Observation (2): The Scientific method

This is a continuation from part 1.

So what can we take from the scientific method that can help us care for children and isn’t clinical the opposite of loving?

Let’s make sure we are on the same page as far as the scientific method:

-First, you ask yourself a question.

-Then, you formulate an hypothesis.

-Then, comes the experiment, the collection of data. In a human observation, this step is called naturalistic observation.

-After collecting the data, you can analyze it, try to interpret what you collected.

-Finally the conclusion you draw from the two last steps.

In an observation done on human beings, of course,interpretation and conclusion can be more complex. It is a lot easier to go through these steps when the object of observation or experiment is purely material or physical. If we add the spiritual aspect of the human kind, the interpretation is critical and the conclusions often lead to more questions and then, more observation.

Scientist, parent, and/or teacher, being humble is a big part of the job. It helps to avoid drawing conclusions too fast, which could harm the child. If the adult comes to a conclusion too fast, thinking she knows better, then the consequence on the behavior towards this child would be affected. Check your ego. Children are humans, they are complicated. The more we jump to conclusions about our friends, family, coworkers or children the more we risk harming those relationships.

Taking a step back to observe is respectful.

A scientific experiment is usually conducted in a laboratory, in this case, teachers conduct their experiment in the school, parents in the home. “A true ‘material for observation’. . . superior in complexity and in organisation to the ordinary natural science laboratories” (Advanced Montessori Method, vol.1, Maria Montessori p.96). As discussed in the previous post, the best place to observe, and to practice, is being as close to the natural environment as possible. Though Montessori schools are planned out in minute detail, the environment controlled to maximize children’s learning, you won’t see plastic sippy cups, just real glasses, made of glass, like they will use in the world.

It is also important not to interfere in any way during the observation. Ideally, the child does not notice she is being observed.

“The psychic life of a child must be observed in the same way Fabre made his observations of insects. He kept himself concealed so as not to disturb them as they were busy about their work in their natural environment. We should start observing the child when his senses begin to accumulate conscious impressions of the external world, since it is then that a life is spontaneously developing at the expense of its environment” (The Secret of childhood, Maria Montessori p.47).

Without observation we would miss out on important clues about the development of the child and the sensitive periods she is in. “If a child has not been able to act accordingly to the directives of his sensitive period, the opportunity of a natural conquest is lost, and is lost for good” (The Secret of childhood, Maria Montessori p.39).

“One must simply have the desire to help the child and a fund of common sense” (The Secret of childhood, Maria Montessori p.48). That said our ideas about what a child is going through or how best to help that child can only benefit from reflection and observation. Be wary of those who offer easy, convenient, quick answers based on philosophy rather than observation. Being scientific may at first appear cold but it is one of the most caring and nurturing things you can do. Providing opportunities for children to succeed on their own builds more self confidence than any amount of gold stars ever could, even if it doesn’t feel as nice for the adult to be an observer rather than ‘showing them’ or showering praise.

One thought on “Observation (2): The Scientific method

  1. Pingback: Observation(1): The Montessori Way – Chez Mahe Montessori Blog

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