The prize and punishments are incentives toward unnatural or forced effort, and, therefore we certainly cannot speak of the natural development of the child in connection with them..

– Maria Montessori


There are no grades in the Montessori International School.

The short passage below will give you an insight into our approach concerning grading which is a form of extrinsic motivation, thus falling into one of two categories: praise or punishment.

„According to the Self-Determination Theory (SDT) developed by Deci [16] the regulation of behavior can take a vast variety of forms that basically correspond to two different styles of behavior regulation, depending on the level of autonomy. That is intrinsic or extrinsic motivation.

While intrinsic motivation manifests as a person’s inner capacity to discover, to master and to challenge oneself in the absence of external reinforcements of any kind, extrinsic motivation makes a person behave in a certain way in order to avoid unpleasant consequences or to provoke pleasant, predictable outcomes. [17, 18]

Mueller and Dweck [19] claim that 85% of people questioned believe that praising children is necessary for children’s self-esteem and academic development. Appealing as it may appear, this approach endorsed by a great number of educators has been extensively contradicted.

Praise for trivial efforts or things we have little or no control over, like intelligence, has been found to affect people negatively [19]. Therefore, educators’ approach towards children as the most important participants of the educational process should be reconsidered. Is it worthwhile to dispense praise freely just for the sake of conditioning children’s behavior and performance instead of helping them create the inner value of self they will be able to rely on in the future? What point does it make to paralyze pupils with screams and threats to make them sit motionlessly and pretend to follow the lesson?

Much research has demonstrated that autonomy-suppressing teaching approaches [20] trigger a feeling of coercion that radically diminishes motivation, and so do deadline and surveillance [21].

Respectful teaching, as well as respectful parenting, promotes nonaggression policies, information over control, autonomy over authority. It does not support punishment, withholding affection, food, toys etc. Instead, it seeks ways to meet the needs of a child while leaving any preconceived notions and egos behind. This notion is particularly relevant in terms of early years education, where a lot of limit setting to children’s activity takes place [20], thus undermining their creativity and ability for divergent thinking [22].

[16] Deci, E. L. (2009). Large-scale school reform as viewed from the self-determination theory perspective. Theory and Research in Education, 7, 244-252.
[17] Schimel J., Arndt J., Pyszczynski T., Greenberg J. (2001). Being accepted for who we are: evidence that social validation of the intrinsic self reduces general defensiveness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 80, No. 1. pp. 35 – 52.
[18] Soenens B., Beyers W. (2012). The cross-cultural significance of control and autonomy in parent–adolescent relationships. Journal of Adolescence Vol. 35. pp. 243 – 248.
[19] Aronson, J. Steele, C.M. (2005). Stereotypes and the fragility of human competence, motivation, and self-concept. In C. Dweck & E. Elliot (Eds.), Handbook of Competence & Motivation. New York, Guilford.Parental Conditional Regard as a Predictor of Deficiencies in Young Children’s Capacities to Respond to Sad Feelings.
[20] Koestner R., Ryan R., Bernieri F., Holt K. (1984). Setting limits on children’s behavior: The differential effects of controlling vs. informational styles on intrinsic motivation and creativity. Journal of Personality Vol. 52. No. 3. pp. 233 – 248.
[21] Dweck, C. S. (1999). Caution — Praise can be dangerous. American Educator, Volume 23 No. 1. pp.1-5.
[22] Gurland S., Grolnick W. (2005). Perceived Threat, Controlling Parenting, and Children’s Achievement Oreintations. Motivatio and Emotion, Volume 29, No. 2. Pp. 103 – 121.”

by Sylwia M. Camarda

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