Respectful relationships: how does the Montessori environment foster relationships with respect?
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This study investigates the phenomenon of respect through examination of the literature and observation of lived experience in two Montessori environments in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Utilising a case study approach, the thesis seeks to reveal the nature of respectful relationships and how these are fostered in two Montessori early childhood centres. A qualitative approach is used to study the social setting in order to understand the meaning of participants’ lives in their own terms. This design makes explicit the ways people come to understand and manage day-to-day situations. A phenomenological method was employed to look beyond the details of everyday life in order to draw upon the lived experiences of the participants. The technique of bracketing observations required the researcher to suspend assumptions and common-sense explanations concerning the experience. This assisted the researcher to encounter the observations independently and reduced bias. The findings reveal four aspects that work in conjunction with the child’s natural development to foster respect: A prepared environment and the child’s freedom within that environment serve to demonstrate how the respectful relationship can be supported and fostered in individuals. In addition, the development of a mutual relationship based on recognition of the child's capabilities; and freedom of movement within the environment work in conjunction to foster respect for self, others and the environment. Information for the case studies was recorded by video camera. Relationship building prior to data collection alleviated fears associated with the video recording and provided more insight into participants’ lived experiences. In conjunction, video data provided a record of moments in time for review and reflection. Future research may seek to provide comparison of the outcomes of practice in differing situations but a key point in this research was an emphasis on non-judgmental acceptance of each Montessori environment. The research sheds light on situations in which teachers, other adults and children develop respectful practice(s). The study indicates how Montessori philosophy and nature intertwines to achieve reciprocal and respectful relationships between all involved in this approach to education and life.