Amanda Dascomb, PhD student in the Learning Environments and Educational Studies (LEEDS) program, won a McClure Scholarship and traveled to Le Gosier, Guadeloupe over the summer. We asked her some questions about her five-week research project. Read her responses below.
What was the purpose of your research project?
To observe a school that teaches in French, Creole, and English, specifically using the Montessori method. The purpose of my research is to better understand how Montessori pedagogy provides an effective environment for language learning. By studying Montessori lessons in a multilingual environment, I hoped to gain an understanding of how to improve and develop language pedagogy in US schools.
What is the Montessori method?
Children innately wish to learn and investigate in different ways. Maria Montessori wished to give students an environment that nurtured this learning style by allowing for freedom of movement and unattended time that they are allowed to invest in learning materials.
Where did you live in Le Gosier?
I was living with the principle of the school. This means that I was able to see what went into running a private preschool that had two classes of thirty children and also an elementary classroom of seven students. I spent most of my time in the maternelle classroom (ages four to six).
What would a normal day of class consist of?
A normal day, for the students, consisted of:
- three hours of individual work
- one hour of recess
- two hours for lunch and naptime
- one more hour of individual and group work
- one final hour of recess
The role of the teachers were to gently encourage the children to pick a work to do individually and take it to a table or the floor to work on quietly. Students are distracted easily, so they are constantly encouraged to do their work, which was the role of one “assistant” teacher. The “main” teacher took small groups of 2-3 students aside and taught them a new concept based off of the classroom materials.
What did your research find?
My research is on understanding language learning in a multilingual setting. Guadeloupe has French as its official language, while Creole is spoken by a large percentage of the population and English is taught in the schools. As I wish to understand how schools can create an effective environment for language learning, watching students who were able to complete tasks on their own time and with their own free will showed me what engages each individual student. Students know how they learn best and I believe that the Montessori Method reveals this theory.
What was the best/most memorable part of this experience?
The children and the teachers were very accepting of my presence at the school. In just five short weeks, I built a lot of relationships. I think the most memorable times I had were going on field trips with the children. We would visit botanical gardens, or go for a walk along the beach and sing songs about pollution and saving the planet.
The genuine love of learning and the beauty that these children had were enough to warm any educator’s heart.
What did the McClure Scholarship do for you?
Through the McClure Scholarship I was able to pay for my airfare and all expenses once on the ground in Guadeloupe. This project would not have been possible without the McClure Scholarship.