Neuroeducation and Montessori Pedagogy: A partnership for how the child's brain learns.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

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By Daniela Silva

Neuroeducation is the science that studies how the brain learns, and how information is processed in the Central Nervous System. Through Neuroeducation, it is possible to identify the elements that favor or hinder the acquisition of knowledge in the child´s brain.

The human brain contains neural connections, which are structures capable of capturing information through stimuli from the environment. The role of Neuroeducation in the classroom is to help the educator rethink how to teach and how each child receives and processes these environmental stimuli.

Learning is a result of the exchange of information between neurons, which change as each new bit of knowledge is captured by the brain.  Each new experience as well as contact with the environment through stimulus promotes the formation of different synaptic connections that result in new knowledge and skills.

However, what is the relationship of Neuroeducation and Montessori Pedagogy?

Just like Neuroeducation, Montessori Pedagogy is also a brain-based developmental method that values learning through stimuli addressed by the multisensory materials. The multisensory materials stimulate the areas of the brain that are responsible for coordination, concentration, decision-making and strategic thinking, visuospatial system, creativity, oral and written language, and mathematics.  

In addition, Montessori Pedagogy values a central concept in Neuroeducation, critical in the first six years of the child's life.  This period of growth is characterized by the brain’s amazing ability to absorb new knowledge and schema; neuroscientists refer to it as neuroplasticity or brain plasticity.  Montessorians recognize the importance of acquiring and building new skills during this stage of child development because in this period the child's brain has a higher speed capability and ability to absorb information. This means that the neuronal organ of the child is more likely to receive stimuli and changes from the environment. This phase is termed in the field of neuroscience as "windows of opportunity" or "sensitive periods of learning."

According to the American Montessori Society, the sensitive period is:

"A critical time during human development when the child is biologically ready and receptive to acquiring a specific skill or ability—such as the use of language or a sense of order—and is therefore particularly sensitive to stimuli that promote the development of that skill. A Montessori teacher prepares the environment to meet the developmental needs of each sensitive period".

Dr. Maria Montessori observed in her studies that children up to sixYears of age had strong sensitivity, making it easy to understand new concepts and develop different skills. During this sensitive period of learning, it is possible to observe the child performing the same activity repeatedly, in a concentrated and attentive manner.

To the extent that the child experiences new practices and challenges of learning, the brain is reorganized in order to assimilate the new knowledge. This results in changes in the neural structure and function of the organ, thereby generating different cognitive abilities in the child's life. 

At school or at home, by observing the child's learning interests and encouraging them constantly, they can make progress in the development of new knowledge and skills. The brain needs stimuli to develop and improve skills. The organization of a space for effective and enjoyable learning should take into account the child’s interest and the cognitive phase of  the child because the sensitive periods provide multiple possibilities for acquiring new knowledge and skills.

Regarding the Montessori classroom, the teacher prepares the environment with carefully selected, aesthetically arranged materials that are presented sequentially to meet the developmental needs of the children using the space. 

As we can see, Neuroeducation and Montessori Pedagogy go together, side by side, in favor of the child’s brain development. The knowledge of how learning occurs in the brain is essential for planning activities that consider the characteristics and educational needs of each child. This makes all the difference in the child´s learning process!

About the author: Daniel Silva is from Goiânia, Goiás, Brazil, holds graduate degrees in education, with qualifications in: School Business Management and Pedagogy; she has an MBA in Human Resources Management; Postgraduate degree in Neuroeducation. She currently contributes as curriculum developer and writer for educational programs; voluntary Developer of educational curriculum project on emotional education and vocational education for young people. Contributing as advisor career in social projects in the area of coaching and mentoring.

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