Matt’s comment to yesterday’s CBE post got me thinking and Googling.
In case I’ve left the wrong impression, I will start by going on the record as saying that I think CBE is potentially a great idea, and that I am even cautiously optimistic about the practice of CBE in Iowa. My objections, at this point, are about apparent plans to impose CBE on all Iowa districts.
A disclaimer: my Montessori experience is largely with the primary level (ages 3-6) and some familiarity with the elementary level. There aren’t very many Montessori high schools, and Montessori isn’t trademarked, so my impressions are based more on my understanding of Montessori philosophy and practice at the earlier grade levels rather than at the high school level.
I think some of the apparent differences between Montessori and CBE are, to some extent, more of a difference in the language used to describe the programs then a substantial difference. However, I have a few initial thoughts on differences between Montessori and CBE.
Interestingly, Montessori developed from the youngest children upward, while Iowa CBE appears to be starting with the oldest children with plans to add younger children later.
Iowa CBE strikes me as still being driven by external motivation (does my teacher think that I have done enough to earn a credit/grade?) while Montessori attempts to preserve and foster internal motivation, learning for self-satisfaction of the child rather than to please the teacher. Montessori does this in various ways, including independent choice, not having grades, and creating opportunities for children to discover and correct their own errors, through either control of error or having children check their own work, rather than having the teacher correct them.
Iowa CBE seems to be looking at relying heavily on technology and data to facilitate student self-pacing, while Montessori has been facilitating student self-pacing for one hundred years through a combination of teacher observations, uninterrupted work periods, multiage classrooms, independent choice in a prepared environment, and materials designed with control of error or that children can check for themselves.
Iowa CBE seems assessment obsessed to me, though this may be at least partly a function of language. I will say that I have never heard Montessori teachers discuss formative assessments; Montessori teachers are constantly observing students at work in the classroom and noting their development, inviting them to lessons as they appear ready for them.