Latest Research (Part 3)

This is the final post regarding Montessori research by Lillard, 2017. You can find the original post here.


Mastery Orientation:

Children were given a simple puzzle and asked to solve it. Then they were given a more complicated puzzle and asked to solve it. The second puzzle had parts switched with another puzzle rendering it unsolvable. Finally the students were then asked to pick one of the puzzles to go back to and do again.

During the first year of preschool the results were statistically the same, at the end of preschool year two and three the Montessori students were considerably more likely to try the harder puzzle again.

Easy puzzle choosers said things like, “Because it’s easier,” whereas difficult puzzle choosers said things like, “Because I think I can do it.” -Lillard, 2017

Based solely on these student statements it seems safe to say the second group is more self-confident than the first. This again shows that overcoming challenges is more important than to building self-esteem than easy challenges and platitudes like “good job!” and “you’re amazing!”. We have noticed increasing pressure in public schools to always pass students and always provide positive feedback, even when it hasn’t been earned. Montessori students don’t need to constantly be told they are great and they can do it. They know it.

No one who has ever done anything really great or successful has ever done it simply because he was attracted by what we call a ‘reward’ or by the fear of what we call a ‘punishment.’

-Montessori, The Discovery of the Child, 1972

School Enjoyment:

Students were given four questions and at the end of each preschool year and asked to select from a sad, neutral or happy face as their response.

The Montessori children were relatively more positive about school-related activities than were the control children… This suggests that the Montessori children’s achievement gains were not at the expense of their enjoying school. -Lillard, 2017

So the Montessori students, with the more challenging program, actually liked the program better. We should point out, AMI trained Montessori teachers are actually taught NOT to say “good job!” etc. instead they will say things like “yes, you completed the puzzle.”

Eventually we gave up either punishing or rewarding the children. -Montessori, The Secret of Childhood, 1966


Students were shown an image and asked to give as many ideas as they could of things they could do with, or make with the object in the image. This was then repeated with a second image. They were scored on how many standard (what the item is usually used for) and non-standard responses.

There was no statistically significant difference between the two groups of children.


Montessori education is superior to traditional public school education. The gap between Montessori educated students and traditional public school students increases with time. There are sensitive periods in children’s development where they can achieve incredibly rapid growth in specific areas. If these periods are missed they are gone forever. Finally, there are physical differences in brain development based on a child’s environment.

Educational investment would benefit significantly if more emphasis was placed on preschool education, specifically if more of that education were Montessori. These benefits go beyond academic into joy of learning and even the ability to tell the difference between propaganda and fact.

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