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Implementing the Montessori approach in an undergraduate marketing course: A case study


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The objective of this case study is to offer a new perspective on innovation in higher education pedagogy by exploring how Montessori principles can be applied in an elective upper-level undergraduate marketing analytics course. Innovation in higher education is crucial for preparing students for the ever-changing challenges they will face in the workplace and in society. Montessori education offers a unique perspective for addressing many of the shortcomings identified in current approaches to undergraduate instruction. This study involved designing a course that incorporated well-established principles of Montessori education—which has demonstrated success in fostering deep learning, engagement, intrinsic motivation, and adaptability particularly among adolescents. The methodology leverages the naturalistic approach to gathering real world evidence using an inductive design based on data from instructor field notes, weekly student response submissions, and an end-of-semester student survey. In conclusion, results of the study suggest Montessori education, particularly experiential learning elements and direct connections to industry, should continue to be explored for its potential to inspire innovation in higher education. However, successfully changing the instructional paradigm requires efforts beyond a single course. Truly shaping undergraduate education for the 21st century involves broad and integrated change across departments and even universities to empower students to take control of their own learning, to be inspired and motivated by their own intrinsic values, and to expand their thinking beyond narrow expectations of textbook learning.
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feduc-07-1033752 October 26, 2022 Time: 13:30 # 1
TYPE Original Research
PUBLISHED 01 November 2022
DOI 10.3389/feduc.2022.1033752
Anabela Carvalho Alves,
University of Minho, Portugal
Ángel Freddy Rodríguez Torres,
Central University of Ecuador, Ecuador
Jarosław Jendza,
University of Gda´
nsk, Poland
Angela K. Murray
This article was submitted to
Higher Education,
a section of the journal
Frontiers in Education
RECEIVED 31 August 2022
ACCEPTED 03 October 2022
PUBLISHED 01 November 2022
Murray AK, Miller M, Postlewaite EL
and Clark K (2022) Implementing
the Montessori approach in an
undergraduate marketing course:
A case study.
Front. Educ. 7:1033752.
doi: 10.3389/feduc.2022.1033752
© 2022 Murray, Miller, Postlewaite and
Clark. This is an open-access article
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not comply with these terms.
Implementing the Montessori
approach in an undergraduate
marketing course: A case study
Angela K. Murray1*, Michael Miller2, Elyse L. Postlewaite3and
Kiara Clark1
1Achievement & Assessment Institute, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, United States, 2College of
Education and Professional Studies, University of Wisconsin River Falls, River Falls, WI, United States,
3Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, CA, United States
The objective of this case study is to offer a new perspective on innovation
in higher education pedagogy by exploring how Montessori principles can
be applied in an elective upper-level undergraduate marketing analytics
course. Innovation in higher education is crucial for preparing students for
the ever-changing challenges they will face in the workplace and in society.
Montessori education offers a unique perspective for addressing many of the
shortcomings identified in current approaches to undergraduate instruction.
This study involved designing a course that incorporated well-established
principles of Montessori education—which has demonstrated success in
fostering deep learning, engagement, intrinsic motivation, and adaptability
particularly among adolescents. The methodology leverages the naturalistic
approach to gathering real world evidence using an inductive design based on
data from instructor field notes, weekly student response submissions, and an
end-of-semester student survey. In conclusion, results of the study suggest
Montessori education, particularly experiential learning elements and direct
connections to industry, should continue to be explored for its potential to
inspire innovation in higher education. However, successfully changing the
instructional paradigm requires efforts beyond a single course. Truly shaping
undergraduate education for the 21st century involves broad and integrated
change across departments and even universities to empower students to
take control of their own learning, to be inspired and motivated by their own
intrinsic values, and to expand their thinking beyond narrow expectations of
textbook learning.
