Study finds Montessori education improves lifelong well-being

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A recent study published in Frontiers in Psychology found evidence that confirmed what many educators and researchers already suspected: Children enrolled in Montessori schools generally have higher levels of well-being as an adult.

The Montessori method of education, which encourages children to develop a deep-seated love of learning through self-directed activities, has been growing in popularity around the world since Maria Montessori opened the first Montessori school in Rome in 1907. Today, over 500,000 American children are enrolled in Montessori schools.

The study, conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Virginia, consisted of a survey given to 1905 adults aged 18 to 81. About half of the survey participants had attended a Montessori school as a child for at least two years, while the other half only attended conventional schools.

What the study found was nothing short of astounding. Children who spent as little as two years in Montessori schools had higher levels of well-being–defined as the self-perception of health, happiness, and flourishing–as an adult. This held true even when race, age, gender, and socio-economic status were accounted for.

To ensure the test was objective, the researchers developed a model of well-being measured across four factors: general well-being, social trust, engagement, and self-confidence. They used first exploratory, then confirmatory data to develop the soundness of the model.

According to Angeline Lillard, one of the authors of the research study, the findings were conclusive.

“What surprised us is that pretty much everything in the sink turned out significant—on almost every survey, people who had spent at least two years in Montessori had higher well-being than people who never went to Montessori,” says Lillard. “This was true even among the sub-sample who attended private schools for their entire pre-college lives.

The researchers suggest that Montessori education enhances well-being through three methods: self-determination, meaningful activities, and social stability.

Self-determination involves allowing children to be the directors of their own education; they study what they are most interested in, fostering a lifelong love of learning. Montessori education also encourages students to perform only meaningful activities, or activities for which there is a clear purpose. In other words, no busywork.

Finally, the system fosters social stability and cohesion by encouraging students to play and work together. Montessori schools group students and teachers together in the same cohesive group for multiple years, allowing them to develop lifelong relationships.

As a result, graduates of Montessori schools often have higher levels of social cohesion and improved social skills when compared to peers raised in traditional models of schooling.

Mark Travers Ph.D. of Psychology Today reported in his article “Montessori Children Often Turn Into Happy Adults” that the study adds to a rather small body of research on the link between childhood education and adult well-being.

“What makes this research even more impressive is the relative lack of research on the types of childhood experiences that encourage well-being in adulthood,” Travers said in his article. “For instance, one study found that adults who experienced more residential moves as children (i.e., moving from one town to another) are more likely to develop certain psychological and health problems. Beyond that, the findings are scant.”

More research will be needed to flesh out the link between a Montessori education and happiness and well-being as an adult. Nevertheless, the researchers said they hope their work will encourage more parents to take a closer look at Montessori schools for their children.

“The study is one more data point in a growing body of research suggesting Montessori pedagogy is better for humans than is the common model,” said Lillard.

If you’d like to enroll your child in a Montessori school in the Washington D.C. metro area, consider Brooksfield School. Situated on 5 acres of woodlands in McLean, Virginia, Brooksfield embraces the Montessori method of education while ensuring students develop a well-rounded education.

Our unique curriculum focuses on independent learning, outdoor exploration, and group work across age groups. Over the course of their education, our students develop mindfulness, self-confidence, social skills, and a lifelong love of learning. To learn more, contact us or schedule a tour of our campus today.

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