LAWRENCE — Scholars and researchers investigating the Montessori model of education now have a robust tool to aid their efforts. Housed at the Center for Montessori Research (CMR), a center within the University of Kansas Achievement & Assessment Institute (AAI), the Montessori Bibliography Online makes information about Montessori and the Montessori movement more accessible through an online interface, including links to digitized source materials.
“This bibliography supports systems for making more research around Montessori happen and improving the quality of the research that's done,” said Angela Murray, director of the Center for Montessori Research.
Domain-specific bibliographies and indexes are particularly useful to researchers, especially in specialized areas of scholarship, growing and newer fields, or those with scattered resources. While the Montessori model has existed for over 100 years, it has often been seen as a niche educational approach and its scholarship is spread out, locked in print, without the same kind of institutional support as other areas of educational research.
The Montessori Bibliography Online provides a centralized node for scholars to begin their research path. By Murray’s estimate, the bibliography contains over 30,000 items, making it not only one of the first resources of its kind but also one of the largest.
“It won't be as hard to get your hands on the information. We're hoping that really encourages more people to do Montessori research,” Murray said.
The bibliography began as a project of research librarian Joel Parham. Enlisted to help develop and establish the Global Montessori Network, Parham became interested in Montessori education and Maria Montessori herself.
“As my research took me further down this rabbit hole, I realized there did not appear to be a go-to resource for research or historical information about Montessori,” Parham said. “Given my background in library and information science, I considered it to be an opportunity and a personal challenge to see if I could develop something that might be of value to the education community.”
Working from two major print resources, Parham set about expanding and enhancing citations, in a digitally accessible format. Then he reached out to Murray, who immediately recognized the value of the resource.
“It was really quite impressive what he had done,” Murray said.
Murray brought the project to the attention of the Achievement & Assessment Institute, which provided support in enhancing the database with additional functionality and offered it an institutional home through Agile Technology Solutions (ATS), the institute’s software and technology center.
ATS’s web team designed and developed a new interface, based on the extensive work Parham conducted. In addition to the redevelopment, ATS worked to enhance the search and filter function.
“ATS was able to expand the global search capability and implement more advanced search and filtering options on the site, allowing researchers to search, sort and filter on parameters such as author, date, publication type, keywords and more,” said Lisa Braun, associate director of Agile Technology Solutions.
The methodology behind the bibliography’s creation is detailed fully in “The Montessori Bibliography Online: A Resource for the Global Montessori Community” in the spring 2022 edition of the open-access peer-reviewed Journal for Montessori Research, of which Murray is the editor.
For his part, Parham is excited about the result.
“I’m in disbelief that what essentially started out as a thought experiment borne from my curiosity of Montessori education developed into a tool or resource researchers and others may actually find useful,” Parham said.
Neal Kingston, AAI director and University Distinguished Professor, sees this project as a great example of the institute’s capabilities and cross-center collaboration.
“Centers at AAI have unique focuses — this project demonstrates how two distinct research and services areas can come together to make something very useful for researchers,” Kingston said. “It also shows how we are positioned to collaborate with outside organizations and create custom solutions. I’m very impressed with the work of everyone involved.”
The bibliography represents the push by some — including Murray and her team at CMR — to bring Montessori research into the education mainstream.
“This a very exciting time in Montessori research, and with resources like this, we are well on the way to expanding interest and scholarship to the level of other areas of education research,” Murray said.