Montessori, marketing education, case study, higher education pedagogy,
pedagogical innovation, undergraduate education
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Pedagogic innovation in post-secondary education is a
topic of growing interest because, despite the recognized
need for a more student-centered approach, higher education
globally continues to be dominated by a traditional, lecture
delivery model (Fernandez et al.,2022). In fact, the call for
contributions for this Frontiers in Education Higher Education
Section Research Topic highlights a need for student-centered
approaches and innovation to redirect the current global focus
away from traditional, expositive lecture instruction which
reinforces the power differential between students and teachers
(Fernandez et al.,2022). This is not to say that lectures have
no place in higher education pedagogy. A number of scholars
since Goffman’s (1981) essay on “The Lecture” have defended
the value of the lecture approach (Bland et al.,2007;Stover,2016;
Offstein and Chory,2019). In particular, authors in the field of
communication have argued that the effectiveness of the lecture
format is at least partially due to often unmeasured variables
related to the lecturer’s proficiency as a communicator rather
than flaws in the approach itself (Meyer and Hunt,2017). Others
have argued for a more balanced strategy saying,
Framing lecture and active learning as a dialectical
tension allows us to agree that active learning is desirable
while allowing individual faculty members to decide for
themselves the best ways to enact it. One can be both a sage
on the stage and a guide on the side, varying in emphasis
within an individual class session and over the semester
(Mallin,2017, p. 242–243).
Still, a growing body of evidence, including a 2015 review
of the literature, suggests that “active learning in the classroom
setting supports and fosters learning to a much larger extent
than conventional large-group teaching” (Schmidt et al.,2015,
p. 12).
The call for more student-centered approaches in higher
education is not new. Over 80 years ago, Maria Montessori
(1939) criticized university education in terms that would
resonate with many higher education faculty today arguing
that the university had lost its intellectual dignity. She believed
students were evading work as much as possible as they simply
focused on passing exams on the way to obtaining a degree
without considering the learning itself. She said,
Study, such as it is today, is a work against nature, so the
students carry it out aridly and under compulsion without
animation. A supreme encouragement and a radiant light
would be necessary to call forth those souls which by
now are crippled by inertia and error. But this cannot be
accomplished by that arid type of school which considers
the personality of the student so much below his real values,
and continues to increase his discouragement and inertia
(Montessori,1939, p. 16).
Instead, Montessori (1939) suggested that in an ideal
educational environment, “pupils will become ardent
apostles, intelligent critics and almost cooperators with
their professors” (p. 16). She claimed, “intellectual education”
requires cooperation “if one wishes to prepare not only the
intellect, but the human personality in its totality. In other
words, merely to study is not to live, but to live is the most
essential condition in order to be able to study” (Montessori,
1939, p. 16).
Montessori’s call for a more holistic approach to higher
education is even more relevant today due to the growing
prevalence of mental health challenges among college students
and declining reported wellbeing within this population (Storrie
et al.,2010;Hill et al.,2019;Jones et al.,2021;Sheldon et al.,
2021). Student-centered pedagogical approaches can provide
young adults with a healthier foundation for managing the
stresses of academic demands and the transition to adulthood
by enhancing self-efficacy beliefs and resilience (Hill et al.,
2019). Trends in declining wellbeing were already evident even
before the COVID-19 pandemic which has only exacerbated
the situation. One hypothesis is that curtailed social interactions
hindered building strong bonds and a sense of belonging which
in turn led to increased anxiety, stress, and depression at a
time when young adults rely on peer bonding for navigating
the challenges of this life stage (Patias et al.,2021). One
recent study investigated the efficacy of an intervention for
undergraduates during the COVID-19 pandemic and found that
encouraging connection to self, others and nature produced
beneficial impacts on wellbeing (Kemp et al.,2022).
In addition, a more holistic approach to education can
also support developing skills that are compelling for hiring
managers who value twenty-first century competencies such
as collaboration, communication, and problem-solving as
they relate to job performance (Mahmud and Wong,2022).
