Thursday, May 17, 2012

What is Executive Function? Montessori Perspectives

Montessori Perspectives on Executive Function - Part 2 of 3

young boy learns to sew montessori perspectives what is executive functionThere appears to be a lot of talk about ‘executive function’ in children these days. In fact, Adele Diamond and Kathleen Lee have said that the executive functions of a child are better predictors at school readiness and success than IQ (Diamond and Lee). So, what is executive function and more importantly, how does it relate to Montessori?

Executive functions refer to those qualities that make people successful: self-control, discipline, flexibility, and creativity. Individuals with high levels of executive function have increased periods of concentration and working memory and are able to solve complex problems by implementing reasoning and good planning skills while those with low levels of executive function are impulsive, lack persistence, and have poor attention spans.
According to Diamond and Lee, they are also more likely to experience health problems, earn less as adults, and have higher incidences of criminal behavior. (Diamond and Lee)

The description of executive function sounds very similar to Montessori’s term “normalization”. Children who have high executive function are able to work independently. They are respectful and demonstrate awareness and empathy.

Children do not generally just “become” normalized or demonstrate high executive function. These traits must be nurtured in an environment that is created to develop these desirable traits. The Montessori prepared environment is calm and orderly, and encourages patience and self-control. The Montessori learning materials facilitate careful sensorial dexterity and often involve a multi-step process. The built-in control of error in Montessori materials has children focusing intently on the task at hand. The Montessori materials gradually increase in difficulty, requiring the children to remember the process that came before as well as apply the next series of steps. In addition, the Montessori environment has only one of each Montessori learning material on the shelf at a time. This encourages children to plan ahead and develop patience while waiting for a classmate to complete and return the work to the shelf for others to use.

The Montessori teacher must know how and when to guide the child in his own development. Montessori warned of the ill effects of unwanted adult intervention and told her teachers not to help children if they were capable of success on their own. While it may be difficult to watch a child struggle to tie his shoes or complete a complicated Montessori sequence, to intercede is to weaken the child’s self-confidence and self-worth. With unnecessary intervention from the adult, a child may learn to depend on the adult in challenging situations rather than on him or herself. The Montessori teacher and parent must exercise extraordinary patience and their belief that the child will succeed. Many “A ha!” moments happen only after periods of challenge and frustration. A Montessori teacher should only intervene if the situation is dangerous, destructive, or disrespectful.
The Montessori environment is specially prepared to develop the necessary skills not only to succeed in school, but to be successful throughout life.

Works Cited

Diamond, Adele and Kathleen Lee. "Interventions shown to Aid Executive Function Development in Children 4–12 Years Old ." Science (2011): 959-964. Document.

Related NAMC blogs:
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Thursday, May 17, 2012.


Post a Comment

Have questions or comments? Let us know what you thought about this article!

We appreciate feedback and love to discuss with our readers further.

NAMC Blog Inquiries Contact Form


Email *

Message *

Search the NAMC Montessori Teacher Training Blog

Are you interested in reading back through NAMC's blog articles from years gone by, or for more information on a specific topic?

Browse a select list of our most popular categories below; by clicking on one, you will see every article posted under that topic since 2007. You may also use the lower archive menu to select a year and month, displaying all blog posts in the chosen time frame.

If you are seeking a range of information on a certain topic or idea, try this search box for site-wide keyword results.

Choose From a List of Popular Article Topics

NAMC Montessori Series

Montessori Philosophy and Methodology

Montessori Classroom Management

The School Year

Montessori Materials

Montessori Curriculum

Montessori Infant/Toddler (0–3) Program

Montessori Early Childhood (3–6) Program

Montessori Elementary (6–12) Programs

What is Montessori?

Search Archives for Montessori Blog Posts by Date

Thank you to the NAMC Montessori community!

This year marks NAMC’s 20th anniversary of providing quality Montessori distance training and curriculum development to Montessorians around the globe. Since we began in 1996, we have grown to build a fantastic community of students, graduates, and schools in over 120 countries. We are grateful for your continued support and dedication to furthering the reach and success of the Montessori method. Thank you for sharing this amazing milestone with us!