The Montessori Approach as a Model of Personalized Instruction




personalized learning, Montessori approach, models for personalization, strategies for personalization


I present a brief overview of the key elements of personalized learning and Montessori education, a related pedagogical approach, aiming to examine common theoretical principles and key elements. I discuss the common features of personalized instruction and the Montessori approach of education. Both personalized instruction and the Montessori approach stand firmly on a constructivist paradigm and share many philosophical and theoretical principles. Research has shown that Montessori education is one of the most visible models that incorporates numerous aspects of personalized instruction and shares many common elements with personalized learning. This research has shown that, while personalized instruction also suggests many strategies for implementation of the concept, Montessori education actualizes the principles of personalized learning.


Alamri, H., Lowell, V., Watson, W., & Watson, S. L. (2020). Using personalized learning as an instructional approach to motivate learners in online higher education: Learner self-determination and intrinsic motivation. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 52(3), 322–352.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (2005). High schools for the new millennium: Imagine the possibilities.

Block, C. R. (2015). Examining a public Montessori school’s response to the pressures of high-stakes accountability. Journal of Montessori Research, 1(1), 42–54.

Bodrova, E. (2003). Vygotsky and Montessori: One dream, two visions. Montessori Life, 15(1), 30–32. Research Gate.

Bonwell, C. C., & Eison, J. A. (1991). Active learning: Creating excitement in the classroom (ED336049). ERIC.

Bransford, J. D., Sherwood, R. D., Hasselbring, T. S., Kinzer, C. K., & Williams, S. M. (1990). Anchored instruction: Why we need it and how technology can help. In D. Nix & R. J. Spiro (Eds.), Cognition, education, and multimedia: Exploring ideas in high technology (pp. 115–141). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Bruner, J. S. (1961). The act of discovery. Harvard Educational Review, 31, 21–32.

Casquejo Johnston, L. M. (2016). Examining Montessori middle school through a self-determination theory lens: A study of the lived experiences of adolescents. Journal of Montessori Research, 2(1), 27–42.

Casquejo Johnston, L. M. (2019). Montessori middle school: The Erdkinder. Middle Grades Review, 5(3), Article 4.

Collins, A., Brown, J. S., & Newman, S. E. (1988). Cognitive apprenticeship: Teaching the craft of reading, writing and mathematics. Thinking: The Journal of Philosophy for Children, 8(1), 2–10.

Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Rathunde, K. (2014). The development of the person: An experiential perspective on the ontogenesis of psychological complexity. In M. Csikszentmihalyi (Ed.), Applications of flow in human development and education: The collected works of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pp. 7–79). Springer.

Darling-Hammond, L. (1997). The right to learn: A blueprint for creating schools that work. Jossey-Bass.

De Marsico, M., Sterbini, A., & Temperini, M. (2011). The zone of proximal development between adaptive learning and reputation-based group activities. Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Distributed Multimedia Systems, Florence, Italy.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11(4), 227–268.

Dehnad, A., Afsharian, F., Hosseini, F., Arabshahi, S. K. S., & Bigdeli, S. (2014). Pursuing a definition of self-directed learning in literature from 2000–2012. Procedia–Social and Behavioral Sciences, 116, 5184–5187.

Dennen, V. P., & Burner, K. J. (2008). The cognitive apprenticeship model in educational practice. In J. M. Spector, M. D. Merrill, J. van Merriënboer, & M. P. Driscoll (Eds.), Handbook of research on educational communications and technology (pp. 425–439). Routledge.

Department for Education and Skills. (2004). A national conversation about personalised learning. Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.

Hickman, L. A., & Alexander, T. M. (1998). The essential Dewey: Pragmatism, education, democracy (Vol. 1). Indiana University Press.

Diamond, A., & Lee, K. (2011). Interventions shown to aid executive function development in children 4 to 12 years old. Science, 333(6045), 959–964.

Dohrmann, K. R. (2003). Outcomes for students in a Montessori program: A longitudinal study of the experience in the Milwaukee Public Schools. Association Montessori International / USA.

Elkind, D. (1967). Piaget and Montessori. Harvard Educational Review, 37(4), 535–545.

Field, S., Martin, J., Miller, R., Ward, M., & Wehmeyer, M. (1998). A practical guide to teaching self-determination. Council for Exceptional Children.

Fleege, U. H. (1967). Montessori pre-school education: Final report (ED017320). ERIC; De Paul University.

Grazzini, C. (1996). The four planes of development. NAMTA Journal, 21(2), 27–61.