While candidates with necessary technology skills are scarce,
employers also see gaps in new graduates’ having the adaptability
and flexibility necessary to succeed in the rapidly changing
workplace. Socioemotional skills including knowledge and
innovation which involve logical reasoning and information
gathering skills are also being recognized and rewarded in the
workplace (Allen et al.,2020). These socioemotional skills have
been shown to be enhanced by active learning methods which
support learner agency (Allen et al.,2020). Assessment in higher
education typically includes high stakes exams, projects, and
assignments. These types of assessments put psychological stress
on students that can negatively impact wellbeing. However, this
stress can be balanced through varying the impact of traditional
and novel assessments and through demands of collaborative
and individual work (Jones et al.,2021). Supporting twenty-
first century competencies, promoting socioemotional skills,
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and rethinking assessment in higher education share a common
theme—the opportunity to create viable new models of
instruction that empower students with the agility necessary to
respond to the demands of the career paths they will traverse.
While Montessori education offers a student-centered approach
that empowers students and fosters learner agency, its holistic
focus also embraces the importance of social dynamics and
healthy classroom communities which seem likely to have an
even greater impact in a post-pandemic higher education world
The objective of this study is to describe the implementation
of the Montessori educational approach in an undergraduate
marketing analytics course to illustrate how Montessori
principles offer a new perspective on innovation in higher
education pedagogy. Research suggests that Montessori
education for adolescents can foster deep learning, engagement,
intrinsic motivation, and adaptability (Rathunde and
Csikszentmihalyi,2005), so we extended these ideas to
design a new undergraduate course through a collaboration
between an award-winning business school faculty member
and a veteran Montessori adolescent teacher educator. In this
study, we demonstrate how applying an educational approach
with success in settings for younger students for over 100 years
(Lillard et al.,2017; Marshall; Rathunde and Csikszentmihalyi,
2005) represents a source of innovation when applied to an
older student population. A few authors have explored the
application of Montessori principles in the space of higher
education (community college and law school) and workplace
leadership, but this is the first that explores its applicability in
a business school setting (Dhiraj,2012;Grant,2015;Lorenz,
2015). In this article, we describe both the Montessori-based
practices employed in the course as well as students’ responses
to the experience of participating. First, however, we outline
the theoretical framework which provides the basis for the
Montessori approach taken in the course.
Theoretical framework
In the early twentieth century, Maria Montessori became
one of Italy’s first recognized female physicians and began
her career working with disabled children (Kramer,1988).
This experience led her to develop the approach, primarily
associated with early childhood education, that bears her name.
The curriculum, environment, and pedagogy were designed
based on Montessori’s meticulous observations of children with
the goal of addressing the development of the whole child
(Hainstock,1997;Lillard,2016). Similar to Piaget’s (1926) stage
theory, Montessori (1912) based her pedagogy on four planes
or phases of development which she theorized from birth
through adulthood. She devoted considerable time developing
and refining pedagogies to support learners in the first two
planes of development, ages 0–6 and 6–12. However, the later
planes of development, ages 12–18 and 18–24 which she spent
less time discussing are the focus of this study.
The remainder of this section summarizes the theoretical
foundation for Montessori education relevant for this study
beginning with the concepts of engagement and self-directed
learning which apply across all levels of Montessori education.
The theoretical foundation section concludes with an overview
of Montessori theory applied to the third and fourth plane.
Montessori pedagogy is designed to foster deep engagement
through freedom and discipline (Rathunde,2009,2014). This
means that students are granted a relatively high degree of
choice regarding the content, focus, and approach to their daily
learning activities. Simultaneously, the classroom culture calls
for high expectations and continuous engagement with self-
discipline viewed as a natural process of development (Andrews,
2012). In other words, students organize their time, pick their
own topics to study, and choose how long to spend on each
a lesson with in-built expectations for self-discipline around
sharing time, space, and resources with peers and being focused
and engaged throughout the school day.
