know them. Observation can help you know the child better which can help in building trust and better relationship with the child. It also helps in providing some examples of what children know and can do, that you can share with their families. Family member loves to hear stories about their children and their progress. The goal of observation is to understand and respond to the developmental needs of the child and try and remove the obstacles to make the process successful and peaceful for the child. Observation is much more than watching, hoping to see something or just sitting. It more about the understanding of the child or the situation they are in, and assessing it. Observation and the experience of it are more about trying to have a connection with the behaviour and inner state of the child. For Dr. Maria Montessori observation was an art which had to be exercised and practised continuously.
Observing is one of the most vital teaching tools for the directress in Montessori classroom. The main aim of observing is to follow the child and to recognize and help them find their strength, capability. By simply observing the directress can evaluate if the child is prepared for the material in the classroom. By observing the child from several different angles, the directress can better accesses if the child’s (program) developmental goals are met. It also shows at what pace the students are learning, and perhaps if she can introduce any new lesson or activity to meet a specific need of the child. For example: The teacher observed that Albert everyday was going into the library and reading books. She one day sat with him and started to talk about the book he was reading. With this observation she realized that he was ready for the reading material.
In a Montessori classroom observation associates with mainly 3 components which are:
- Looking at the child.
- Documenting what we see.
- And reflecting upon what we see.
By constantly observing, recording and collecting the information and then reflecting on the observation made about the child, it helps the directress to combine her information and elevate her teaching method. Observation also helps the directress to help the children follow their interest and give them individualized personalized education. In the book “The Hidden Hinge” Packard say that “ Observation and a record of that observation go hand in hand. To observe without making a conscious statement of what you saw leaves you without a control of error. You only understand what you already knew. Making a record after an event allows information to consolidate. Gaps, inconsistencies irrelevancies patterns are revealed. Recording on the spot provides a disciplined focus for your observation, often enabling you to notice things frequently overlooked rather than merely taking in habitual kinds of information.” (Packard Pg. 123)
It takes time to really know and understand children. As Maria Montessori says In order to do this, “a habit… must be developed by practice…. To observe it is necessary to be trained.’ ” (Lillard pg. 80) Just doing an observation once will give just a little sneak peak about the child. The more you observe the more you can have a better understanding and build a good relation with the child.
The directress should not only observe and asses the child for their academic abilities but also for their social, emotional, physical, and intellectual development. For example: The teacher in the classroom started to observe multiple times that Elizabeth was blinking her eyes a lot in the classroom. She then made a note and asked her other colleagues to observe as she needed a second opinion. But since everyone was noticing the blinking, the teacher asked the parents if Elizabeth was having difficulty in seeing. They confirmed with the doctor that her eyesight was fine. Later after ruling the eyesight and more detailed observation the teacher saw that every time when Elizabeth was asked question or was put on the spot, she was blinking her eyes more. After combing her notes and analyzing the situation she made Elizabeth comfortable in the atmosphere and helped her get over the blinking to quite an extent.
The directress should know when to step in to offer guidance, and when to challenge a student with the next step in the learning sequence. The teacher when is observing should be very soft spoken and quiet. While she is focused on one child, she should also keep her eye on the entire classroom. She should always remove all her bias from her mind before her observation. To make sure that the judgments which she makes are bias free she should ask another teacher to observe the same child and record what she notices. The Directress should not worry about the right way of observing, or the perfect way of keeping the records, or making sure she sees everything. But instead she should allow herself to be curious about children, should slow down, and be present while interacting with the children, she should observe few children every day, and work with colleagues. Maria Montessori says in her book The Montessori Method “ The teacher must bring not only the capacity, but the desire to observe natural phenomena. In our system, she must become a passive, much more than an active, influence, and her passivity shall be composed of anxious scientific curiosity, and of absolute respect for the phenomenon which she wishes to observe. The teacher must understand and feel her position of observer: the activity must lie in the phenomenon.” (Lillard pg.79)
Often teacher say that they don’t get enough time to observe, since they time is mostly taken away by classroom management and the children in the classroom. By the most important thing to remember is that observation makes the teaching process easy, and not more difficult. It significantly improves the teacher’s ability to respond to the child appropriately, to understand the child’s need and their level and give them the right lesson. Observation helps them in easy classroom management and planning the academic, social, intellectual growth of the child. This also helps the directress in being aware of each student’s progress as she works towards mastering the skill of observation.