Mixing Montessori into the Debate

By Kevin Bushweller — October 02, 2006 1 min read
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If schools employ multi-age classrooms, have students play a bigger role in choosing what they study, and get rid of traditional grading and testing (Montessori education approaches), are they likely to see an increase in students’ motivation to learn--and, in turn, higher achievement?

A new study published in the journal Science suggests such approaches are likely to have a positive impact on achievement.

Angeline Lillard of the University of Virginia and Nicole Else-Quest of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, studied two groups of 5- and 12-year-old students in Milwaukee, Wis., who attended Montessori schools. The resesarchers found that Montessori-educated 5-year-olds performed better on reading and math tests than their peers who did not attend Montessori schools. In addition, the study found that the Montessori 12-year-olds wrote more sophisticated narratives, performed better on a test of social skills, and scored as well or higher on academic assessments than their peers.

I am neither an advocate nor a critic of Montessori education. But in an era marked by an increasing emphasis on top-down mandates for what students should learn and traditional testing of that knowledge, this study is worth some reflection if only to ask: Are there more creative ways, beyond what schools are doing now, to get students more interested in what they are learning? What do you think?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Motivation Matters blog.