Montessori teaching is becoming increasingly more popular. There are now many schools dedicated completely to teaching children through the Montessori Method. Do children learn better through the Montessori Method or traditional teaching methods?
Studies on students who are being taught through the Montessori Method show that its effectiveness is best when put in place for younger children. Preschool to Kindergarten age students taught through the Montessori Method show a dramatic increase in testing scores in both mathematics and literacy.
How does the Montessori Method help children learn more efficiently? Continue reading to learn more about the Montessori Method and how it has affected thousands of students around the world.
How Montessori Affects Student Learning
Today, the Montessori Method is one of the more popular non-traditional teaching and parenting methods. Many child care providers are beginning to either completely switch over to the methods of Maria Montessori, or at least try out some of her less controversial teaching and parenting tactics.
The Montessori Method was designed to teach parents and other child care providers the best way to give their children and students opportunities to learn on their own. This modern way of thinking is becoming somewhat of a trend for many teachers and parents who want to give their students and children the best opportunities in life. Does this new and popular teaching method actually work? What does the research say?
One of the hard things about finding accurate research on this teaching method is the lack of extensive research. Due to how young this teaching and parenting method is, there has not been a lot of professional research done on the long-term benefits and effects of the Montessori Method and Montessori schools.
Most of the professional research that has been completed and successfully done is only for around 1-3 years of the child’s education. Obviously, as the Montessori Method becomes more popular and more widely practiced, more accurate and long-term research will be completed.
Despite the lack of much long-term effect research as previously mentioned, there has been more research done on students and their academic scores between 1-3 years of following the Montessori Method.
For example, a study was done in October of 2017 to compare preschooler’s academic scores. The research was done on 140 students who all came from families in the upper-middle class. This helps to eliminate certain students who come from families that have a much higher emphasis on education. At the beginning of the study, each of the students was tested to be around the same academic level as one another.
As the study went on, the 70 students who were attending the Montessori Method preschool tested higher in mathematics and literacy scores. When the children graduated from Kindergarten and the test ended, the results were quite obvious. The students who had attended the Montessori school scored dramatically higher in math and literacy than the students who had attended traditional teaching schools.
Despite the higher scores in those areas of academics, there was no big difference in many other areas of child development between the two groups of students. Problem-solving and creativity, for example, showed little to no difference between the groups. To learn more about this study and read a more in-depth account of the study, refer to the United States News page discussing Montessori Method and what the studies have shown.
Despite the great results found for children who attend Montessori schools, teenagers attending Montessori Method high schools do not receive nearly the same academic increase. According to a study completed in September 2017, teenagers learning in a Montessori Method have no difference in academic scores than those in traditional high schools. This study was completed in the Netherlands where hundreds of students had applied to be part of a lottery to have the opportunity to learn from a Montessori school.
Those who won were admitted to the Montessori school and taught with the same philosophies and practices that Maria Montessori taught. Those who lost attended the local public high school, continuing with the traditional teaching methods.
As the study went on and the two groups of students spent more time in the school, it was becoming clear that there was no dramatic difference. The study had shown that despite the amazing academic results the Montessori Method shows for children and young students, after a certain age, the Montessori Method no longer is the best way to teach students for the highest academic scores.
While older students may not receive the same great academic benefit as the younger students, there still is a benefit to teaching through the Montessori Method. In a study that was published in the journal Science, sixty 5-year-olds and sixty 12-year-olds were closely studied through their Montessori vs. traditional education.
The study resulted in similar results as the one highlighted in the United States News page where young children studying through the Montessori Method, the 5-year-olds in this study, resulted in higher academic scores than those other 5-year-olds who studied through traditional education methods. The results from the 12-year-olds in this study also showed some positive differences.
Pre-teens who studied at a Montessori Method school scored higher, not on academic tests (both groups scored the same or very similar), but on tests measuring their social and behavioral development. This study shows that there are positive outcomes from students studying through the Montessori Method aside from academics. To learn more about this study and the results from the research, refer to the WebMD and their page on Montessori.
Check out our article for more information on the effectiveness of Montessori schools.
As mentioned, there has not been a lot of professional research done on the effects of the Montessori Method, but there have been a lot of parents and child caregivers who have chosen to follow this method. What have those people found? What have the adults who are the most active in a child’s life noticed about the Montessori Method and how it has affected their child or student?
All of the personal experience and research mentioned below is found on forums where parents and child care providers share their own personal experiences with others who are considering implementing this method into their education for the children.
