The importance of observation in Montessori pedagogy


Montessori education is child-centred.

It focuses the psychological characteristics of the child to know his interest and develop his self-building process on which he works independently. It nourishes him with the help and support of the Montessori educator.

This Montessori educator is above all a good observer who has in mind the psychological needs of children according to their development plan, which must be met through the environment they set up and the interaction they develop with the children.

Therefore, in order to be able to do so, one of the main tasks that a Montessori educator must develop is the sense of observation, because it is essential to help her understand the child, prepare the environment and meet her psychological needs.

The more the capacity and ability to observe is developed, the better the child is guided and the more the manifestation of the fundamental principles of Montessori is illustrated.

The importance of observation in Montessori pedagogy

The ability to observe the child’s psychological characteristics is crucial to help the teacher and the child create a positive environment in which the child’s needs can be understood and met.

The main objective of the Montessori Guide throughout his or her daily observations is to note and consider the child’s psychological development within the classroom and his or her development in all areas that may be emotional, social, academic, cultural, etc.

By observing the child’s psychological characteristics, the guide will notice the developmental plan in which the child finds himself.

Some characteristics are associated with each development plan.

For example, throughout his or her observations, the guide may note the characteristics that could be related to each development plan and will use his or her observations to confirm whether the child is still in the first plan, the transition period or the second development period.

This is why observation is a skill that the guide must work on a daily basis: the more the guide observes, the closer he is to the child to determine his needs and to be the servant that the child seeks to have in order to help him progress in his self-building process.

These observations constitute the daily analysis and evaluation of the guide on the child’s progress. Therefore, since the child interacts with everything around him or her, the guide should not limit his or her observations to the classroom alone.

Observations can take place in the classroom, at lunchtime, in the playground, after school and even from the first contact when the child walks through the school entrance in the morning. These observations will help the guide to determine how sociable, communicative, centered and objective the child is, etc.

When you observe, for example, the interaction of a secondary child in a group when he/she has a project in common with other children, you can analyse, as a guide, the level of concentration he/she devotes to it, his/her commitment to the project and his/her social interaction within the group.
Participation in the group will be revealing as it is considered one of the characteristics of the second plan:

  • How does the child behave when in a group?
  • Does he/she participate, is he/she an observer?
  • Is he/she reluctant to share?
  • How does he/she express itself?

These are questions that cross the mind of the guide while observing the child’s interaction with his or her environment and the answer to this particular situation.

Noticing the child’s interaction, the guide can then intervene to help him/her build better socially if necessary. By letting the child talk and observing him/her by taking your distance as a guide, you give him/her the freedom to be him/herself and to know that he/she is not there to be judged, but rather to be helped if necessary.

Montessori classroom observation

In the classroom, too, observation is expected to feed the child’s academic and intellectual growth. Indeed, a lesson in a Montessori environment is not given to all children at the same time, it takes place according to the rhythm, interest and development of the child’s intellectual skills.

The guide not only gives presentations when necessary, but also observes the child’s interaction with the environment on a daily basis.

A child who spends more than two hours working on the chronology of civilization would be a signal to encourage the guide to plan more presentations on different civilizations for that particular child: he or she is interested in civilization, so let’s stimulate his or her curiosity to help him or her deepen their research, by going into the details of a specific civilization on which they would like to do research.

Another child constantly refers to grammar boxes and likes languages, so the guide could help him/her improve his/her language skills and also direct him/her to other presentations in other areas.

By observing the child’s work in the classroom and his or her interaction with the material presented, the guide will then be able to plan his or her lessons and monitor the child’s academic progress at a pace that respects his or her pace and interests.

Observation will help you get closer to the child and better understand his or her personality and interests: when sharing lunch with the children, observe their behaviour and the topics they tend to discuss in order to better understand the child’s personality and interests.

The conversations you have with the child during lunch, recess or on the playground, for example, will help you, as an observer, to understand the child’s moral, social, cultural and psychological development.

Observe his way of speaking, his listening, his answers, his language, his gestures: these are all clues to help you get closer to the child’s world and understand his personality.

The impact of observation on the work of the Montessori educator

A guide who has observed the child well is the guide who has had the key to enter that child’s world.

