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Montessori Research

AMI and its affiliates undertake Montessori research activities in the following areas:

  • Archive data for future researchers, including, for example, oral histories and unpublished material
  • Track, elaborate, explore and review each discipline area as a path to culture
  • Investigate principles central to the Montessori approach
  • Review Montessori principles in light of contemporary studies
  • Record and review systematically the language for talking about Montessori
  • Identify, design and evaluate partnership projects
  • Research Montessori professional development needs

Research Studies

"To be successful takes creativity, flexibility, self-control, and discipline. Central to all those are executive functions, including mentally playing with ideas, giving a considered rather than an impulsive response, and staying focused. Diverse activities have been shown to improve children’s executive functions: computerized training, noncomputerized games, aerobics, martial arts, yoga, mindfulness, and school curricula. All successful programs involve repeated practice and progressively increase the challenge to executive functions. Children with worse executive functions benefit most from these activities; thus, early executive-function training may avert widening achievement gaps later. To improve executive functions, focusing narrowly on them may not be as effective as also addressing emotional and social development (as do curricula that improve executive functions) and physical development (shown by positive effects of aerobics, martial arts, and yoga)."

"Montessori curriculum does not mention EFs, but what Montessorians mean by “normalization” includes having good EFs. Normalization is a shift from disorder, impulsivity, and inattention to self-discipline, independence, orderliness, and peacefulness . Montessori classrooms have only one of any material, so children learn to wait until another child is finished. Several Montessori activities are essentially walking meditation."

"As in Tools, the teacher carefully observes each child (when a child is ready for a new challenge, the teacher presents one), and wholegroup activities are infrequent; learning is handson, often with ≥2 children working together. In Tools, children take turns instructing or checking one another. Cross-age tutoring occurs in Montessori mixed 3-year age groups. Such childto- child teaching has been found repeatedly to produce better (often dramatically better) outcomes than teacher-led instruction."

  • With the help of co-investigator Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Dr. Rathunde compared the experiences and perceptions of middle school students in Montessori and traditional schools using the Experience Sampling Method (ESM).
  • Montessori students reported a significantly better quality of experience in their academic work than did traditional students.
  • In addition, Montessori students perceived their schools as a more positive community for learning, with more opportunities for active, rather than passive, learning.

The NAMTA Journal 28:3 (Summer, 2003), pages 12-52

In Communications 2/2008 Harald Ludwig writes on "Recent Empirical Research on Montessori Education in Germany". He explains that 'Empirical studies about concepts of new education have a long tradition. It would be a mistake to think that such studies only resulted from the empirical educational and teaching research dominant in German educational science in recent years. Whereas older studies cannot quite do justice to today's standards of empirical research, we should not simply ignore the knowledge gained from these studies. Besides, from a scientifically theoretical point of view, they can serve as critical correctives to the one-sidedness of today's research methods.'

(...) 'Today we can find in Germany many empirical studies on Montessori education of different quality. A brief impression might be gleaned from an overview of empirical research literature of German speaking countries included in the appendix. While this overview does not claim to be exhaustive, anyone looking for a summarized evaluation of older, yet not outdated empirical studies on Montessori education in Germany, should have a look at the contribution by Reinhard Fischer, published in 1999.'

This series of articles (including a new introduction by Annette Haines, NAMTA's Director of Research) spells out optimal outcomes of Montessori education for the early childhood, elementary, and adolescent years. Haines states, "we find the possibility of an educational continuum that extends naturally along a developmental path from birth to adulthood. It is hoped that the delineation of this path within the three distinct developmental stages will enable educators to look at students and schools from a new perspective."

Sources: The NAMTA Journal 25:2, Spring, 2000; The NAMTA Journal 26:1, Winter, 2001; The NAMTA Journal 28:1, Winter 2003.

Visit NAMTA's website for additional research studies and resources.

With the help of co-investigator Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Dr. Rathunde compared the experiences and perceptions of middle school students in Montessori and traditional schools using the Experience Sampling Method (ESM). Montessori students reported a significantly better quality of experience in their academic work than did traditional students. In addition, Montessori students perceived their schools as a more positive community for learning, with more opportunities for active, rather than passive, learning.

This study was sponsored by the North American Montessori Teachers’ Association (NAMTA, an affiliate organization of AMI) and published in The NAMTA Journal 28:3 (Summer, 2003), pages 12-52.

"This study supports the hypothesis that Montessori education has a positive long-term impact. Additionally, it provides an affirmative answer to questions about whether Montessori students will be successful in traditional schools."

"A significant finding in this study is the association between a Montessori education and superior performance on the Math and Science scales of the ACT and WKCE. In essence, attending a Montessori program from the approximate ages of three to eleven predicts significantly higher mathematics and science standardized test scores in high school."

A study comparing outcomes of children at a public inner-city Montessori school with children who attended traditional schools indicates that Montessori education leads to children with better social and academic skills.

The study appears in the Sept. 29, 2006 issue of the journal Science.

Montessori Validated by Research

Thai Montessori schools were evaluated in 2010 with these results:

Internal quality assurance has been monitored by the Education Services Areas. A recent report of a study during the first semester of academic year 2010 from the Khon Kaen Area 3 concerning 600 kindergarten children, aged 5 years old: 300 children were developed with the Montessori Approach and 300 children were  developed by the 6 Groups Activities Technique. 

