The Science Behind the Genius

by Angelina Lillard

Number of pages: 424

Publisher: Oxford University Press

BBB Library: Education

ISBN: 9780195369366

About the Author

Angelina Lillard received her doctorate degree in Psychology from Stanford University in 1991. She was awarded several awards by various well-known associations of Psychology.


Editorial Review

One hundred years ago, Maria Montessori, the first female physician in Italy, devised a very different method of educating children, based on her observations of how they naturally learn. In Montessori, Angeline Stoll Lillard shows that science has finally caught up with Maria Montessori. Lillard presents the research behind eight insights that are foundations of Montessori education, describing how each of these insights is applied in the Montessori classroom. In reading this book, parents and teachers alike will develop a clear understanding of what happens in a Montessori classroom and, more important, why it happens and why it works. Lillard, however, does much more than explain the scientific basis for Montessori's system: Amid the clamor for evidence-based education, she presents the studies that show how children learn best, makes clear why many traditional practices come up short, and describes an ingenious alternative that works. Now with a foreword by Renilde Montessori, the youngest grandchild of Maria Montessori, Montessori offers a wealth of insights for anyone interested in education.

Book Reviews

"Lillard brings together her own experience as a Montessori parent with her professional expertise as a developmental psychologist, and the result is a well-written and well-argued book." The Children's Tree

Books on Related Topics

Wisdom to Share

Traditional schools are modeled on factories, producing workers for the factories into which they would graduate.

The practices of having single-age classrooms and whole-class teaching, for example, prioritize adult convenience, not the child’s.

Modern research suggests that the Montessori system is more suited to how children learn and develop than the traditional system.

Tying extrinsic rewards to an activity, like money for reading, negatively impacts motivation to engage in that activity when the reward is withdrawn.

Infants who by their movement generate an experience are inspired to continue to engage in that movement, generating more such experiences of how the self can create environmental change.

Purposeful activities are self-reinforcing for infants, and self-generated movement is clearly tied to even very basic processes of mental development.

In traditional classrooms, there is a high level of imposed control, which may be a natural consequence of the factory model. Factory workers are treated similarly, with no allowance for personal choice about work.

Free choice is associated with both initial level of performance and with task persistence, which undoubtedly would lead to additional performance gains over time.

Researches showed that, both in adults and children, the provision of choice is associated with several positive consequences.

Children’s motivation to engage in activities further, their cognitive functioning, their creativity, and their prosocial behaviors are all negatively impacted by extrinsic rewards and evaluation.

Rewards have negative impact mainly when they are clearly contingent on doing another activity, when they are expected, and when they are tangible, such as money or prizes.

People learn and remember better, solve tasks better, and opt to engage in tasks more and longer when they think they have more control.

Some studies suggest that peer learning programs work well when rewards are given to a group for the group’s performance.

Rewards are often effective at the moment of their offering, so if there are no long-term goals, they help without causing harm.

Because mental development occurs when a child has to resolve disequilibrium by changing his/her mind, or “accommodating,” to incorporate new ideas, peers can be an important engine of development.

History has traditionally been taught as a series of people, places, and dates to memorize, and only in the hands of a gifted teacher can children see how the learning relates to their own lives.

Maria Montessori saw the task of childhood as being to become increasingly independent, and the role of the adult as assisting children toward that independence.

Teachers should be trained to notice and correctly interpret the behavioral manifestations of the child’s inner state. That’s why they have to develop self-understanding, so they do not misinterpret children’s signals in ways that align with their own needs.

Giving children the environment that is adapted to their nature, and that is the work of schools, will contribute to a healthy development of a child’s mind and soul, which is the core aim of education.