Montessori: The Child Flourishes as Actor

There is a nice article in the latest edition of Science on the efficacy of Maria Montessori’s approach to active engagement in learning as opposed to passive receipt of instruction. (In the name of fair disclosure: I am personally the product of a Montessori preschool, and my daughter attends a fantastic Montessori school in the SF Bay area.)

Disclaimer aside, the results of the study are dramatic. I have included the graphic from the article on Jonah’s site since the Science link requires a subscription.

montessori.bmp

The study’s summary conclusions:

“On several dimensions, children at a public inner city Montessori school had superior outcomes relative to a sample of Montessori applicants who, because of a random lottery, attended other schools. By the end of kindergarten, the Montessori children performed better on standardized tests of reading and math, engaged in more positive interaction on the playground, and showed more advanced social cognition and executive control. They also showed more concern for fairness and justice. At the end of elementary school, Montessori children wrote more creative essays with more complex sentence structures, selected more positive responses to social dilemmas, and reported feeling more of a sense of community at their school.”

It is interesting that the one area of challenge for the Montessori kids was in “ambiguous rough play.” Part of the issue might be how the groups are compared across the same grade levels and the Montessori philosophy mixes the kids across age groups; younger kids would need to learn more aggressive techniques for dealing with older kids than when interacting within their own age groups, and when later compared to other kids in the same age groups might come across as too aggressive. On the other hand, there just might be discipline issues within the more permissive environment.

Overall, I think most school curricula need a little more of the exploratory Montessori flavor which fosters personal hands-on experimentation. The real question in my mind is how to encourage this without loosing rigor and discipline in these activities.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Montessori: The Child Flourishes as Actor

  1. Paul from Atlanta

    >>Overall, I think most school curricula need a little more of the exploratory Montessori flavor which fosters personal hands-on experimentation. The real question in my mind is how to encourage this without loosing rigor and discipline in these activities.< < I don’t think you could have a better one sentence description of the problem in math/science education. The free form activities that are missing are so often missing for a reason. One reason can be lack of skill or imagination in the faculty but the other reason is that to provide standardization, discipline and to limit “goofing off” structure is imposed that eliminates key exploration elements of learning. The solution to this conundrum is the golden key to to unlock science education in this country.

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