'The International Office's Fulbright Specialist Intensive Forum: Inclusion and the Montessori Method'
On Wednesday, October 21st the International Office in coordination with the Faculty of Educational Sciences and An Najah Child's Institute held a special intensive workshop on 'Inclusion and the Montessori Method' at the Old Campus Library Conference Room.
The event was attended by local special education educators from public and private schools, the Directorate of Education, and staff and students of An Najah in the field.
The workshop was commenced by Dr Mohammed Al Amleh, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr Adnan Melhem, President’s Assistant for Community Affairs, and Dr Alia Assali, Dean of Educational Sciences who welcomed the guests and discussed the importance of collaborating with international experts, particularly in the field of early childhood education.
The intensive training workshop was lead by Dr Debra Young, an American Fulbright Specialist Scholar who came here through An Najah's International Office and currently working in collaboration with the Faculty of Educational Sciences and the Child's Institute. Dr Young's training included an overview of the origin of the Montessori Method, initially created to help 'children who were disadvantaged and considered idiots in the slums of Italy's San Lorenzo.' Dr Young also focused her training on how to utilize this type of pedagogy in Palestinian classrooms and educational environments. During the introduction, Dr Young explained how the Montessori Method's '...focus on relationships puts primary importance on the caregiver or teacher engaging in responsive and positive interactions with children and the development of partnerships with families.'
The format of the workshop was unique in that the participants sat in groups of 4-6 for the whole 2.5 hours of the workshop and regularly were given tasks aimed at both integrating their new knowledge from the topic and to get them actively thinking about how to apply it. Short lectures with power points were followed by more in depth activities within the participant groups and lead by 'facilitators' who played a key role in overseeing active participation and encouraging their groups to creating and critically integrate their learning. Group activities provided time in the workshop to actively think and brainstorm in groups about preconceptions of inclusive education and to brainstorm classroom practices and techniques that could utilize the Montessori Method among other exercises.
Dr Debra Young concluded her intensive training workshop by emphasizing the most important component of inclusive education, '...the families' connection between parents and educator. We know this is of priority in cases of children with special educational needs. Parent education programs should be central to any school using Montessori theory, methodology, and pedagogy.'
-Montessori education is an educational approach developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori and characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological, physical, and social development.