Assessment and Testing in the Montessori Environment

As parents we need to examine our hopes for children in their educational journey. Is it for them to score high on a standardized test, or is it for them to feel confident and motivated to contribute in some way to the world in which they live? Is it for them to be a top speller in their class, or is it for your children to approach others with respect and problems with solutions? In a Montessori environment testing and assessment serve to further the development of the human personality and aren’t simply a means to an end.

In a Montessori school assessment occurs in many ways. To name a few:

The Montessori three period lesson

1st Period: the teacher shows and names a new concept,
Example: “These shapes are congruent.”

2nd Period: The teacher asks the child to show a particular concept. Example, “Show me the congruent shapes.”

3rd Period: The teacher asks child to recall the concept.
Example: “What are these shapes called?”

The materials themselves are self-correcting which shows the child when they have made a mistake so they know to go back and try again.

There is isolation of difficulty in the lesson sequence that allows the adult and child to assess understanding of complex processes from the beginning to the end.

Teachers observe the child at work and review the child’s work

Children are guided through the verbalizing processes in one’s work referred to as “self talk”.

Teachers involve children in the assessment of their own work, “What seems to be missing here?” “How do you think you did on this?

Students are asked to recall and apply acquired knowledge to new concepts (consistently done due to the interrelated approach of Montessori).

Students have opportunities for peer and self-checking/editing of work.

Students have opportunities for giving lessons to other students, which shows mastery.

Students at the elementary and middle school levels have regular conferences with teachers, helping them make and own the choices in their educational process.

Elementary and middle school students use portfolios and rubrics to help them reflect on their work.

Elementary and middle school students have some quizzes and tests, both teacher and student produced.

Elementary and middle school students complete project work culminating in presentations to students and/or parents.

Standardized testing occurs at 2nd through 6th grade. The Terra Nova Test is administered in the spring. These assessments provide individual parents with an overview of their child’s performance in core curriculum areas.

Test data is combined with the more comprehensive records and working knowledge of the students from teachers to inform the receiving level teachers about a child’s strengths and areas of challenge as captured in this one-time testing opportunity.

Additionally, by analyzing the data, looking for trends, the test data assists CMH with identifying areas of strength and relative weakness of our program, affirming what we do well and highlighting areas we need to provide more or specific learning experiences for children. Please remember that formal testing is only one snapshot into a child’s performance at a given time.

The skill sets achieved and knowledge gained in each discipline or curriculum area are all essential means or milestones along this educational journey, but they do not stand alone. They are not the ends but means for our greater goal of guiding our children in their development toward a meaningful adulthood.