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Exploring the introduction of the Montessori method in a Malawian cultural context through collaborative action research with children and teachers

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posted on 2023-08-30, 19:45 authored by Michelle D. Wisbey
Montessori education is based upon a dynamic triangle of three essential, interdependent elements: the child, the teacher, and the environment. This study explores the introduction of a Montessori approach into a rural community school in Malawi. It takes inspiration from Montessori’s early work in the first of her children’s houses and my own interpretation of her writings. The main research question is: How do we reconsider the Montessori method to support cultural collaboration and learning in a Malawian context? Applications of the elements of the dynamic triangle are explored and analysed, with respect to culturally specific pedagogical principles. A collaborative action research framework encompassing three action phases and three reflective phases was designed to enable collaboration and inclusivity. This approach facilitated the involvement of 11 teachers-researchers, 11 child-researchers and child participants. Reflexivity and reflection have played a key role in choosing and developing the research methods namely: observations; collaborative conversations; and photographs. The data analysis evolved in three steps: economical coding strategies, small note analysis, and a qualitative theme-based analysis. Teachers received training in key pedagogical principles combined with opportunities to experiment and reflect on practice. Application of the Montessori pedagogy supported the adaption of the prepared, temporal, social environment to fit with local practicalities and Malawian cultural influences. The findings illustrate what authentic Montessori education can mean in a Malawian cultural context. Analysis of the data highlights that children’s involvement and independence increase in a culturally influenced Montessori environment. Despite Montessori being an approach formed a century ago my findings indicate that it can be successfully implemented as a sustainable approach to education in contexts such as Malawi. The nature of this work relies on the collaboration between the trainer, the community, the teachers, and the children to redefine Montessori education and teacher training. A model is proposed for creating culturally responsive Montessori pedagogy and practice. Culture, reflection and teacher training draw together the three elements of the dynamic triangle to frame a culturally collaborative Montessori approach.



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