The impact of Montessori teaching on academic achievement of elementary school students in a Central Texas school district: a causal-comparative inquiry
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Providing a meaningful and experiential learning environment for all students has long created a concern for alternate ways to teach students who are reportedly demonstrating non-mastery on state standardized assessments. As the benchmark for showing successful academic achievement increases, so does the need for discovering effective ways for students to learn. The Montessori teaching method has been in existence since the early 1900s when Dr. Montessori made her discovery of the student learning process. Dr. Montessori connected to the laws of nature and the environment for creating students who are problem-solvers with critical-thinking skills. The Montessori Method is designed to promote independent learning and support normal development in children. A Montessori lesson is defined as any interaction between an adult and a child; it incorporates techniques that are defined to serve as guidance for the adult personality in working with the child. The study investigated the impact of Montessori Method on the academic achievement of 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students. The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) was used to measure academic achievement in reading and mathematics. An ex post facto, causal-comparative design was employed. The characteristic-present samples consisted of 47 3rd, 40 4th, and 44 5th graders. There were 71 3rd, 60 4th, and 49 5th graders in the comparison samples. Due to non-probability nature of the sampling technique, external validity was limited to study participants. Due to non-experimental nature of the study, no causal inferences were drawn. A series of Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) showed that there were no statistically significant differences between the students who received the Montessori Method of instruction and those who did not on the basis of the outcome measures of academic achievement in reading and mathematics. The mean difference effect sizes, which were used to examine the practical significance of the findings, ranged from negligible to small. Although the results of the study did not support the hypothesis, it must be pointed out that the Montessori Method of teaching facilitates self-paced learning that promotes a child's independence and encourages decision-making which are instrumental in becoming successful learners. Additionally, Montessori advocates experiences that are "real-world" and allow children to build intrinsic motivational opportunities; therefore, creating independent thinkers that will be competitive problem-solvers in the global economy of the 21st century. The limited studies on the Montessori Method of teaching offer opportunities for further investigation at all grade levels. For example, it is recommended to conduct a study to compare students who receive Montessori education during the early years of their academic life with those who receive Montessori education from pre-k to high school graduation. Because the Montessori name does not have a trademark, there are opportunities for investigating Montessori teacher preparation and comparing the preparation of the teachers to the standardized assessment results. There are also opportunities for investigating the method and curriculum used at schools that carry the name Montessori for comparison purposes amongst Montessori schools as well as in comparison to the results of the standardized assessments at these schools.
A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership.