Photo by Laura Kingston Conference participants get a hands-on example of Montessori education in action at the 2017 National Council on Measurement in Education at KU. (Those are Kathy Klocke’s hands and Dayle’s bowl!)

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas has announced the foundation of the KU Center for Montessori Research, the nation’s first university-based center dedicated to research on Montessori education.

The center will carry out studies specific to Montessori environments and examine the potential influence of Montessori principles on education and human development more broadly. The mission of the center is to build a robust body of knowledge so that Montessori education and philosophy will benefit all children.

Activities of the center will include collaboration, research, evaluation, leadership and dissemination. Collaboration with scholars throughout the Montessori community and the fields of education and psychology will foster connections across disciplines and areas of expertise. High-quality research with a critical perspective on philosophy, practices and outcomes will inform educational practices, improve educational environments for all children and explore opportunities for unique applications of Montessori principles. Evaluation of Montessori-related programs will provide an independent point of view that examines the effectiveness of a variety of programs across the lifespan, from classrooms to national initiatives. To advance high-quality research in the field with resources developed within a major research university, the center will provide leadership among Montessori researchers. Finally, dissemination of Montessori-related research information to a wide audience will create an informed Montessori community as well as a voice for Montessori education in the broader field of education.

Montessori philosophy and pedagogy individualize hands-on instruction with a longterm, whole-child perspective. It is also rooted in a collective sense of well-being and aims to promote peace. Although most popular at the early childhood level, Montessori programs exist from infancy through adolescence, with a growing number of programs serving people with dementia. While Maria Montessori developed her method over a century ago, Montessori education remains popular today, with more than 4,500 Montessori schools in the United States, including 500 public schools.

The new center will be led by Angela Murray, assistant research professor at KU. “Many people have heard the term Montessori and even have generally positive feelings about it, but misconceptions still exist,” she said. “Montessori education is available well beyond the early childhood age groups for which it is most known. Montessori education is not affiliated with any particular religion although some religious schools implement the Montessori Method. And, a growing number of Montessori programs exist in the public sphere allowing a more diverse population of children to access an educational approach that was historically limited to those families who could afford private schools.”

Beyond the schools themselves, Montessori education continues to gain momentum as a contemporary influence on and movement in schooling and education around the globe because its fundamental principles apply to diverse environments.

The Center for Montessori Research will be housed within KU’s Achievement & Assessment Institute. “AAI is pleased to add the Center for Montessori Research to our organization,” said AAI Director Neal Kingston. “A university affiliation will give Montessori education its rightful seat at the table for important conversations about education in this country.”

The Center for Montessori Research represents KU’s expanding contributions to Montessori education. The American Montessori Society’s Journal of Montessori Research began publication through KU Libraries in 2015, and a national gathering of scholars interested in Montessori education took place on campus in 2017 with plans to convene again in 2018. “As a leader in the field of education, creating the first dedicated research center focused on Montessori education is a natural fit for KU, which clearly aligns with the School of Education’s mission to expand and deepen the understanding of education and to help society respond to educational challenges,” said Rick Ginsberg, dean of KU’s School of Education.

Leaders in the Montessori community, scholars with a history of studying Montessori education and experts in Montessori philosophy will serve on the center’s advisory board. Initial board members include Tim Purnell of the American Montessori Society and Angeline Lillard of the University of Virginia.

The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. The university’s mission is to lift students and society by educating leaders, building healthy communities and making discoveries that change the world. The KU News Service is the central public relations office for the Lawrence campus.