Alan Woodruff

Community Editor, Queensland Brain Institute
  • Australia


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News and Opinion On the Road

Recent Comments

Nov 01, 2017
Replying to Angeline S Lillard

This is an excellent, balanced review of the state of Montessori education research, published 3 days before a longitudinal study that addresses some of the issues raised and available at Frontiers in Psychology, titled Montessori Preschool Elevates and Equalizes Child Outcomes: A Longitudinal Study.

Additional research is discussed in Lillard (2017) Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius, chapter 11, 3rd edition  (Oxford University Press).

In response to one issue raised: I think Montessori is a system, like culture, and therefore that teasing apart "the element" or even set thereof  that creates better outcomes might be a fool's errand.

Hi Angeline,

your last point there is a good one. Taking isolated element(s) from Montessori and using them in a normal classroom, divorced from other elements, may very well not work. But of course it might, and we won't know until it has been tested. If Montessori can produce better results, but for whatever reasons isn't widely implemented, I think it's at least worth a shot trying to figure out if any specific components are making the difference, and secondly, if transporting those elements into a standard classroom can offer benefits. Even if co-opting specific features didn't work, we would have learnt that the Montessori system is what matters, which is useful info too.

Thanks also for the pointing out your recent paper - I hope our readers find it interesting.

Jun 21, 2017
Thanks to Warren for finding that. My skim of the article (and it's only a skim, so...disclaimer...) suggests that they don't show that test scores in any way CONTRIBUTE to a child to having particular career goals. Anecdotally though, I think it's probably true; my point was that without seeing the actual article, we shouldn't assume that school performance had been proven to affect career goals. In any case, there's much more to the article than the link between performance and career aspiration, like the possible contributions of gender, socioeconomic status, and how interests for different careers develop as a child gets older.
May 11, 2017
Neat, but like they say, it's probably all just shared attention. Re: the last paragraph, is the idea to use EEG recordings as a measure of attention to decide the best group size, teaching conditions etc? I guess that works, and it'd be worth finding out if EEGs can be more accurate/informative than the teacher's personal opinion on student attention and engagement.
Jan 12, 2017
Thanks for this Mehak, it was an interesting read, particularly your point about the possibility for addiction - I'd never thought of that. How widespread do you think this would be? Although the basic plasticity mechanisms behind learning and addiction are probably very similar, am I right in thinking that a lot of learning doesn't utilise the addiction circuitry, or have dopamine reward as a significant component? In any case, there's no doubt neuroenhancement is a big deal with big ethical implications. Right now, with something like tDCS being so easily applicable at home, the lack of regulation (and knowledge of what it's even doing to the brain) is a major safety issue. Although I think the enhancement effects are small or very circumscribed right now, they probably won't stay that way. That could tilt the scales more in favour of the technologies, balancing out (to some extent) all the negatives you correctly identify. Smart people - researchers, ethicists, the public, regulatory bodies - need to be thinking about how to regulate all these technologies, which are only going to become more powerful and accessible in the coming years. It'd be interesting to know what the community thinks of neuroenhancement. A Pew study from last year, specific to brain chip implants (so more invasive than something like tDCS) showed people were generally more worried than excited about the technology: A fascinating field with a LOT of unanswered questions.