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Montessori Builds Innovators

by Andrew McAfee

Harvard Business Review (JULY 25, 2011)

This piece was published a few years ago, but it is such a concise summary that I thought it worth sharing again.

There are strident disagreements these days over every aspect of American educational policy, except for one. Everyone thinks it would be great if we could better teach students how to innovate.

So shouldn't we be paying a great deal of attention to the educational method that produced, among others, Larry Page, Sergei Brin, Jeff Bezos, Jimmy Wales, Peter Drucker, Julia Child, David Blaine, and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs? They were all students in Montessori schools. According to a Wall Street Journal article by Peter Sims, there's a “Montessori Mafia” among the creative elite. So maybe there's something to the method Italian physician Maria Montessori came up with around the turn of the 20th century.

The cornerstones of this method, according to Wales's brainchild Wikipedia, are:
• mixed-age classrooms, with classrooms for children aged 2-or-3 to 6 by far the most common,
• student choice of activity from within a prescribed range of options,
• uninterrupted blocks of work time,
• a Constructivist or “discovery” model, in which students learn concepts from working with materials, rather than by direct instruction, and
• specialized educational materials developed by Montessori and her collaborators.That list rings true to me.

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