The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) recently published an article written by Cynthia Brunold-Conesa that draws links between the Montessori method and Culturally Responsive Pedagogy (CRP). Brunold-Conesa draws attention to the longevity and universality–110 countries and over 100 years!–of the Montessori method as the most obvious testaments to its effectiveness, but she applauds more than that. The values inherent in Montessori education, she argues, make it a model that supports children’s development of a “worldview conducive to understanding and working with people of other countries and cultures.”
Though it’s something we’ve known all along–that Montessori invites and celebrates cultural diversity–it’s exciting to see that research is being done on how Montessori and CRP intersect and how it can be continuously improved with thoughtful practice.
What is Culturally Responsive Pedagogy?
Brunold-Conesa offers this definition for CRP from The Education Alliance at Brown University: “A pedagogy that acknowledges, responds to, and celebrates fundamental cultures offers full, equitable access to education for students from all cultures.”
She then outlines the three primary goals of CRP as student learning, cultural competence, and socio-political consciousness, all of which are met by the Montessori approach. In addition, she lists other important qualities and expectations of effective CRP:
In an ever-globalizing world, these are critical for fostering student success, regardless of background, as well as supportive, diverse communities in our schools. These goals, according to the article, can be uniquely met in a Montessori setting.
Where does Montessori meet CRP?
The article discusses the ways in which Montessori curriculum honors a global worldview, noting particularly the elements of Cosmic Education for Elementary children:
The promotion of global citizenship through peace studies has been a major objective of Montessorians for more than 80 years and is integral to and links together different curriculum areas at the preschool, elementary, and secondary levels. One component of the Montessori integrated history/geography curriculum known as the fundamental needs of humans helps children recognize that all people on all continents throughout history had and have the same basic needs.
For young children, this may mean that parents share stories from their countries or tell folktales from their traditions. For older children, this may mean researching personal or cultural history and inviting families in to share these memoirs. Overall, it means including each child’s family, recognizing the value of difference and the importance of cultural history.
Brunold-Conesa also draws attention to the way that the Montessori method allows for true individualization in education; individualization and differentiation imply that not only should students receive unique attention to their skill sets and interests, but they should also be distinctly served in regard to their cultural and ethnic backgrounds. This, of course, depends on the guide–but the model itself directs attention to differentiation:
While some of the hallmarks of culturally responsive pedagogy are inherent in Montessori education, others must be thoughtfully cultivated and internalized. Montessori pedagogy is more than a methodology and beautiful materials and necessitates that teachers do much inner work, including that of developing cultural competence by “reflecting on our understanding around our notions of difference and how we perceive people who are different from us.” (Gay, quoted in Peters, “Unpacking ‘Diversity.’”)
But why is this important for children and their success? Brunold-Conesa states that:
differentiation, when effectively applied, helps close the achievement gap that often arises when, because of cultural bias, we do not prepare students for rigorous work, often resulting in loss of confidence in those students as learners. Culturally competent teachers differentiate in order to “help culturally and linguistically diverse students leverage their cultural learning tools and accelerate their own learning.” (Hammond, quoted in Larry Ferlazzo, “‘Culturally Responsive Teaching.’”)
This article is both a call to action and a reinforcement that the Montessori method achieves powerful work when applied thoughtfully in regards to cultural competence through CRP. We look forward to future research and plan to implement ways to better support our wonderfully diverse community!
Read the full journal article here:
Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: An Intersection with Montessori Education