Maria Montessori

Main ideas of her theory and links to SEN

Main ideas

  • Children learn best by doing (constructivism).
  • Order, communication and repetition drive children's behaviour during every developmental stage.
  • The early years stage is where learning capacity is at its' greatest.

  • There are 4 planes/stages of development:
1) Birth to 6 years: Builds a picture and idea of the world through their senses. They can easily take in information from their environment through their senses. The idea of taking in information through senses diminishes at the age of six as we develop own ideas. Children develop psychologically as they focus on activities that satisfy their developmental needs e.g. learning to crawl then walk. Children have sensitive periods towards language, order, senses, social behaviour etc. which help them to construct their identity.

2) 6 to 12 years: There are various physical, psychological and social changes in this age category such as loss of teeth, physical growth, socialization in groups, development of reasoning, imagination, intellectual independence and social organisation.

3) 12 to 18 years: Physical changes (adolescence/puberty), instability/difficulties in concentration, developing an idea of justice and personal dignity. Main point is the self-identification of the change from child to adult.

4) 18 to 24 years: She didn't find much development within this period as there is no set educational program.

  • Learners learn best in a 'prepared environment' where targets are set but independence is encouraged using structured resources that are in proportion to the level of study and ability.

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How her theory can be beneficial to children with SEN

  • The very structured approach/environment has clear boundaries and so children have confidence in becoming independent without going wrong/outside of expectations because they can't.
  • In Montessori schools having a mixed age class provides role models for those with additional needs who are more capable.

  • Students work with materials rather than direct instruction which allows freedom in learning and allows sensory experiences.

Montessori Vs. Conventional School


Allen, S., & Gordon, P. (2011). How Children Learn: Thinking on Special Educational Needs and Inclusion (p. 41-43). London: Practical Pre-School Books.,. (2015). Retrieved 8 December 2015, from,. (2015). Retrieved 8 December 2015, from