Implementing Autonomy Support: Insights from a Montessori Classroom

Joyce Hwee Ling Koh, Theodore W. Frick

Abstract


Extant research studies have found that autonomy support has a positive impact on the perceived competence and intrinsic motivation of students. However, few studies have investigated how autonomy supportive classrooms can be implemented. Montessori education is established upon the philosophy of helping each child attain self-mastery and independence. It emphasizes that students be given autonomy to engage freely with their learning environment. This case study of an upper-elementary Montessori classroom found that the Montessori philosophy of education guided how teachers used autonomy supportive strategies. Teachers supported student organizational autonomy by allowing them choice in terms of school work and work partners. They fostered cognitive autonomy by encouraging student independent thinking, encouraging self-initiation, and honoring students’ voice. When implementing control, they acknowledged and respected student feelings, provided rationales for expected behavior, and suppressed criticism. Students surveyed rated themselves highly in terms of intrinsic motivation for schoolwork. Five guidelines are derived from this study to help teachers implement autonomy support in K-12 classrooms.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5296/ije.v2i2.511

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