15 Big Differences Between Montessori Vs Traditional Schools

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montessori vs traditional

Deciding between a Montessori and traditional preschool by comparing Montessori vs traditional for your child can be a very challenging task. With various opinions and information surrounding each educational model, it’s natural to feel uncertain about which one is the best fit for your child.

Montessori academies and traditional institutions follow entirely different approaches to education. To make an informed decision, it is crucial to understand the fundamental differences in how they approach learning and development.

If you are new to Montessori education, you may find yourself asking the question, “What sets Montessori apart from traditional classrooms?” The answer to that question, however, encompasses numerous factors.

To aid with your decision-making process, we have conducted extensive research on the differences between the two types of schools, as well as the advantages and disadvantages associated with each model. 

What is Montessori vs Traditional Education?

If you are facing the decision of choosing between a traditional preschool and a Montessori preschool, the first important step is to familiarize yourself with these methods. 

Montessori Education

The Montessori Method is a philosophy of education and an educational approach that was developed by Maria Montessori, an Italian physician, and educator. 

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    Montessori education believes that children are naturally curious and eager to learn and that they learn best by doing.

    Montessori academies typically have mixed-age classrooms which allow children to learn freely the activity of their choice.

    The classroom is divided into different areas, each of which focuses on a different subject area, such as math, language, science, and art. 

    Children can work independently or with others and develop their understanding of the world.

    Montessori teachers are trained to observe children and to provide individualized support and guidance. 

    Many Montessori institutions do not lecture or direct children’s activities. Instead, they help children to learn by providing them with materials and activities that are appropriate for their age and interests.

    Traditional Method of Education

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    The traditional method of education is a teacher-centered approach to learning that has been used for centuries. 

    In this approach, the teacher is the primary source of knowledge and information, and students are expected to listen to lectures, take notes, and complete assignments.

    Further, it follows a strict and rigid structure, consistent across different locations, and holds students accountable for their learning through examinations and a grading system.

    In recent years, there has been a growing movement away from the traditional pedagogy of education and towards more student-centered approaches to learning. 

    These approaches, such as Montessori and project-based learning, emphasize active learning, collaboration, and creativity.

    The traditional method of education is still widely used in schools today, but it is likely that we will see a continued shift towards more student-centered approaches in the years to come.

    Traditional Vs Montessori Education (the difference between Montessori and traditional education)

    So what is the difference between Montessori and traditional education?

    In this section, we will shed light on the varying degree to which these methods differ based on 8 factors: pedagogy, education style, environment, schedule, sectioning, teacher qualifications, disciple approach, and cost. 

    Pedagogy of Montessori vs Traditional

    1. Teaching methods

    In Montessori education, teachers take on the role of guides and consultants, providing individualized support to students as they navigate their unique learning paths. 

    This personalized approach sets Montessori apart from traditional education, where lessons are typically predetermined and delivered uniformly to all students, following a fixed pace and order.

    Montessori education places a strong emphasis on cognitive structures and social development, recognizing the importance of nurturing both aspects of a child’s growth. 

    In contrast, traditional education often prioritizes rote knowledge acquisition alongside social development.

    Montessori education embraces a student-centered approach with individualized guidance, fostering cognitive structures and social development. 

    Traditional education, on the other hand, tends to focus more on rote learning and social development, following a predetermined curriculum and lesson delivery for all students.

    1. Teacher’s role

    A Montessori classroom includes a teacher that assumes an unobtrusive role, allowing the child to take an active part in the learning process. 

    The emphasis is on the child’s active participation and engagement in a preschool class. 

    In contrast, in a traditional classroom setting, the teacher plays a dominant and active role, while the child is often a passive participant.

    Montessori lessons are designed to be hands-on and interactive, encouraging students to discover information and knowledge through their own exploration and experimentation. This classroom provides opportunities to introduce meaningful learning experiences. 

    On the other hand, traditional institutions’ lessons tend to be delivered through lectures or oral presentations, with students listening passively, memorizing information, and later being assessed through tests or examinations.

    1.  Qualifications of teachers in traditional vs Montessori schools

    In Montessori classes, teachers typically undergo specialized Montessori training and certification. 

    In a traditional classroom, teachers are typically required to have a bachelor’s degree in education, as well as a teaching license. 

    The specific requirements for a teaching license vary from state to state, but they typically include passing a state-mandated exam and completing a certain number of hours of coursework and fieldwork.

    In a Montessori academy, teachers are typically required to have a Montessori certification. 

    Montessori certification programs vary in length and content, but they typically include coursework in Montessori philosophy, pedagogy, and materials. 

    Some Montessori certification programs also require students to complete a practicum, or internship, in a Montessori classroom.

    Montessori Method and Traditional Education

    1. Philosophy

    The teaching philosophy is a major distinguishing factor between Montessori education and the traditional method.

