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PLoS One. 2019 Nov 21;14(11):e0225319. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0225319. eCollection 2019.

Beyond executive functions, creativity skills benefit academic outcomes: Insights from Montessori education.

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The Center for Affective Sciences (CISA), Campus Biotech, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.
Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences (FAPSE), University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.
The Laboratory for Investigative Neurophysiology (The LINE), Department of Radiology and Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Lausanne University Hospital and University of Lausanne (CHUV-UNIL), Lausanne, Switzerland.
Connectomics Lab, Department of Radiology, Lausanne University Hospital and University of Lausanne (CHUV-UNIL), Lausanne, Switzerland.


Studies have shown scholastic, creative, and social benefits of Montessori education, benefits that were hypothesized to result from better executive functioning on the part of those so educated. As these previous studies have not reported consistent outcomes supporting this idea, we therefore evaluated scholastic development in a cross-sectional study of kindergarten and elementary school-age students, with an emphasis on the three core executive measures of cognitive flexibility, working memory update, and selective attention (inhibition). Two hundred and one (201) children underwent a complete assessment: half of the participants were from Montessori settings, while the other half were controls from traditional schools. The results confirmed that Montessori participants outperformed peers from traditional schools both in academic outcomes and in creativity skills across age groups and in self-reported well-being at school at kindergarten age. No differences were found in global executive functions, except working memory. Moreover, a multiple mediations model revealed a significant impact of creative skills on academic outcomes influenced by the school experience. These results shed light on the possibly overestimated contribution of executive functions as the main contributor to scholastic success of Montessori students and call for further investigation. Here, we propose that Montessori school-age children benefit instead from a more balanced development stemming from self-directed creative execution.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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