Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Montessori and Optimal Experience Research: Toward Building a Comprehensive Education Reform

David Kahn
The NAMTA Journal, Vol. 28, No. 3. Summer 2003

This article begins with the author reviewing some of Dr Maria Montessori’s quotations about “normalization,” the term she uses to describe children operating in a state much like what Csikszentmihalyi describes as a flow state. She talks about such qualities as “spontaneous discipline” and “continuous and happy work,” which are hallmarks of the flow state as well. Her next quotation is also quite intriguing, in that she highlights the value of what she calls “concentration,” which is different from focus and is analogous to the flow state.

The article goes on to restate Csikszentmihalyi’s formulation of flow as an optimal relationship between challenge and skill, and presents a graph that visually models this relationship and the conditions associated with it.

Kahn goes on to restate Csikszentmihalyi’s nine characteristics of the flow experience, and goes on to compare the qualities of flow to the three characteristics of “normalized” children-- spontaneous discipline, concentration, and engagement. This is an especially intriguing idea, as it draws fascinating paralells between Montessori methods and flow theory.

Kahn shares an anecdote in which Csikszentmihalyi was told of Montessori’s formulation as described above, and shares Csikszentmihalyi’s delight at how Montessori regarded flow as innate in the human species.

The author goes on to discuss some differences between flow and Montessori’s formulation of normalization, and posits that Montessori works “bottom up” whereas flow works “top down,” referring to the age of those the theories apply best to. Kahn then discusses Dr. Kevin Rathunde, a flow researcher who worked with Csikszentmihalyi and has done extensive Montessori research.

Kahn turns to educational reform, and cites Rathunde’s work researching three distinct Montessori programs. Importantly, Kahn cites a construct of Rathunde’s in that flow and/or normalization can also be described by the term “undivided interest,” which is a condition in which intrinsic motivation and seriousness and high simultaneously.

“Only “normalised” children, aided by their environment, show in their subsequent development those wonderful powers that we describe: spontaneous discipline, continuous and happy work, social sentiments of help and sympa- thy for others....”

“Its principal feature never changes. It is “application to work.” An interesting piece of work, freely chosen, which has the virtue of inducing concentration rather than fa- tigue, adds to the child’s energies and mental capacities and leads him to self-mastery. (The Absorbent Mind 257)”

“1. Goals Are Clear: One knows at every moment what one wants to do.
2. Feedback Is Immediate: One knows at every moment how well one is doing.
3. Skills Match Challenges: The opportunities for action in the environment are in balance with the person’s ability to act.
4. Concentration Is Deep: Attention is focused on the task at hand. 5. Problems Are Forgotten: Irrelevant stimuli are excluded from
6. Control Is Possible: In principle, success is in one’s hands.
7. Self-Consciousness Disappears: One has a sense of transcend- ing the limits of one’s ego.
8. The Sense of Time Is Altered: Usually it seems to pass much faster.
9. The Experience Becomes Autotelic: It is worth having for its own sake.”

“When told about Montessori’s normalization idea, Dr. Csikszentmihalyi quipped, “My goodness, this is fascinating. Dr. Montessori regarded normalization or flow as the norm of the species!” At this point a world-celebrated psychologist from the University of Chicago began to pursue the connection between his optimal experience called flow and Montessori’s normalization.”

“ Rathunde’s measure called “undivided interest” is when intrinsic motivation and seriousness are above average at the same time.”

No comments:

Post a Comment