Born on 08/31/1870 in Italy and died on 05/06/1952 in the Netherlands. Maria Montessori was a doctor and a licentiate pedagogue in philosophy, psychology and biology, she is world famous for the pedagogical method that uses her name. It brought to the feminist movement of its day an active contribution in favor of the conquest of the political and social women’s rights. Maria Montessori worked two years in a psychiatric clinic in Rome where she studied the behavior of mentally retarded youth. It is there that she realizes that they need their hands, manipulate, to develop their intelligence. Then, she discovered the work of Jean Itard, inventor of otorhinolaryngology and Edouard Séguin French pedagogue with “idiots” children. She decided a few years later to devote herself to pedagogy with ordinary children. The creation of the first children’s house takes place on 01/06/1907 “casa dei Bambini” where children of preschool age 3-6 years are hosted and where the school must contribute to the development of human potential, to prevent children from wandering and to establish a family harmony.
It is in this school that Maria Montessori will develop her pedagogy: her first discovery was the search for concentration and attention of the child which then allows her to develop her social sense, her second discovery was that of sensitive periods which are key moments in the process of humanizing the child. Then she organized more and more conferences and training courses, and in 1929 founded the Association Montessori Internationale to protect, spread and promote the pedagogical and practical principles that she formulated. In 1939 with the help of her son Mario she will continue to develop her method for 6-12 years.
Céline Alvarez, a linguist with a passion for cognitive science, passed the 2009 school teacher competition. Céline Alvarez is a revolt of the educational methods of national education. She wants to change things and does not hesitate to go to meet the decision-makers of the national education to demonstrate her convictions. She gets an appointment with an advisor to Luc Chatel, Minister of Education. This one is seduced by the presentation of Céline Alvarez and gives him an educational carte blanche.
Therefore, she includes a kindergarten classified in ZEP in Gennevilliers in September 2011 without anyone being informed of her approach.
She applies for three years the pedagogy which is dear to her, based on neuroscience research and the work of Maria Montessori.
During her three years of experience, Céline Alvarez received no contact from the ministry. Her experimentation will stop brutally in 2014, without explanations. The Gennevilliers experiment, followed closely by researchers at the CNRS in Grenoble, shows, however, that children evolve more rapidly than the “norm”.
Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system, both from the point of view of its structure and its functioning. Knowledge about the brain and research is experiencing a spectacular advance, particularly on how the brain organizes its learning.
It is obvious that pedagogical practices do not remain fixed and take account of these discoveries. Besides, Maria Montessori at the end of her life regretted that her pedagogy remained frozen “I point the finger at a direction but everyone looks at my finger” According to Stanislas Dehaene, cognitive psychologist, neuroscientist and teacher, 4 factors would determine the speed and ease of learning:
Attention is the capacity we have to open ourselves to reality: thanks to it we take into account via our 5 senses different information related to our environment, our feelings emotional or psychological. Attention is selective: stimuli that are not related to our project are suppressed The educator must therefore succeed in capturing and channeling the attention of the child.For this it is important that the materials proposed do not distract the child from its main task.
Stanislas Dehaene writes “a passive organism does not learn”. Learning goes through doing it, it allows the child to know and realize when he does not know. It is the interest, the motivation that the child will bring to a task, a project that will enable him to be active.
Immediate feedback is characteristic of learning. The child needs to test a notion, an action before it can realize it. Positive motivation, encouragement such as the gaze of others and the awareness of progress (which are not rewards) stimulate learning.
Automation is the transition from conscious behavior with effort to unconscious automated behavior. To achieve this automation, repetition of gestures and action is necessary.
The sciences of human development give “the great universal laws” which govern the learning and the harmonious blossoming of man. For this, the child must learn independently in an enriching and safe environment with a group of children of different ages. A rich social support allows us to exploit all innate predispositions. Céline Alvarez talks about cerebral plasticity: During the first period of life, the brain of the child feeds on the world around him and experiences that he finds either positive or negative. Up to 6 years the child’s cerebral mechanism is said to be absorbing. The brain, however, retains only the most commonly used synaptic connections: we “specialize” in certain areas. To encourage this synaptic pruning it is important that the adult has an exemplary attitude, that it shows explicitly the good postures, clearly expresses the goal, in a calm atmosphere that favors the attention of the child and thus organization of these executive functions. The child can then exercise as much as he wishes. In an inter-age group, older children will be able to transmit to the youngest.
In psychology, the mechanism that allows man to act in an organized way to achieve an objective is called “executive functions.” They develop rapidly between 3 and 5 years, a real sensitive period that should not be missed. For this it is important that the adult allows the child to do what he can do by himself, without doing in his place but accompanying him. The capacity of a child to “want to do alone” is a real demonstration of his intelligence which must be allowed to be implemented. In order for the child to carry out the activity he wishes successfully, his executive functions must be well developed. The executive functions are organized into three main competencies:
1. Working memory
Allows you to store information and organize it. A child or adult with a weak working memory would have difficulty in retaining a command to, understand and remember the meaning of a text
2. Inhibitor control
Allows to remain attentive, to control his impulses, emotions or inappropriate gestures that is why it is imperative that the educator presents the activities individually to the child, since a young child has a weak inhibitory control, he is quickly distracted. A child, or adult with weak inhibitory control, would find it difficult to concentrate, wait for his turn, get tired easily in case of failure, difficulty not letting himself be overwhelmed by his emotions
3. Cognitive flexibility
To be creative and adjust our strategies in case of error. A child or an adult with low cognitive flexibility would have difficulty identifying errors and would therefore be discouraged.