Kevin D. Washburn, an educator, author, and director of a teacher training and instructional design company, is also a Montessori parent, and he posted a blog entry after a visit to his child’s classroom:
We sat, afraid to move lest we interfere with the learning and interaction we were witnessing. Children — young children — moved throughout the classroom, carrying various materials while maneuvering around tables with teapots and an occasional flower vase before landing and unpacking their selected treasures. The materials were designed to foster discovery, engage imagination, serve practical purposes, or open new worlds for students. Some did all this at once. The teacher moved intentionally throughout the room, interacting with a student about the materials currently being explored, and then moving on to another mind absorbed in discovery and learning. After hearing about Montessori education for years, this was my first direct exposure to it. In short, I was wowed.
The Discovery of the Child, all over again, still as fresh as ever.
Washburn, a veteran educator and teacher trainer, is struck by the Montessori learning environment and is inspired to pose three questions every educator should consider:
- Are there objects within the learning space that capture interest while fully engaging learners in exploring critical concepts?
- Are there ample materials to spark individual exploration, learning and mind-enriching entertainment?
- Is there a sufficient variety of materials to allow students to process material in self-selected ways?
What great guidelines for the prepared environment! How neatly they line up with Montessori theory and practice! It’s always interesting to see what Montessori looks like to an outsider, especially someone from the conventional education world.
And that’s what makes this blog post significant. Kevin D. Washburn is, as far as I can tell, a somewhat prominent figure in that world. He has a book, The Architecture of Learning, and a sucessful-seeming company, Clerestory, which does instructional design and professional development. I haven’t read his book or taken any of his classes, but it looks like he is marshaling years of observations and current research to support a particular constructivist model of learning that appears sound at least at first brush. He’s not always as eloquent or spiritually deep as Montessori, but that’s a high bar. And he must be experiencing for the first time that feeling many of us have had: there’s a model of education that resonates deeply with our intuition about how children learn, and somebody has already worked it out.
The other point of interest here is Washburn’s, and this post’s, place in the education conversation. Washburn posted at the SmartBlog on Education. SmartBlogs (on various subjects) are the blogging arm of SmartBriefs, “the principal online publisher of targeted business news and information” according to technology database Crunchbase, “serving over 5 million senior executives, thought leaders, and industry professionals.” Apparently, important people interested in targeted, curated news and information about a particular area, such as business, finance, retail, and, as it happens, education, subscribe to SmartBriefs to stay up to date. These are people who have heard that the Google guys went to Montessori school, and might want to know more about that. And there we are, in that conversation. It’s a good place to be. So thanks, Kevin.