Gutek, G. L. (2004). The Montessori Method: The origins of an educational innovation: Including an abridged and annotated edition of Maria Montessori’s The Montessori Method. Rowman & Littlefield.

Haines, A. M. (1995). Montessori and assessment: Some issues of assessment and curriculum reform. NAMTA Journal, 20(2), 116–130.

Hallahan, D. P., Pullen, P. C., Kauffman, J. M., & Badar, J. (2020). Exceptional learners. In G. W. Noblit (Ed.), Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education.

Houchens, G. W., Crossbourne, T.-A., Zhang, J., Norman, A. D., Chon, K., Fisher, L., & Schraeder, M. (2014, November 5–7). Personalized learning: A theoretical review and implications for assessing kid-FRIENDLy student outcomes. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Mid-South Educational Research Association, Knoxville, TN, United States.

Iwasiw, C. L. (1987). The role of the teacher in self-directed learning. Nurse Education Today, 7(5), 222–227.

Kallick, B., & Zmuda, A. (2017). Students at the center: Personalized learning with habits of mind. ASCD.

Kaplan, A., & Maehr, M. L. (2007). The contributions and prospects of goal orientation theory. Educational Psychology Review, 19(2), 141–184.

Keefe, J. W. (2007). What is personalization? Phi Delta Kappan, 89(3), 217–223.

Keefe, J. W., & Jenkins, J. M. (2000). Personalized instruction: Changing classroom practice. Eye on Education.

Keefe, J. W., & Jenkins, J. M. (2002). A special section on personalized instruction. Phi Delta Kappan, 83(6), 440–448.

Keller, F. S. (1968). “Good‐bye, teacher…” Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1(1), 79–89.

Knowles, M. S. (1975). Self-directed learning: A guide for learners and teachers. Cambridge Adult Education.

Landrum, T. J., & McDuffie, K. A. (2010). Learning styles in the age of differentiated instruction. Exceptionality, 18(1), 6–17.

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge University Press

Lillard, A., & Else-Quest, N. (2006). The early years: Evaluating Montessori education. Science, 313(5795), 1893–1894.

Lillard, A. S. (2016). Montessori: The science behind the genius. Oxford University Press

Lillard, P. P. (1988). Montessori: A modern approach. Schocken Books.

Lim-Dunham, J. E., Ensminger, D. C., McNulty, J. A., Hoyt, A. E., & Chandrasekhar, A. J. (2016). A vertically integrated online radiology curriculum developed as a cognitive apprenticeship: Impact on student performance and learning. Academic Radiology, 23(2), 252–261.

Lokey-Vega, A., & Stephens, S. (2019). A batch of one: A theoretical framework for the personalized learning movement. Journal of Online Learning Research, 5(3), 311–330.

Lopata, C., Wallace, N. V., & Finn, K. V. (2005). Comparison of academic achievement between Montessori and traditional education programs. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 20(1), 5–13.

MacDonald, G. (2016). Technology in the Montessori classroom: Benefits, hazards and preparation for life (EJ1112230). ERIC. NAMTA Journal, 41(2), 99–107.

Malone, T. W., & Lepper, M. R. (1987). Making learning fun: A taxonomy of intrinsic motivations for learning. In R. E. Snow & M. J. Farr (Eds.), Aptitude, learning, and instruction: Cognitive and affective process analyses (Vol. 3, pp. 223–253). Erlbaum.

Mayhew, K. C., & Edwards, A. C. (1936). The Dewey School: The laboratory of the University of Chicago, 1896–1903. D. Appleton-Century.

McManus, T. F. (2000). Individualizing instruction in a web-based hypermedia learning environment: Nonlinearity, advance organizers, and self-regulated learners. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 11(2), 219–251.

Montessori, M. (1964). The Montessori Method (A. E. George, Trans.). Schocken Books. (Original work published 1912)

Montessori, M. (1973). The absorbent mind (C. A. Claremont, Trans.). Holt, Rinehart and Winston. (Original work published 1949)

Montessori, M. (1989). What you should know about your child. Clio.

Montessori, M. (2007). From childhood to adolescence (H. R. Lane, Trans.). Montessori-Pierson.

Montessori, M. (2013). The secret of childhood. Aakar Books. (Original work published 1936)

Moore, M. G. (1973). Toward a theory of independent learning and teaching. The Journal of Higher Education, 44(9), 661–679.

Murphy, J., Beck, L. G., Crawford, M., Hodges, A., & McGaughy, C. L. (2001). The productive high school: Creating personalized academic communities. Corwin Press.

