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Dispelling Perceptions: Montessori Education – Attaining Common Ground with Public Schools



Using concepts from cognitive science, this dissertation explored changes in perception among Montessori education leaders and traditional education leaders. Although Montessori education programs have grown as an option in the public school sector, their unique features in mainstream environments have brought to the fore serious challenges in understanding and communication between decision makers at the institutional level of public education and among Montessori academies. Nationally, Montessori education entities have fostered a strong momentum for improvement at the state policy level. However in some states, including California, differing perceptions still hinder inclusive decision making, resulting in lack of teacher credential recognition, denial of eligibility and funding.

My study implemented a communication intervention through which an iterative conversation between both sides aimed to address perceptions and language and provide shared understandings. Using the challenge between Montessori and traditional public education and framed under the cognitive theories of mental models, framing, schemas, metaphors and embodiment, this intervention addressed whether perceptions can begin to shift when one is more fully informed at a deeper cognitive level.

Incorporating a workshop intervention involving several modalities, my findings suggested a shift in perception which seemed to persist over time. The effects in shifting actors’ perceptions of Montessori education were statistically significant and modest in terms of magnitude. I also found a weaker perceptual shift among traditional educators in California compared with peers in other states. I obtained specific suggestions for future iterations of kinesthetic learning, along with how to best share perspectives between Montessori and traditional leaders, along with possible collaborations between these pedagogies.

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