Response to Intervention (RTI) in the Montessori Environment

NAMC Montessori and RTI response to intervention. Boys writing together
The child's development follows a path of successive stages of independence, and our knowledge of this must guide us in our behavior towards him.
—Maria Montessori
The Absorbent Mind, p. 281.

One of the big buzz terms in American education today is “Response to Intervention” (RTI). RTI is a multi-tier approach “to the early identification and support of students with learning and behavior needs.” (RTI Action Network) Beginning at the classroom instructional level, struggling learners are identified and screened for learning and behavioral challenges. Learning objectives are stated and modifications to both instruction and the environment are put into place. Students are closely monitored to asses the individual response to these interventions.

The essential components of implementing RTI are:

  • High-quality, scientifically based instruction
  • Ongoing student assessment
  • Tiered, differentiated instruction
  • Parent involvement

Montessori and Response to Intervention (RTI): We’re already doing it!


NAMC Montessori and RTI response to intervention. teacher and girl working with golden bead material
The basis of the reform of education and society, which is a necessity of our times, must be built upon…scientific study.
—Maria Montessori
Childhood in Education, p. 12.

Scientifically based instruction

Maria Montessori was a doctor and scientist. Using her knowledge of human development, she scientifically observed how children learned. She spent years testing new approaches and developing materials that optimized student learning. (Lillard, 2007) Additionally, modern psychological and educational research is now proving that Montessori’s educational theories have valid scientific merit. It should come as no surprise then, that the instruction we are providing in our Montessori environments already satisfies the first component of RTI: that of high-quality, scientifically based instruction.

Ongoing student assessment

The second component, ongoing student assessment, is also an important factor in the Montessori environment where formative assessments are made continually. Formative assessments are part of the Montessori teacher’s daily routine as they regularly record observations regarding instruction, practice, and mastery.

In addition, the Montessori materials allow students to self-assess regularly because many of the materials have a built-in control of error that give students immediate feedback on their progress.


Tiered, differentiated instruction

Montessori knew that each child learns differently based on his unique strengths and weaknesses. She developed her method of individualized instruction to meet the needs of all students, teaching to each level and ability. Her materials are meant to be used repeatedly until the student has mastered that concept. Individualization also allows for personalization, whereby children who are interested have a deeper desire to learn and interact.

Not all children require all lessons, nor must they use all the materials. However, the materials are there to be used as needed according to each child’s unique interest and ability.


Parent involvement

Montessori education is not isolationist. It is a community of adults who have the best interest of the children at heart. Parent education is critical and Dr. Montessori was very vocal about how adults should interact and behave with children. (Lillard, 2007) She believed that the adult’s role is to assist the child toward independence. It is not enough to teach the children; the teacher must keep the parents involved if there is to be true learning.

NAMC Montessori and RTI response to intervention. student, parent and teacher

As Montessorians we should not be afraid of RTI. We should take comfort in the fact that we have been doing this all along.

Works Cited
Montessori, Maria. The Absorbent Mind. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Press, 1964.
Lillard, Angeline Stoll. Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2008.
RTI Action Network. “What is RTI?” http://www.rtinetwork.org/learn/what/whatisrti

Michelle Irinyi — NAMC Tutor & Graduate

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