Patterns of Concentration in Montessori Preschools: Investigating Concentration When Children are Free to Choose Their Own Work

Author: ORCID icon
Becker, Ian, Psychology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Lillard, Angeline, Psychology, University of Virginia

One key characteristic of Montessori classrooms is that children freely choose to engage with whatever they are most interested in. A common concern about Montessori is thus whether students will concentrate on their work throughout the day, and even whether they will actually choose to work at all. We completed 115 observations of children in Montessori Primary classrooms (ages 3-6), coding for children’s concentration and activity across two to three hours in the morning. The best fitting model of concentration across time was a quartic model, including age. This model indicated that 3-year-olds had two bouts of concentration, with a brief period of fatigue mid-morning. Four-year-olds showed an increased ability to concentrate across the entire morning, with minimal indication of fatigue. Five-year-olds showed a higher level of concentration than their younger peers, and were able to concentrate longer than the 3-year-olds, but this was followed by a period of fatigue. These findings are in line with Montessori theory, and suggest that children do freely choose to concentrate on their work. In regard to activities that children chose to do, we found children choose to spend a majority of the time engaged in work. Further, children distributed their time across all areas of the classroom, indicating that choice does not limit their exposure to any one area of learning.

MA (Master of Arts)
Montessori, concentration, education, preschool, class activity
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