The more you observe the child, the better you will know how you should interact with him/her, what communication path(s) you should build with him/her, with what knowledge he/she should be nourished, what social skills he/she should develop. Then observe to analyze the child’s needs and respond appropriately.

Like the doctor who examines his patient to administer the effective and necessary medication, you will be a guide who will ensure that this child is given all the tools that can help him in the process of his own construction.

During observation, the guide can understand and illustrate in a practical way the main psychological characteristics of these children according to their age. For example, when entering an elementary class, the guide will have to note the child’s physical endurance, strong imagination, level of abstraction, social and moral development skills. Referring to these common characteristics will then lead the guide to better prepare himself and his environment to meet the needs of children.

The guide then adjusts the environment and its activities according to the child’s psychological characteristics: he prepares the environment that will be the best place for these future explorers to explore, he may even consider leaving the initial programs to satisfy them.

In order to prepare an environment that will strengthen the child’s social and moral development and sense of responsibility, it will be necessary to observe to make it a place where this small community of children can find a way to express themselves freely and also have a sense of responsibility and belonging. 

As a guide, our role is to help the child to integrate this community and establish rules on which to agree.

And in the context of continuous observation, it is important to note the child’s sense of belonging and responsibility. Sharing responsibilities and setting the rules for the child’s participation in this position and then standing up to observe and see how responsible they can be and how you should intervene later can reinforce this sense of responsibility in them. The child is part of this community and interacting daily with the environment that the guide sets up to meet his needs will help the child to grow and develop his social skills.

However, the development of the child’s potential is unlimited and his or her needs are infinite: unlimited changes can also be taken into account in the treatment of the environment.

Observe the child’s movement in the classroom to see if there is enough space to facilitate it, observe it to see if his or her basic biological needs can be easily met by placing a snack table, having an individual break area that is freely accessible.

Observe to see if you have taken into account his intellectual needs by setting up a small library full of books that he can consult to expand his knowledge at any time. The environment to which the child belongs is the result of the guide’s consideration of his or her development plan and the continuous changes he or she undergoes in his or her environment.

Observation has an impact not only on the preparation of the environment but also on the preparation of presentations: when a guide plans a presentation, he or she must note the child’s interest and present what could help the child to further develop his or her intellectual skills.

However, lessons or presentations in an elementary class are intended to be delivered in a small group. It is your observational skills that will help you to properly group and group the right members in this small group of children that you have chosen to make your presentation.

As a guide, you have pre-diagnosed each child and observed how he or she interacts with peers. For example, when you invite a group of children to a presentation, you will take into account not only their academic skills, but also their social skills and sense of responsibility.

For example, you could make an individual presentation to an older child who would act as a facilitator and mentor who would present and present the work to their close friend. Children learn more from each other than from an adult. In this case, you observed the interactions and social skills of this older child and guided him to better integrate the group and develop his moral, intellectual and social skills.

Referencing the child’s psychological development and developmental characteristics is necessary to optimize an appropriate environment and help more children develop their skills. Throughout the observations, the guide can detect common characteristics and assign appropriate activities to each child.

Physical endurance is one of the characteristics of the second developmental plan: the child needs to move and interact physically with the environment in which he or she is located.

Watch a few children walk in the classroom, touch the equipment, run from time to time forgetting the rules of the environment, they may even jump off the reading couch, they may also often ask you for a break to run out of the classroom and take more than 5 minutes outside the classroom to walk around the school or wait for their friends to join them to play outside together.

These children have a physical endurance that, when positively directed, will be well developed and used as physical energy to stimulate intellectual growth and energy.

When the guide leads this physical endurance, he or she must think about what might be of interest to the child and will observe more to notice what might titillate his or her curiosity.

These children may, for example, be referred to field trips, explorations, etc. But academic skills can also be transmitted through physical skills: invite these children to go to the playground and notice the joy of learning polygons while doing physical activities, such as doing a pentagon as an example. In doing so, the child discovers polygons and extracts his physical energy to strengthen his intellectual, moral and social skills.


In summary, we can say that by observing children’s characteristics, the Guide is able to understand the reasons for certain behaviours and find the right time to intervene, assess the child’s stage of development and offer advice to facilitate individual development. 

At the same time, observation allows the guide to guide each child to appropriate lessons and activities and to make the necessary changes to the environment to support the child’s development.