Kids and Independent Learning

A friend of mine, who is studying childcare at TAFE, told me about a dilemma she faced during one of her assessment pracs. She was at a childcare centre playing with a little girl while the supervisor observed and marked her. The task presented involved making a collage from various materials, using glue and paper. After enjoying a short period of time where she threw around rice and smudged red paint over paper the girl started to become slightly frustrated so my friend gave her a bit of guidance and showed her how a few things can be glued together to make a picture. She was immediately instructed by the supervisor that this was not the right thing to do and might affect her mark in a negative way. The supervisor was adamant that helping the little girl would stifle her ability to learn independently and express herself through play.

How does one keep that fine balance between guidance and allowing the child to enjoy the process of learning and discovery on their own? Independent learning is important but how effective is it when the child becomes frustrated with the task?

I found this amazing video of a little girl working with a Montessori Zipping Dressing Frame that shows how kids, left to their own devices, can eventually master a really difficult task.

Mastering the art of zipping a Montessori Dressing Frame from Karla Norgaard on Vimeo.

Although in the beginning the girl does say “help me zip it” and it takes her a while to get the zipper working, eventually, she achieves the desired result and zips the frame herself. Obviously, this achievement is reward in itself and would work as a motivator for future learning.

Independence in learning works really well in a structured Montessori environment where trained Montessori professionals are able to demonstrate the task effectively and subsequently allow kids progress at their own pace. Kids are also able to observe other children in the classroom as the Montessori classroom usually has a mixture of age groups working together.

However, when this principle is applied in ordinary preschools with less structured activities it seems that it can become counterproductive, cause frustration and de-motivate a child.

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