Culture, Craft, & Coherence: The Unexpected Vitality of Montessori Teacher Training

Dec. 24, 2009

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 60, No. 5, p. 520-527. (November/December 2009). (Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This essay examines the how’s why’s and what for’s of Montessori teacher training. The central argument of this essay is that Montessori teacher training offers a unique perspective on professional preparation, which is grounded in the core values—and paradoxes—of Montessori education. The author highlights three concepts—culture, craft, and coherence—that are common to the lexicon of teacher education but experienced distinctively in Montessori education.

The essay uses data from both mainstream teacher education research and ethnographic studies of Montessori teacher training.

Culture: “A Modern Day Oral Tradition”

The transmission of tradition, the sense of lineage and initiation that occurs among trainees, is central to the culture of Montessori generally and of training courses specifically.

Montessori culture is bounded, ritualized, and driven by a cosmology that links practical means to moral and spiritual ends. Indeed, Montessori education and, especially, Montessori teacher training weave together ideology and technique in the complex cultural activity (Hiebert, Gallimore, & Stigler, 2002) of learning to teach.

Craft: Mastering the Script

Where the concept of culture highlights the power of group identity and the importance of ideology in framing vital teacher preparation, equally important is the concept of craft.
By craft, the author means a particular kind of practical knowledge, one bounded by culture and transmitted according to highly specified cultural and technical scripts. In both its elevation of technique and its reverence for tradition, Montessori teacher training aims to create a stable pathway for the acquisition of a pedagogical repertoire.

Coherence: The Prepared Adult

The enactment of craft knowledge in which the hows of practice are embedded in the whys of practice constitutes a new, more complicated version of coherence. Here, coherence is more a matter of the actions and intentions of participants. When actions cohere with intentions, teachers are rendered stable in their practice. When practice is supported by congruence and consistency, mastery is more likely to be achieved.

The example of Montessori teacher training offers a fully integrated system in which moral and spiritual goods are constituted in practice and technique, in turn, is the pathway to practice. In its exquisite focus on the hows as well as whys of human development, Montessori practice demands vigorous attention to the details of learning and teaching. Such a focus remains lacking in mainstream teacher preparation

Hiebert, J., Gallimore, R., & Stigler, J. (2002). A knowledge base for the teaching profession: What would it look like and how can we get one? Educational Researcher, 31(5), 3-15.

Updated: Mar. 14, 2010