On 30 October, 2017 Frontiers in Psychology published what is probably the best current study comparing the traditional North American Public School education and Montessori education. Please note, when we refer to Public School Students below we mean traditionally taught, there are public Montessori schools in some places.
Before we begin, a couple notes on studies in general and why this one is especially important. First, it’s always nice to know where a study’s funding comes from. In this case “the authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.” This is important because even otherwise reputable academic institutions can publish thinly veiled puff pieces paid for by the subject of their article.
Second, this is a longitudinal study. That means repeated observations, in this case over years, so you can watch the benefits of Montessori education develop over time.
One last comment, Montessori is not trademarked and not all Montessori schools are equal, some are Montessori “inspired” others, like ours, follow AMI principals, the international association still run by Maria Montessori’s family. Results will very depending on how closely each school follows Maria’s research/teachings.
So now let’s jump to the conclusion, for those interested in the quick fix, if you’d like to take a deeper dive with some more specifics about each measure used we’ll add a couple future posts.
Academic achievement, the longer students are in Montessori the further they pull ahead of public school students.
Social measures, Montessori students do equally well as public school students on measures of social skills except in regard to Theory of Mind (understanding that others may have different views/opinions than your own) where Montessori students outperform public students.
Mastery Orientation, perseverance at challenging tasks, Montessori students start to pull ahead rapidly by years 3 and 4.
School enjoyment, Montessori students were relatively more happy with school. This is a strong indicator that achievement of real world tasks is better at building self esteem than arbitrarily saying “good job” etc. all the time, but we’ll happily do a much more thorough post about that some time later.
Creativity, both Montessori students and Public School students perform equally well.
Performance by Income level, this one is HUGE. Household income has long been the best indicator for academic performance. In Montessori schools; however, the difference is much less pronounced. Statistically speaking the level of correlation was half that of public schools. If all public schools were Montessori schools, social mobility would be considerably greater.
Differing executive function, children measured to have lower executive function, eg. Attention control, working memory, flexibility, perform well in Montessori schools whereas they would require additional supports such as specialized programming and resources to do as well in public schools.
To sum it up, Montessori school students performed significantly better on most of the measures and at least as well on others. Students with lower family income or lower executive function benefit especially from Montessori schools. Montessori students also like school more.
If you’re interested in learning more about each measure used and what the results could mean, we’ll add some more posts soon.