A Montessori early childhood classroom environment is unique in the way teachers assess children. You won't find testing, quizzes, and grades within a Montessori environment. Most of you reading this article are proud and happy that our children don't have to face the wrath of these tests but where does that leave us?
How can we adequately assess a child's progress and development?
Without formal tests and quizzes, how does a Montessori guide know the progress of a child?
How does he or she know what lessons to plan for that child?
Assessment in a Montessori Environment
The focus of assessment within a Montessori environment, like many things in a Montessori classroom, is not on the end product but, instead, the focus is on the process.
This explanation resonated with me:
“In a Montessori environment, the teacher works in concert with the children to drive the curriculum. While we naturally follow a rich scope and sequence for teaching across the content areas, we are also constantly assessing to see: (1) if the content is resonating with each child, and how; (2) where each child’s own interests resides and how to support this self-discovery; and, (3) in what other ways content can be shared with children so that learners of all styles can find meaning in their work. This process of Scientific Observation is the cornerstone of assessment in a Montessori environment.” (Source: Montessori Madmen)
Formative assessment considers the whole child development and makes assessments based on observations of the child. This type of assessment is essentially ongoing progress monitoring every day to check for mastery and understanding. Summative assessment measures a child's progress at a specific end period of time (such as the end of a month, or quarter) often using diagnostic and standardized tests. With the exception of Montessori public schools, you will rarely find summative assessment tools within a Montessori environment.
So, now what?
Good news! The Montessori environment lends to assessing a child naturally. In fact, assessment tools are used on a daily basis within a Montessori early childhood classroom.
Here are a few examples where assessment naturally occurs in a Montessori early childhood classroom:
- The Guide's Daily Observations
- Lesson Progress of the Child (assessed through observation & presentations)
- Control of Error within the Materials (provides automatic feedback for the child & the guide)
Areas of Focus for Assessment in a Montessori Environment
- How is the child choosing work?
- How is he utilizing the work?
- How does he ask for assistance?
Social & Emotional Behavior
- Is he wandering?
- Is he interfering with other children's work?
- Describe his interactions with peers.
- Is he fidgety? Does he have trouble sitting still?
Order of the Environment
Assessing your environment is just as critical as assessing the child (and yourself for that matter).
This checklist is a fantastic resource to assess the environment: Environment Assessment Checklist
Montessori Assessment Tools & Resources
- Use a lesson tracking document (like this record keeping document from Montessori Printshop) that indicates presented to the child, assistance required, and mastery of the work.
- Examples of the child's work give good indication of progress made and where attention needs focus
- Written observations are narrative of your daily, weekly, and monthly observations of the child.
- Formative versus Summative Assessment
- General Montessori Assessment Outline
- Shiller Math Diagnostic Tests
- Thoughts on Assessment within the Montessori Environment
- Classroom Assessment Rubric
- Primary Observation Assessment Rubric
I am going to end with a quote from Montessori Madmen about the role and the responsibility of the Montessori guide:
“The Montessori teacher is an artist – trained in noticing the cognitive, emotional, social, and behavioral needs of children. We are constantly assessing a children’s position along their own arc of educational understanding, and adjusting our practices to best meet them when they’re ready to learn.”
Let me know how you assess the children in your learning environment.