One mother shares her experience of how she was considering implementing the Montessori Method into her parenting style. Before doing so, she had done her own personal research on the method and how it will affect kids in the long run.
Throughout her research, she found that many children who follow Montessori Methods in their school years will be ahead of their peers in the early years of education (preschool through 3rd grade) but will then begin to fall behind. She also continues to explain how she plans on allowing her children to attend Montessori schools in their earliest years of education, and how, when she feels right, she will move them into traditional schooling.
Throughout her post, this mother shares her experience with the Montessori preschool her son is currently attending and the Montessori parenting she is implementing in the home. She talks about how she enjoys how the Montessori preschool allows children to learn during their play, where most common preschools allow “mindless play” meant to keep the children entertained and easier to watch over.
She also mentions how the way the Montessori school is set up allows for her son and his peers to experience more real-life activities and learn from his own experience. She talks about how it allows her son to complete practical life activities, such as measuring, pouring, and mixing, that he will use for the rest of his life.
This mother does a good job of mentioning the drawbacks and concerns she has about Montessori teaching in the long run but also mentions all of the great benefits it can and is currently offering her preschool-age son. To read her post and more comments on Montessori parenting and teaching, refer to the Mothering Forums discussing Montessori.
On the contrary, there was another mother on the same forum thread who posted about her decision to not allow her daughter to attend a Montessori school. She mentioned how when trying to find the best preschool for her daughter, she visited Montessori schools and disliked how they were set up. The school she had visited was very structured and too academically inclined. She felt that the best school for her daughter was a traditional preschool. This mama talks about how her daughter loves all the playtime on the playground and is even beginning to read.
There are benefits to both Montessori teaching and traditional teaching. In the end, the person who chooses the best school and education type for a child is the parent (or other child care provider). When considering different education types, it is important to remember that young children score higher in reading and math compared to children taught the traditional ways. With that being said, there is no significant increase in academic scores for teenagers learning through the Montessori Method.
Now that you’ve seen some research and personal testimonies, you can decide which is best for your child or student: Montessori or traditional education. There isn’t a right or wrong answer—as long as you do what you feel is best, and support the child, they will succeed no matter their learning environment.
Related: How is Montessori different?
Where the Montessori Method Came From
Now that you’ve learned about the differences between traditional schooling and the Montessori method, you may be wondering where this new type of teaching comes from. Understanding the history behind the Montessori method may incline you to try it with your own child.
Maria Montessori was an Italian physician who dedicated her life and her studies to helping children. Through her work with children struggling with a variety of mental illnesses, Maria created the basis of the Montessori Method. Maria had found that through proper stimulation, these children were able to learn and act better. After studying more about these mentally ill children and how they learn, Maria opened her first school in Rome in the year 1907.
This school was open to all children, especially those who had parents who were in the workforce and were unable to care for their children during the day. Maria used this opportunity to put into practice the method and teachings she had discovered about children. Maria had filled the school with teaching toys for the children to experiment with and learn from. If children were not interested in a specific toy, Maria would remove it, as it no longer served a useful purpose.
Maria’s schools were a success—teaching children how to read on their own and increasing their learning abilities. Soon, there were many other Montessori schools throughout Rome and other parts of Italy for children to attend. As Maria’s name became known around the globe, she began planning trips to teach other child care providers her methods. In 1913, Maria was able to travel to America to share her methods with the United States.
Maria stayed in the US and taught child care providers and other interested people during a three-week-long lecture. Maria returned only two years later to share her teachings and methods once again. People were amazed and shocked by her methods, wanting to learn more about how it worked and the effects it had.
Unfortunately, World War I put an end to many of her trips and eventually, to her schools in Rome. After the war, Maria was able to open back up many of her schools. Not only the Italian schools were closed, by the 1920s many of the Montessori schools located in the United States of America were closed. She successfully wrote books about her studies and what she learned about the education of young children. After her death, her son, Mario Montessori took over and continued with the teachings and her methods.
By the 1950s many people were done with traditional teaching and parenting methods in the United States and were looking for different ways to help children and students. Nancy McCormick, a teacher from New York found the writings of Maria Montessori and wanted to learn more. Nancy traveled to Paris to attend a Montessori Congress and met Mario, who taught Nancy about the Montessori Method and how it can help children and students. Nancy brought back the Montessori Method to America, where people loved the teaching styles.
Refer to the American Montessori Society to learn more about the history behind the method.