Breaking the Circle of One: Reflection in Montessori Early Childhood Centres in Aotearoa New Zealand
Little is currently known about how teachers in New Zealand Montessori early childhood centres reflect on Montessori philosophy and practice individually and collaboratively within teaching teams. The purpose of this research was to discover the current views about reflection on Montessori philosophy, the barriers teachers faced in reflecting and opportunities they identified for reflection. The impact that requirements for self review and teacher reflection have had on the approach taken to reflection, inquiry and professional learning by teachers in Montessori early childhood centres was also investigated. This research study used a mixed method case study and data was collected from teachers working in Montessori early childhood centres through semistructured interviews with three groups and an online survey of individual teachers. Participants placed high importance on reflection. However some participants were reluctant to critique Montessori philosophy; either because they viewed it as ‘valid’ or because they were concerned about being regarded as ‘heretical’ by other teachers. Participants felt safe raising questions within their teaching teams, but were more wary of debating and questioning philosophical issues with teachers in the wider Montessori community. Others regarded reflection as an opportunity to develop a shared understanding of Montessori philosophy and practice in their early childhood centre. Despite the participants’ perception that their team spent time reflecting on Montessori philosophy and relating this to daily teaching practice, it was still a challenge to make these reflective activities a priority in limited centre team meeting times. In addition, it appears that more support is needed to improve skills and knowledge about how the cyclical process of review or inquiry can engage with Montessori philosophy, inform centre philosophy, drive centre practice and improve outcomes for children. This study suggests that teachers would benefit from the creation of ‘safe spaces’ where they can engage with colleagues from their own or other Montessori early childhood centres in debate and discussion so that teaching practice becomes based on critical engagement with the underlying theoretical or philosophical principles of Montessori education.