Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius, Third Edition
Continuing her own Montessori research in the intervening years since she wrote her book in 2005, Dr. Lillard has now completed a third edition of Montessori The Science Behind The Genius (publication date, January 2017). New relevant research is included in this new edition and is incorporated throughout its chapters. In addition, there is a full new chapter on executive function, a topic of great interest currently to developmental psychologists as it is a strong predictor of life outcomes. Another new chapter describes academic and non-academic outcomes for Montessori students according to research completed since 2005.
The new edition of chapter 5 in Dr. Lillard’s book is of particular interest. It includes results of the previously-mentioned review study of the literature on pretend play, a topic on which Montessori education is frequently criticized. The review’s conclusion, that the evidence for pretend play showing developmental benefits for young children is deficient, challenges the play-based programs of most standard pre-schools today. Some features of “playful learning” are shown to be positive to learning, however, and Dr. Lillard explains how these particular features (free choice, peer involvement) are shared by Montessori education.
There is new information on Montessori’s Practical Life activities as well. Practical Life activities are predicated upon the daily routines of adults in the child’s particular culture. Montessori found that her children preferred these real life activities with real utensils to pretend ones. In addition, their behavior and demeanor changed in positive ways as a result, suggesting that these activities were meeting some important inner need of development. Other chapters include information on organized classrooms, sensory discrimination and intelligence, and many other issues.
Dr. Lillard concludes that, after 10 more years of intensive study, her understanding of and respect for Montessori education has deepened significantly. Children in authentic Montessori programs have higher executive function, tend to be more creative, and do better academically and socially than their peers in conventional education. Montessori research is in its beginning stages but the signs for its future growth are promising. It is particularly encouraging that research in the neural outcomes of Montessori education has begun.
What we do know already is that the research of neuroscientists, using MRI technology, shows that we can indeed “go out and build” our own brains. The research of psychologists studying the cognitive and social development of children shows that Montessori Education helps us to do this, starting at the earliest ages. We can “build the brain we want”, and we can help our children to do the same. What a special time of pioneering in educational discovery!