The goal of both Montessori and traditional schools is the same:  to provide learning experiences for the child.  The biggest difference lies in the kind of learning experience each school provides and the methods they use to accomplish this goal.

Montessori educators believe these differences are important because they help shape how a child learns; his/her work habits and his/her future attitudes toward themselves and the world around them.

Montessori

Teacher has unobtrusive role in the classroom.

Environment and method encourages self-discipline.

Mainly individual
instruction.

Mixed age grouping to encourage children to teach and help each other.

Child chooses own work.

Child works as long as he wishes on chosen project.

Child sets own learning pace.

Child spots own errors from feedback of material.

Child reinforces own learning by repetition of work and internal feelings of success.

Organized program for learning care of self and environment (e.g. polishing shoes, cleaning the skin).

Child can work where he/she chooses, move around and talk at will (yet not disturbing work of others).  Group works voluntary.

Working and learning matched to the social development of the child.

School meets needs of students.

Process-focused assessment, skills checklists, mastery benchmarks.

Traditional

Teacher is the controller and center of the
classroom.

Teacher acts as primary enforcer of discipline.

Group, whole class and individual instruction.

Same age grouping with most teaching done by the teacher.

Curriculum is structured for the child.

Child generally allotted specific time for work.

Instruction pace usually set by group norm.

If work is corrected, errors usually pointed out by teacher.

Learning is reinforced externally by repetition and rewards.

Less emphasis
on self-care
instruction.

Child is usually assigned own chair, encouraged to participate, sit still and listen during group lessons

Working and learning without emphasis on social development.

Students fit model of school.

Product focused
report cards.