Murphy, M. (2016). Foreword. In M. Murphy, S. Redding, & J. S. Twyman (Eds.), Handbook on personalized learning for states, districts, and schools (pp. i–vi). Center on Innovations for Learning, Information Age Publishing.

Murray, A. (2011). Montessori elementary philosophy reflects current motivation theories. Montessori Life, 23(1), 22–33.

Office of Educational Technology. (2010). Transforming American education: Learning powered by technology: National Education Technology Plan 2010. U.S. Department of Education.

O’Neill, G., & McMahon, T. (2005). Student-centred learning: What does it mean for students and lecturers? In G. O’Neill, S. Moore, & B. McMullin (Eds.), Emerging issues in the practice of university learning and teaching (pp. 27–36). All Ireland Society for Higher Education (AISHE).

Patrick, S., Kennedy, K., & Powell, A. (2013). Mean what you say: Defining and integrating personalized, blended and competency education. International Association for K–12 Online Learning.

Phillips, S. (1977). Maria Montessori and contemporary cognitive psychology. British Journal of Teacher Education, 3(1), 55–68.

Piaget, J. (1964). Part I: Cognitive development in children: Piaget: Development and learning. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 2(3), 176–186.

Prince, M. (2004). Does active learning work? A review of the research. Journal of Engineering Education, 93(3), 223–231.

Rathunde, K. (2001). Montessori education and optimal experience: A framework for new research. NAMTA Journal, 26(1), 11–43.

Rathunde, K. (2003). A comparison of Montessori and traditional middle schools: Motivation, quality of experience, and social context. NAMTA Journal, 28(3), 13–52.

Redding, S. (2016). Competencies and personalized learning. In M. Murphy, S. Redding, & J. S. Twyman (Eds.), Handbook on personalized learning for states, districts, and schools (pp. 3–18). Center on Innovations for Learning, Information Age Publishing.

Roemer, K. L. (1999). Assessment practices used by Montessori teachers of kindergarten through sixth grade students in the United States [Doctoral dissertation, University of Memphis].

Shernoff, D. J., Csikszentmihalyi, M., Shneider, B., & Shernoff, E. S. (2003). Student engagement in high school classrooms from the perspective of flow theory. School Psychology Quarterly, 18(2), 158–176.

Sizer, T. R., & National Association of Secondary School Principals. (1984). A study of high schools: A report of “Horace’s compromise.” National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Spencer, J. A., & Jordan, K. R. (1999). Learner centred approaches in medical education. British Medical Journal, 318, 1280–1283.

Stradling, B., & Saunders, L. (1993). Differentiation in practice: Responding to the needs of all pupils. Educational Research, 35(2), 127–137.

Taylor, R. D., & Gebre, A. (2016). Teacher–student relationships and personalized learning: Implications of person and contextual variables. In M. Murphy, S. Redding, & J. S. Twyman (Eds.), Handbook on personalized learning for states, districts, and schools (pp. 205–220). Center on Innovations for Learning, Information Age Publishing.

Tomlinson, C. A. (2005). Grading and differentiation: Paradox or good practice? Theory Into Practice, 44(3), 262–269.

Ültanir, E. (2012). An epistemological glance at the constructivist approach: Constructivist learning in Dewey, Piaget, and Montessori (ED533786). ERIC. International Journal of Instruction, 5(2), 195–212.

van Hout-Wolters, B., Simons, R.-J., & Volet, S. (2000). Active learning: Self-directed learning and independent work. In R. J. Simons, J. van der Linden, & T. Duffy (Eds.) New learning (pp. 21–36). Springer.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1980). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Harvard University Press

Walkington, C., & Bernacki, M. L. (2020). Appraising research on personalized learning: Definitions, theoretical alignment, advancements, and future directions. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 52(3), 235–252.

Watson, S. L., & Reigeluth, C. M. (2008). The learner-centered paradigm of education. Educational Technology, 48(5), 42–48.

Watson, W. R., & Watson, S. L. (2016). Principles for personalized instruction. In C. M. Reigeluth, B. J. Beatty, & R. D. Myers (Eds.), Instructional-design theories and models, Vol. IV (pp. 109–136). Routledge.

Williams, N., & Keith, R. (2000). Democracy and Montessori education. Peace Review, 12(2), 217–222.




How to Cite

Mavric, M. (2020). The Montessori Approach as a Model of Personalized Instruction. Journal of Montessori Research, 6(2).