Montessori education takes a different approach from the traditional by employing multi- age classrooms, student-chosen work in long time blocks, the absence of grades and tests and a special set of educational materials. Some have criticized the method, saying that pre-K and primary students lag behind in reading and other skills.
Dr. Angeline Lillard (UVA) was drawn to study Montessori education by its close alignment with research on learning. “I decided to do a study to see if it actually makes a difference,” Lillard said. Usually the home environment is the dominant influence in a child’s social skills but this research suggests that the Montessori education itself fosters improved social and academic skills.
With Nicole Else-Quest (University of Wisconsin, Madison) she studied two groups of five- and 12-year-old students in Milwaukee, Wis. The parents of the students in the study had average incomes ranging from $20,000 to $50,000 annually. All parents entered their children in the school district’s random lottery for the Montessori school. The Montessori group attended a public, inner-city, traditional Montessori school. The control group attended another school because they were not selected in the district lottery.
The results indicated that by the end of kindergarten, the Montessori children performed better on reading and math tests, as measured using the Woodcock-Johnson Test Battery that assesses letter-word identification, word attack and applied math problems. Montessori students also engaged in more positive interaction on the playground and showed more advanced social cognition and executive control. They also demonstrated more concern with fairness and justice. The Montessori 12-year-olds wrote more creative and sophisticated narratives, performed better on a test of social skills, and reported feeling a stronger sense of community at their schools, the authors said.
“Inner-city children who attended a well-implemented Montessori program were found to have social outcomes that were superior to those of children attending traditional schools,” said Lillard.”And they had academic outcomes that were at least as good on all measures, and on several measures were better,” she added.
Now Mad Science Mama would love to know what specific aspects of Montessori matter– is those mats (defining the child’s own work area and fostering a sense of ownership) after all?
More fascinating research on birth, babies, children at Mad Science Mama’s site