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Montessori better, Science journal reports

Media Release October 4 2006

From: Montessori Association of New Zealand

Montessori better, Science journal reports

Montessori educated children have better social and academic skills than children who attend traditional schools, a United States study has revealed.

The study was reported in the September 29 issue of Science. The authors, Virginia University psychology professor Dr Angline LiIlard and former Wisconsin University graduate student Dr Nicole Else-Quest, compared the outcomes of children at a public inner-city Montessori school with children at traditional schools.

Children came from families of similar incomes and were evaluated at the end of the two most widely implemented levels of Montessori education: preschool (3-6 year-olds) and primary (6-12 year-olds). The children who attended the Montessori school, and the children who did not, were tested for their cognitive and academic skills, and for their social and behavioral skills.

"We found significant advantages for the Montessori students in these tests for both age groups," Lillard said. "Particularly remarkable are the positive social effects of Montessori education. Typically the home environment overwhelms all other influences in that area."

Among the 5-year-olds, Montessori students proved to be significantly better prepared for primary school in reading and maths skills than the non-Montessori children. They also tested better on "executive function", the ability to adapt to changing and more complex problems, an indicator of future school and life success.

Montessori children also displayed better abilities on the social and behavioural tests, demonstrating a greater sense of justice and fairness. And on the playground they were much more likely to engage in emotionally positive play with peers, and less likely to engage in rough play.

Among the 12-year-olds from both groups, the Montessori children, in cognitive and academic measures, produced essays that were rated as "significantly more creative” and using “significantly more sophisticated sentence structures". The Montessori and non-Montessori students scored similarly on spelling, punctuation and grammar, and there was not much difference in academic skills related to reading and maths. This parity occurred despite the Montessori children not being regularly tested and graded.

In social and behavioural measures, 12-year-old Montessori students were more likely to choose "positive assertive responses" for dealing with unpleasant social situations, such as having someone cut into a queue. They also indicated a "greater sense of community" at their school and felt that students there respected, helped and cared about each other.

“When strictly implemented, Montessori education fosters social and academic skills that are equal or superior to those fostered by a pool of other types of schools," the authors concluded.

Lillard plans to continue her research by tracking the students from both groups over a longer period of time to determine the long-term benefits of Montessori versus traditional education.

Montessori education is characterised by multi-age classrooms, a special set of educational materials, student-chosen work in long time blocks, a collaborative environment with student mentors, absence of grades and tests, and individual and small group instruction in academic and social skills. Montessori is the single largest pedagogy in the world with more than 8000 schools worldwide.

New Zealand has more than 100 Montessori schools, from infants through to adolescents.

ENDS

E-link http://www.montessori-science.org/montessori_science_journal.htm

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