Join us for The Brainstorming Tour on November 1




Education Researchers to Speak About Montessori and Education Reform

Presentation to be held at The Montessori Academy of Colorado

October 01, 2018

Denver – The Montessori Academy of Colorado will be hosting a special presentation about what the latest research says children need at school to help grow their brains - and it’s not more testing. 

Dr. Laura Flores Shaw, adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University, and Dr. Steven Hughes, pediatric neuropsychologist and senior research advisor to the Association Montessori International, will be speaking in Denver at The Montessori Academy of Colorado on November 1, from 6-8 pm as part of a national speaking tour. 

According to Shaw and Hughes, when mandatory school tests force teachers to “teach to the test,” the range of experience and the developmental quality of classroom activities is reduced. Teachers spend more time lecturing, children spend more time passively listening, and the range of content is reduced to only those subjects covered by state tests. 

“The research is clear – when test scores become the main goal of education, the actual quality of the educational experience goes way down,” says Hughes. 

And developing bodies and brains don’t get what they fully need: active engagement with their physical and social environments. 

Yet high-stakes testing has been spreading to countries around the world, even as the consequences of this approach to education reform has become clear in the United States and other countries who were among the first to adopt this strategy. 

“The irony is that what children need to help foster cognitive development is the very opposite of sitting at a desk all day,” says Shaw. “The purpose of the brain is to promote action. Thinking and action are entangled. If children are sitting at desks listening to teachers for most of the day, they have little chance to engage in action—to move around the environment, use their hands to solve problems, and practice collaborating with others. The bottom line is that cognitive science has been shifting to an action-oriented paradigm of cognitive development for the past two decades, but conventional schools are still stuck in a computational view of cognition that omits action, and that’s a problem.”

What’s the answer? Well, there are other ways of doing school, and both Shaw and Hughes are advocates of the Montessori method, an approach that facilitates child-directed, hands-on, and exploratory activities in a specially prepared classroom. 

Research is showing that Montessori-educated children not only perform as well or better on academic tests than children who attend conventional schools, they also show stronger growth of a range of non-academic skills that are important predictors of life success, such as creativity, critical thinking, self-regulation, communication, collaboration, and self-understanding. 

Montessori schools provide this by approaching education from an action perspective, which aligns with cognitive science’s current paradigm. By focusing on hands-on experimentation and interactive problem solving, it more fully engages and supports the growth of the brain’s sensorimotor system. The research shows that movement isn’t just about exercise. Engaging in a wide variety of movements that become automated actually helps children’s cognitive development and even emotional regulation. 

As Shaw wrote in an article published last year, “Educators (and parents) need to understand that the need for movement goes beyond the value of aerobic exercise. Cognitive and motor development are intertwined. In fact, children with learning disabilities often have poor gross motor skills. And children with developmental coordination disorder and undiagnosed motor difficulties (including manual dexterity) score lower on measures of executive functioning skills (working memory, inhibition, task switching, planning, and verbal fluency) – skills necessary not only for academic achievement but also for life.”

“Yet governments around the world still think that the way to improve their education systems is to focus on test scores, like the United States did with No Child Left Behind” says Hughes, and which was responsible for many of the changes in schooling that the two say have been damaging. 

Shaw and Hughes have each lectured to groups throughout the world. They first joined forces for a European lecture tour last spring, and they will be speaking throughout North America during the 2018-2019 school year.

Register for the event by going to rsvp.tmaoc.comand click on The Brainstorming Tour, spots are limited so sign up now. More information about Montessori education can be found at, or


View All News