The Impact of Montessori-Trained Early Childhood Assistants on Child Engagement in Licensed Montessori Centers
This study examined the impact of Montessori training provided to Assistants in authentic Montessori schools that are operating as licensed childcare centers. The study looked at correlations between the implementation of a Montessori specific training program for Assistants and how that impacted the active engagement of the children throughout the morning work cycle. The Lead Teacher in the participating classroom was asked to take a time sampling of the students' engagement levels every 30 minutes during the morning work cycle for a 2 week period of time. This quantitative analysis was completed to determine how many children were wandering, actively engaged, disengaged or actively disengaged in their work. After the data collection period ended, Assistants were given training that focused on the Montessori method and philosophy, classroom management, and feedback/expectations in their role. Post-training, the goal was to conduct another 2 week round of time sampling to analyze if the engagement level of the children increased. However, during the training period, turnover at the participating school increased from 3% to 33%, leaving the researcher unable to fully complete the training before conducting another round of time sampling. Interviews during and after this period of time indicated that the reason for the turnover was due to an inauthentic Montessori classroom feel (55% of respondents) and/or personal reasons (45% of respondents.) With further research, the root causes of the "inauthentic classroom feel" were narrowed down to difficult child behaviors, transitions of children moving from the toddler room to the children's house room, and, overwhelmingly, a lack of Assistant training. While the original research project was unable to be completed due to the staff turnover, the root cause of the turnover pointed to the necessity of implementing an Assistant Training program in the future. Not only would this potentially decrease Teacher and Assistant turnover in the Montessori classroom, but better retention and more highly trained staff would most certainly have a positive impact on child engagement in the classroom.