When surveys were applied according to the Basic Education Academic and National Standard Test, the results on intellectual and basic skills were as follows.

Table 1:  Overall ability to choose correctly the associated pictures in quantities, numerals, sequences, order, contrast, shapes, tastes, smells, and logical thinking: the Montessori children performed at 13-15 scores of 78.6%.

AMI

Table2.  The scores on language development showed Montessori children could write the names associated to the picture correctly with the highest score of 7-8 words (78.3%) and every child could write. The children who were developed by the 6 Group Activities Techniques, 40.3 % scored at 1-2 words and 33 children could not write (11%).

AMI

The study concluded that the overall intellectual performance and language skills of Montessori children were significantly superior to the children who were developed by the 6 Group Activities Techniques.

  • Until 1999, the school had low-test scores, high absenteeism and a student turnover rate of almost 50% a year
  • Converted to Montessori
  • “Assessments all the way down to the youngest classrooms, exhibit a record of success.”
  • Turnover rate now 5%

Source: Public School Stakes Its Future on the Montessori Way, New York Times, 2 February 2005

  • Offers accredited Montessori classroom programs for children ages 15 months through third grade across 3 campuses throughout Dallas.
  • 78% Hispanic, 3% African American, 16% Anglo, and 3% other ethnicities
  • 72% from families designated "low income"
  • 52% are learning English as a second language
  • In neighborhoods with low graduation rates, 95% of the third-grade alumni have graduated from high school; 89% of those have gone on to college.
  • In 2011 Lumin Education earned the national Educational Achievement Award from the APA for our support of children's emotional well-being.
  • In 2013, Lumin Education was nationally recognized as one of four 'Exemplars' by the Montessori Leadership Collaborative.
  • In 2014 Southern Methodist University honored Lumin Education with the 2014 Simmons Luminary Award.

Source: LuminEducation.org

  • Maths study
  • Montessori students consistently outperformed non-Montessori students on “tasks of a more conceptual nature, while performing the same or slightly better on counting and symbolic tasks”.
  • Comparison of four ECE experiences
  • Students attending the Montessori programme outscored all others on all tests administered on development of literacy skills and phonological awareness.

Dissertation, George Mason University.

  • "This study supports the hypothesis that Montessori education has a positive long-term impact. Additionally, it provides an affirmative answer to questions about whether Montessori students will be successful in traditional schools."
  • "A significant finding in this study is the association between a Montessori education and superior performance on the Math and Science scales of the ACT and WKCE. In essence, attending a Montessori program from the approximate ages of three to eleven predicts significantly higher mathematics and science standardized test scores in high school."

The following is a brief summary of an eleven-year case study of one school and the turn-around that Montessori brought:

  • This study examined an at-risk elementary school from 1991 to 2002.
  • School population was 86% African American, 12% Hispanic, and 2% White or mixed race. (98% on lunch programme).
  • Community decided on Montessori magnet programme and utilised Reading Recovery and a parent involvement programme.
  • Math scores went from a 28% to a 52% pass rate.
  • Parent involvement tripled.
  • School community became more diverse.
  • 91% of all six year olds were reading at or above grade level.

Dissertation, Union Institute and University

The research project examined mathematical concept development in children prior to school entry and indicated Montessori may have a positive impact on children’s numeracy knowledge.

  • Montessori students showed significantly higher achievement regarding backward number word sequence (a precursor to subtraction); early addition and subtraction; and place value concepts.
  • Indications are that the Montessori system may be offering more opportunities for children to develop higher order skills and concepts in early childhood.
  • Also indication that Montessori can favourably impact students in low socio economic status areas.

Curriculum Matters 3, 6-28.

A study comparing outcomes of children at a US public inner city Montessori school with children who attended traditional schools indicates that Montessori education leads to children with better social and academic skills.

The study by Angeline Lillard, a University of Virginia professor of psychology, and Nicole Else-Quest, a former graduate student in psychology at the University of Wisconsin appeared in the Sept. 29, 2006 issue of the journal Science.

Following is a summary as reported in The Times (London) September 29, 2006.  Extracted from an article by Alexandra Frean.

  • Pupils who learn at their own pace in Montessori schools may have an advantage over those in traditional classrooms
  • By the age of 5, children at Montessori schools are better at basic word recognition and mathematics, and are more likely to play co-operatively with other children. By the age of 12, they are more creative and better able to resolve social problems, a US study suggests.
  • The findings, based on a study of 112 children from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, were published in the journal Science, by Angeline Lillard, Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia. Fifty-nine attended a Montessori school, while a control group of fifty-three children attended conventional schools in the same area.
  • “Academically, they end up in the same place or better as non-Montessori children, but they are much better at getting on in a community.”
  • Among the five-year-olds, Montessori students not only performed significantly better in maths and English, but were also better able to see the world through others’ eyes and performed better on “executive function”, which is the ability to adapt to changing and complex problems.
  • By the age of 12, the difference in academic scores between the two groups was less pronounced. The Montessori children, however, wrote more creative essays, selected more positive responses to social dilemmas and reported a more positive sense of community at their school.

Science Vol 313 29 September 2006