What are the best K-12 Schools for Innovation? Perhaps Montessori Schools?
I’m not sure, but Andrew McFee and
Andrew McFee in the Harvard Business Review on Montessori Schools:
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 2½-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. I was a Montessori student in northwestern Indiana from a very early age through third grade, which was as high as the school went at that time. The teachers were an earnest group of the biggest hippies that could be found in small-town Hoosierland in the 1970s, and they gave us a lot of room to explore stuff that we found interesting.
From the Wall Street Journal article McFee references in the HBR article:
The Montessori Mafia showed up in an extensive, six-year study about the way creative business executives think. Professors Jeffrey Dyer of Brigham Young University and Hal Gregersen of globe-spanning business school INSEAD surveyed over 3,000 executives and interviewed 500 people who had either started innovative companies or invented new products.
“A number of the innovative entrepreneurs also went to Montessori schools, where they learned to follow their curiosity,” Mr. Gregersen said. “To paraphrase the famous Apple ad campaign, innovators not only learned early on to think different, they act different (and even talk different).”