Posted March 30, 2022
A growing body of evidence demonstrates the success of Montessori's holistic approach in achieving strong results on both academic and non-academic student outcomes.
Randomized control design studies have found superior outcomes on academic and pre-academic assessments for children who attended Montessori preschool and elementary schools compared to non-Montessori control group children (Lillard, et al, 2017; Lillard & Else-Quest, 2006).
Research also suggests positive long-term impacts when comparing high school students who attended Montessori preschools and elementary schools to a control group matched on gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and high school attended (Dohrmann, et al, 2007).
Furthermore, studies examining classroom practices found stronger academic gains for children in preschool classrooms implementing the Montessori Method with high fidelity (Lillard, 2012; Lillard & Heise, 2016).
In addition to superior academic outcomes, randomized control design studies also found positive impacts on socio-emotional measures when comparing children in Montessori preschool and elementary classrooms to children in control groups (Lillard, et al, 2017; Lillard & Else-Quest, 2006).
When studying older children, researchers found that Montessori adolescents reported more positive perceptions of their school environments and teachers, and more often perceived classmates as friends, as compared to students in a non-Montessori school. They also reported greater affect and potency (feeling energetic) (Rathunde & Csikszentmihalyi, 2005a; Rathunde & Csikszentmihalyi, 2005b).
Research from France found a positive impact of Montessori education on creativity. In one study, children who attended a Montessori program showed better performance on creativity tasks compared to children schooled in Freinet—an alternative form of education developed in the early 1900s by the French educator reformer, Célestin Freinet—or traditional pedagogy. Similarly, another study by the same authors found stronger results for Montessori students on all creativity measures across first through fourth grades (Besançon, M., & Lubart, 2008; Besançon, M., Lubart, T., & Barbot, B., 2013).
In addition to academic outcomes, Lillard and Else-Quest’s 2006 study also found Montessori students’ essay compositions were rated as being more creative and as having a more sophisticated sentence structure than those of non-Montessori students (Lillard & Else-Quest, 2006).
Flow & Executive Function
Research that examines academic outcomes often investigates other constructs as well. Two studies mentioned previously also found stronger executive functioning results when comparing Montessori private preschoolers to non-Montessori children (Lillard & Else-Quest, 2006; Lillard, et al, 2017).
Previously reported research with adolescents also showed stronger results for the Montessori students in intrinsic motivation, flow, and undivided interest (combination of high intrinsic motivation and high salience or importance) (Rathunde & Csikszentmihalyi, 2005a; Rathunde & Csikszentmihalyi, 2005b).
A study examined the racial and economic diversity of 300 whole-school, public Montessori programs open in 2012 – 2013. It found that public Montessori has strengths in student racial and socioeconomic diversity, but faces some challenges as well. These programs serve a majority of students of color and continue to attract families from all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. However, economic diversity is less pronounced in Montessori public schools than racial diversity, and charter Montessori schools are whiter on average and enroll fewer low-income students than do district or magnet Montessori schools (Debs, 2016).
Some research studies have focused specifically on children from diverse backgrounds. One study compared reading and math achievement for African-American third graders in public Montessori and other magnet schools in a large, urban district using scores from end-of-grade state tests. Although no significant difference in math scores was identified, Montessori students scored significantly higher in reading (Brown & Lewis, 2017).
Another study compared students from different Title-I public school programs following either a Montessori curriculum or HighScope Curriculum with a literary component and found all children achieved regardless of curriculum. However, Latino children seemed to benefit the most in terms of exhibiting the highest gains in pre-academic and behavioral skills at the end of the year while black students displayed stronger gains from attending conventional pre-K programs than Montessori ones (Ansari & Winsler, 2014).
Racial disproportionality in school discipline has become a focus of equity research over the past 40 years. A study examined out-of-school suspension data from the Office of Civil Rights Data Collection for Montessori and traditional elementary schools in a large urban district in the Southeast. While statistically significant levels of racial discipline disproportionality are found in both the Montessori and traditional schools, the effect is substantially less pronounced in Montessori settings (Brown & Steele, 2015).
Ansari, A., & Winsler, A. (2014). “Montessori public school pre-K programs and the school readiness of low-income Black and Latino children.” Journal of Educational Psychology, 106(4), Nov. 2014, pp. 1066 – 1079.
Besançon, M., Lubart, T., & Barbot, B. (2013). Creative giftedness and educational opportunities. Educational & Child Psychology, 30(2), pp. 9 – 88.
Besançon, M., & Lubart, T. (2008) “Differences in the development of creative competencies in children schooled in diverse learning environments.” Learning and individual differences 18(4), p. 381 – 389.
Brown, K., & Lewis, C. (2017). A Comparison of Reading and Math Achievement for African American Third Grade Students in Montessori and Other Magnet Schools. Journal of Negro Education, 86(4), p. 439 – 448.
Brown, K. E., & Steele, A. S. L. (2015). Racial discipline disproportionality in Montessori and traditional public schools: A comparative study using the Relative Rate Index. Journal of Montessori Research, 1(1).
Debs., M. C. (2016). Racial and economic diversity in U.S. public Montessori schools. Journal of Montessori Research, 2(2).
Dohrmann, K. R., Nishida, T. K., Gartner, A., Lipsky, D. K., & Grimm, K. (2007). High school outcomes for students in a public Montessori program. Journal of research in childhood education 22(2), pp. 205 – 217.
Lillard, A. S., Heise, M. J., Richey, E. M., Tong, X., Hart, A., & Bray, P. M. (2017) Montessori Preschool Elevates and Equalizes Child Outcomes: A Longitudinal Study. Frontiers in Psychology.
Lillard, A. S., & Heise, M. J. (2016). “Removing Supplementary Materials from Montessori Classrooms Changed Child Outcomes.” Journal of Montessori Research.2:1, pp. 16 – 26.
Lillard, A. S. (2012). “Preschool Children’s Development in Classic Montessori, Supplemented Montessori, and Conventional Programs.” Journal of School Psychology (50) pp. 379 – 401.
Lillard, A. S., & Else-Quest, N. (2006). Evaluating Montessori education. Science, (313) pp. 1893 – 1894.
Rathunde, K., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2005a). Middle school students’ motivation and quality of experience: A comparison of Montessori and traditional school environments. American journal of education, 111(3), pp. 341 – 371.
Rathunde, K., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2005b). The social context of middle school: Teachers, friends, and activities in Montessori and traditional school environments. The elementary school journal, 106(1), pp. 59 – 79.