Close this search box.

Montessori education: a review of the evidence base

This is a brief summary of an academic article reviewing the evidence base for Montessori education.

Is there any evidence about the effectiveness of Montessori education? Our research summary provides some answers. To understand more about how Montessori education is a proven path for every child’s success, read our article here.

Article Information

Title: Montessori education: a review of the evidence base
Author: Chloë Marshall, Department of Psychology and Human Development, UCL Institute of Education, University College London, London, UK
Published: Nature – npj Science of Learning
Citation: Marshall, C. Montessori education: a review of the evidence base. npj Science Learn 2, 11 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41539-017-0012-7


The Montessori educational method has existed for over 100 years, but evaluations of its effectiveness are scarce. This review paper has three aims, namely to (1) identify some key elements of the method, (2) review existing evaluations of Montessori education, and (3) review studies that do not explicitly evaluate Montessori education but which evaluate the key elements identified in (1). The goal of the paper is therefore to provide a review of the evidence base for Montessori education, with the dual aspirations of stimulating future research and helping teachers to better understand whether and why Montessori education might be effective.

boy looking at a bug on a leaf with a magnifying glass

Key Points

The key takeaway points from this article are:

  1. Unique Educational Approach: Montessori education is characterised by its focus on self-directed activities within a prepared environment that supports the child’s development across intellectual, physical, emotional, and social domains. This approach contrasts sharply with conventional educational systems that are often more rigid and focused on academic testing.

  2. Core Elements of the Montessori Method: The article identifies key elements of Montessori education, such as specially designed learning materials and a pedagogical approach that encourages children to engage with these materials in a self-directed, hands-on manner.

  3. Scarcity and Limitations of Research: Despite over a century of application, there is a notable scarcity of rigorous, peer-reviewed research evaluating the effectiveness of Montessori education. The existing studies often have methodological limitations that affect the reliability of their findings.

  4. Evidence of Effectiveness: Where available, evidence suggests that Montessori education can offer cognitive and social benefits, especially when implemented with high fidelity to Montessori’s original principles. However, outcomes from adapted versions of Montessori education are less definitive.

  5. Challenges in Educational Research: The article discusses the inherent difficulties in conducting educational research, particularly issues related to randomisation, the authenticity of implementation, and the generalisability of findings across different Montessori settings.

  6. Need for Further Research: There is a strong call for more systematic and methodologically robust research to better understand the most effective components of Montessori education and to explore its potential benefits across diverse educational settings.

  7. Comparative Studies: The review also encourages comparative studies examining the shared elements of Montessori education with other pedagogical methods to situate Montessori within the broader educational landscape better.

  8. Potential for Adaptation: The paper highlights the adaptability of Montessori methods and the importance of empirical research to guide adaptations, ensuring that Montessori education remains relevant and effective in contemporary educational contexts.

Benefits of Montessori

The article highlights several benefits and positive aspects of Montessori education, emphasising its distinctive approach and potential advantages over conventional educational methods:

Holistic Development:

Montessori education supports the child’s intellectual, physical, emotional, and social development. This comprehensive developmental approach is central to the Montessori method, which aims to facilitate the optimal unfolding of each child’s potential.

Self-Directed Learning:

One of Montessori education’s hallmark features is its emphasis on self-directed activities. This encourages children to take the initiative and make choices about their learning activities, fostering independence and self-motivation.

Prepared Environment:

Montessori learning environments are carefully prepared to support learning. They include specially designed materials that promote hands-on learning and exploration, which is vital to engaging children and enhancing their learning experience.

Customised Learning Materials:

Montessori materials are unique in that they are designed to isolate specific concepts and include a built-in “control of error.” This allows children to explore and learn at their own pace while enabling self-correction and independent problem-solving.

Focus on Concrete Learning:

Early learning in Montessori settings often involves concrete materials that gradually lead to abstract thinking. This progression from concrete to abstract helps solidify foundational concepts before moving to more complex ideas.

Social and Cognitive Skills:

Studies mentioned in the article suggest that Montessori education can foster essential social and cognitive skills. Children in Montessori settings often show improvements in executive function, reading, math, and social problem-solving.

Community and Cooperation:

Unlike traditional classrooms that might emphasise competition, Montessori environments foster community and student collaboration. This is achieved through mixed-age classrooms and activities that promote cooperative learning.

Academic Skills:

In some studies, Montessori students have demonstrated superior or at least equal academic skills compared to non-Montessori peers, particularly in reading and math. They also have better social skills and a greater sense of community.

Long-Term Benefits:

There are potential long-term benefits of Montessori education, which may not be immediately apparent but emerge over time. This highlights the importance of considering the lasting impact of educational approaches.

The positive aspects underscore the value of Montessori education and its potential to offer a more rounded and engaging learning experience compared to more traditional educational methods. 

Featured Image - Research Summary


Related Articles

Feature Image - Montessori Binomial Cube

Maths: The Binomial Cube Explained

This guest post has been republished from Montessori East. The Binomial Cube is one of those amazing Montessori materials. It introduces abstract maths concept to children as...

Read More

MSCA is registered as a charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission
(ABN 42 636 033 899)