    As previously mentioned, Montessori centers adhere to the principles of the Montessori method, which encompass values such as honoring the child, addressing the holistic development of each individual, promoting personalized learning, and providing opportunities for choice. 

    These principles shape the educational approach in Montessori classrooms and set them apart from traditional educational settings.

    While specific practices may vary among Montessori centers or traditional classrooms, the underlying philosophy remains consistent. 

    It is important to recognize that the overall approach to education in Montessori centers and traditional academies will differ due to the guiding principles and values that inform their respective teaching philosophies.

    1. Curriculum

    The Montessori curriculum expands in response to the student’s needs. The curriculum is based on the belief that children are naturally curious and eager to learn and that they learn best by doing.

    The Montessori curriculum is divided into different areas, each of which focuses on a different subject area, such as math, language, science, and art. Children can choose their own activities, and they can work independently or with others.

    Traditional curricula, on the other hand, are predetermined without regard to student needs.

    Traditional institutions have a curriculum that is designed to be taught to all students in the same way. 

    The curriculum is based on the belief that all children learn at the same pace and that they need to be taught in a structured environment.

    The traditional curriculum is divided into different subjects, and students are expected to learn the material in a specific order. 

    Students are typically taught by a teacher who lectures and provides instruction to the entire class.

    1. Assessments

    In traditional institutions, they employ summative assessments wherein students are evaluated by teachers. 

    Summative assessment, on the other hand, is typically done at the end of a unit or semester. It is used to measure student learning and to assign grades.

    In Montessori institutions, however, formative assessment is more important than summative assessment. 

    Formative assessment is ongoing and takes place throughout the learning process. It is used to help students track their progress and to identify areas where they need additional support. 

    Montessori students are encouraged to self-assess their own learning. They are given opportunities to reflect on their work and to set goals for themselves. 

    1. Boosts self-esteem and intrinsic motivation

    In Montessori education, self-esteem is believed to originate from an inherent sense of accomplishment and personal pride within the child. 

    On the other hand, traditional classrooms often associate self-esteem with external evaluations and approval.

    1. Development of the love for learning

    Montessori curricula are designed to stimulate and nurture the natural curiosity and thirst for knowledge that children possess. 

    The aim is to instill a genuine love for learning in children. In contrast, traditional curricula tend to prioritize performance on standardized tests and grades, with learning often viewed as a compulsory requirement.

    Classroom Environment in Montessori Classroom vs Traditional School

    1. Prepared environment and traditional environment

    Montessori environments and teaching methods foster the development of internal self-discipline within students. 

    The classroom environment is carefully arranged to cater to individual needs, with lessons and activities designed to empower students. 

    In contrast, traditional classrooms rely more on external discipline enforced by the teacher. 

    The focus is often on teacher-centered lessons and activities rather than student-centered approaches.

    1. Classrooms

    The Montessori preschool classroom is structured into five distinct areas: Practical Life, Language, Mathematics, Sensorial Development, and Culture & Sciences. 

    The classroom is deliberately arranged in an organized and minimalistic manner to minimize distractions and emphasize its role as a dedicated learning environment. 

    In contrast to traditional classrooms that often rely on vibrant colors, posters, and decorations to generate excitement, Montessori classrooms prioritize the use of high-quality lessons and materials to engage and stimulate children’s minds.

    1. Class size

    Class sizes in Montessori academies typically range from 20 to 30 students. 

    Some schools even have larger class sizes of up to 40 students.

    Opposingly, class sizes in traditional academies typically range from 15 to 25 students. 

    In some cases, these schools have even smaller class sizes.

    Learning Schedules in Montessori and Traditional Setup

    1. Learning time and pacing

    In a Montessori classroom, children have the freedom to work on lessons for as long as necessary, and efforts are made to minimize interruptions. 

    The unique pace at which each child works is respected and encouraged. 

    In contrast, traditional classrooms often have rigid schedules that impose arbitrary time limits on activities and lessons. 

    Traditional classrooms generally expect all children to progress at the same pace.

    Class Sectioning in Montessori and Traditional Education

    1. Multi-age grouping vs grade levels

    Multi-age grouping and grade levels are two different approaches to organizing students in a school setting.

    Montessori schools have a flexible approach to grade levels, which are determined based on the child’s developmental range which follows a 3-year cycle.

    Multi-age grouping means that students of different ages are grouped together in the same classroom. 

    In contrast, traditional academies adhere to fixed grade levels determined solely by chronological age within a twelve-month period.

    Grade levels mean that students are grouped together by their age or academic achievement. This type of grouping is the most common approach used in schools today.

    Disciple Approach of Teachers in Traditional vs Montessori

    1. Type of discipline

    The approach to discipline looks different in a Montessori school and in traditional classes.

    In traditional classes, discipline is often seen as a top-down process, with teachers enforcing rules and consequences. This includes methods that employ disciplinary actions like time-outs, exclusion from class, or visits to the principal’s office.

    In Montessori schools, discipline is seen as a more collaborative process, with teachers and students working together to create a positive learning environment.

    Montessori classrooms emphasize a natural self-discipline approach, devoid of punitive measures for students. 

    Instead, the focus is on fostering a sense of responsibility in children for the privileges they receive. 

    In cases where children misuse these privileges and responsibilities, natural consequences are employed to assist them in understanding the correlation.

    Cost of Montessori Schools vs Traditional Classroom

    1. Cost of education

    The cost of education in Montessori schools is typically higher than the cost of education in traditional institutions.

    There are a few reasons for the higher cost of Montessori education. 

    First, Montessori schools typically have smaller class sizes than traditional classes. This allows teachers to provide more individualized attention to each student. 

    Second, Montessori schools use specialized materials and equipment that can be expensive. 

    Third, Montessori schools often have higher teacher salaries than traditional ones.

    Despite the higher cost, many parents choose to send their children to Montessori schools because they believe that the Montessori method of education is more effective than traditional pedagogy.

    Similarities Between Montessori and Traditional Schools

    From structured environments to academic foundations, both approaches share essential aspects in shaping students’ education. Let’s have a look at these similarities in more details below.

    Structured Learning Environment: Montessori and traditional schools both provide organized classroom settings to facilitate learning.

    Academic Foundations: Traditional schools and Montessori schools method’s emphasize foundational academic subjects like math, language arts, and science.

    Qualified Teachers: In both of these teaching methods, trained educators who who guide students in their learning journey is utilized.

    Social Interaction: They both offer opportunities for students to interact and develop social skills through group activities.

    Curriculum Objectives: Both aim to equip students with essential knowledge and skills necessary for their future.

    Assessment Methods: In terms of assessment, Montessori education and traditional schools use assessments to gauge student progress and tailor instruction accordingly.

    Learning Resources: Educational materials, albeit with a difference in approach are common.

    Extracurricular Activities: Extracurricular activities such as sports, arts, and clubs are important aspects of learning in both Montessori education and tradition schools.

    Transition to Higher Levels: Both traditional schools and Montessori schools prepare students for higher education or advanced learning stages.

    Parental Involvement: These two different approaches see parents as important aspect of a child’s development and encourage parents to engage in their child’s education through communication and participation.

    Despite their unique approaches, Montessori and traditional education share several fundamental similarities in shaping students’ educational experiences.

    Montessori Compared to Traditional Schools

    Montessori education consistently demonstrates better academic outcomes compared to traditional schools. Montessori students outperform peers in English, Math, and Science. Estimated impact ranges from 15% to 24% higher achievement in English, 8% to 30% in Math, and 14% to 27% in Science. Montessori students excel in readiness for college and career, with higher proficiency rates in ELA, Math, and Science.

    Additionally, they exhibit advanced social skills, with increased reasoning, positive peer interactions, and better understanding of complex concepts. Montessori students consistently achieve higher proficiency levels, even after considering parental motivation. They also show higher inclination for advanced math courses, adapt well to high school math, and continue their success in high school.


    There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of which type of education is better. 

    The best type of education for a child will depend on their individual needs and learning style.

    If you are considering Montessori or traditional preschools for your child, it is important to do your research and find a school that is a good fit for your child’s needs. 

    After gaining a deeper understanding of the distinctions between Montessori schools and traditional institutions, you may want to talk to other parents, visit schools, and read about the different philosophies.

    If you still have any lingering questions, ultimately, the best way to decide which type of education is right for your child is to talk to your child and visit schools.


    What are the similarities between traditional vs Montessori?Both Montessori schools and traditional schools provide a secure and supportive atmosphere where children can thrive and develop. Additionally, both educational settings employ dedicated and qualified teachers who are enthusiastic about imparting knowledge and assisting children in reaching their maximum capabilities.

    Is Montessori better than traditional? There is no definitive answer to the question of whether Montessori education is better than traditional learning. Montessori schools are typically organized around three areas of development: Practical Life, Sensorial, and Academic. On the other hand, traditional classes are typically more affordable than Montessori schools, and they are more widely available. Both approaches have their own strengths and weaknesses, and the best choice for a child will depend on their individual needs and learning style.

    How does Montessori affect child development? The Montessori approach has a significant impact on child development, fostering various aspects of growth and learning. This includes developing their independence and self-directed learning, social and emotional development, cognitive development, creativity and imagination, and their respect for nature and the environment. It’s important to note that the impact of Montessori education on child development may vary based on individual experiences, as well as the implementation of the Montessori principles by the specific school and teachers.