5 Alternative Teaching Methods


Reference: Course on Subject Clearing

These methods are described at

5 Alternative Teaching Methods

The common features of these methods are:

  1. All of these methods are against indoctrination. 
  2. They support “self-learning.” 
  3. They believe that a child is capable of learning by oneself.
  4. Best learning is hands on and experienced with all senses.
  5. One should feel free to make mistakes and learn from them.
  6. Learning should be free of evaluation by others.

These methods are summarized as follows.


  1. Children are born with absorbent minds and are fully capable of self-directed learning. They are not born as “blank slates.”
  2. Educational environment should empower children with the freedom to choose how they spend their time in school. In such environment children would seek out opportunities to learn on their own.
  3. Structured lessons and teacher-driven curriculum inhibit a child’s natural development. Children enjoy and need periods of long concentration.
  4. Most learning takes place through tactile sensation.
  5. Education should be non-competitive without grades, tests and other forms of formal assessments.
  6. Evidence shows that Montessori education leads to children with better social and academic skills.


  1. Humans have the inherent wisdom to uncover the mysteries of the world.
  2. Education should focus on the development of the “whole child,” with an emphasis on creative expression and social and spiritual values.
  3. First 7 years of a child’s life (up to 2nd grade) should be marked by imitative and sensory-based learning and devoted to developing a child’s non-cognitive abilities. Kindergartners are encouraged to play and interact with their environment. Children are encouraged to write before they learn to read.
  4. From age 7-14, creativity and imagination are emphasized, including learning of foreign languages and expressive dance and performing arts. Demands for standardized testing are restricted.
  5. By age 14, students are ready for a more structured environment that stresses social responsibility.


  1. The educational method involves all students in the learning process. It is an approach designed to get at the individual boy.
  2. Students sit with their classmates and teacher around a large oval table and discuss any and all subjects, from calculus to history, often in great detail. Individual opinions are formed, raised, rejected, and revised.
  3. The teacher’s main responsibilities are to ensure that no one student dominates the discussion and to keep the students on point. No conversation is ever the same.
  4. The group is small enough so that the shy or slow individual is not submerged.
  5. The intimate setting of the Harkness table forces students to take responsibility for their own learning and encourages them to share their opinions.
  6. In addition to learning about topics being discussed, students also learn valuable public speaking skills and to be respectful of their fellow students’ ideas.
  7. Studies have supported the method’s effectiveness in increasing students’ retention and recall of material.


  1. Children are competent, curious and confident individuals who can thrive in a self-guided learning environment where mutual respect between teacher and student is paramount.
  2. This educational approach is about exploring the world together and supporting children’s thinking rather than just giving them ready-made answers.
  3. This approach is most important for teaching children aged 3 to 6.
  4. It emphasizes the importance of parents taking an active role in their child’s early education.
  5. Classrooms are designed to look and feel like home and the curriculum is flexible, as there are no set lesson plans.  Emphasis is placed on art and on a variety of creative projects.
  6. Extensive documentation of a child’s development, including folders of artwork and notes about the stories behind each piece of art, is kept.


  1. The basic postulate is that students are inherently motivated to learn. Students are capable of assuming a certain level of responsibility and of making sound decisions. In the event that they make poor decisions, learning comes in the form of dealing with the consequences.
  2. Sudbury schools operate under the basic tenets of individuality and democracy and take both principles to extremes. Students have complete control over what and how they learn, as well as how they are evaluated, if at all.
  3. At the weekly School Meeting, students vote on everything from school rules and how to spend the budget to whether staff members should be rehired. Every student and staff member has a vote and all votes count equally.
  4. Students regularly engage in collaborative learning, with the older students often mentoring the younger students.
  5. Annual tuition for the Sudbury Valley School, which welcomes students as young as 4 years old, is $6,450 for the first child in a family to attend the school.



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