Engagement in work that is meaningful to students
is the basis for achieving a classroom with freely chosen
productive work, self-discipline, and constructive peer
interactions. At all levels, Montessori practices rely on
sparking students’ interests through knowledge of each student
individually and through making available tasks with real
world significance. These activities foster intrinsic motivation
which in turn supports self-regulation (Basargekar and Lillard,
in press).
Studies comparing Montessori and traditional schools find
engagement is more likely to occur when there is an intrinsic
desire to work on material that is both relevant and challenging
(Rathunde,2014). Moreover, research finds that students
have superior learning outcomes when they are motivated
by, engaged in, and have some control over their learning
(Boekaerts,1998;Reeve et al.,2004;Niemiec and Ryan,2009;
Reeve and Halusic,2009). This can be supported when the work
has intrinsic value (e.g., the goal is personally meaningful) or
utility value (e.g., the goal relates to current or future goals like a
career goal) (Eccles and Wigfield,2020).
Self-directed learning
Within Montessori pedagogy, the “prepared environment”
is designed to support self-monitoring and self-evaluation.
These opportunities encourage students to take a role in
determining if they have mastered a concept. For example,
adolescent students typically lead parent-teacher conferences.
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Although the responsibility for learning lies with students,
the Montessori approach offers scaffolding and appropriate
demands. For instance, teachers make clear what students
should learn from lessons and offer meaningful follow-up
tasks to ensure students’ learning takes hold. Montessori
teachers also highlight student responsibilities and help
summarize learning.
Across age levels, assessment in Montessori classrooms takes
a unique form. As teachers incorporate formative assessment
over high stakes exams, students gain confidence in their
ability to choose work and progress through the curriculum.
Even the youngest students leverage the embedded nature of
assessment within the Montessori didactic materials to gauge
the accuracy of their work without adult involvement. The early
childhood and elementary materials are designed to make errors
directly evident to children as they engage in the activity. In
older grades, students produce self- and peer-evaluations as
well as evaluation in collaboration with teachers all of which
support an atmosphere of self-directed learning and establish a
more balanced power structure than exists in more traditional
classrooms (Zoll et al.,in press).
As students get older, they are given more responsibility.
For example, adolescent-aged students are tasked with planning
outings, organizing events, and even running their own
businesses (Montessori,1948). Students are constantly offered
feedback, through didactic materials when they are younger and
through one-on-one meetings and detailed written evaluations
when they get older (Hainstock,1997). Students learn to be
responsible for and take ownership of their learning, which can
translate into feelings of autonomy, self-efficacy, and intrinsic
motivation (Thomas et al.,1988). Current research suggests that
providing autonomy-support also nurtures intrinsic motivation
(Boekaerts and Niemivirta,2000). Autonomy supportive
classrooms are “social environments that. provide meaningful
rationale, acknowledge negative feelings, use non-controlling
language, offer meaningful choices, and nurture internal
motivational resources” (Núñez and León,2015, p. 275).
Montessori theory of adolescence and
emerging adulthood (third and fourth
Adolescence, or the ages from 12 to 18 years of age,
fall into what Montessori called the Third Plane, which is
characterized by Association Montessori International/USA
[AMI/USA] (2022a) as answering the question, “Who am
I?” This phase is represented by a focus on physiological
and emotional changes, idealism, exploring vocations, abstract
learning, and need for respect. Montessori believed this age
group’s natural tendencies are optimally developed when
students are allowed to collectively address practical challenges
in environments that provide natural freedom and choice within
a context of global purpose (Kahn,2016). She argued that
responding appropriately to these adolescent tendencies would
reveal an adult able to fulfill the needs of their time and place
and capable of adapting to new situations and circumstances
Montessori described a primary aim of adolescence
as the coordination of one’s potentialities. This clear step
into adulthood involves “a succession of differing levels of
independence in correspondingly suitable environments”
(Hoglund,2011, p. 166). As such, Montessori-inspired
classrooms for adolescents and young adults are intentionally
designed to promote valorization. Montessori used the term
“valorization” to reflect the adolescent’s gradual process of
becoming a strong and worthy person upon realizing they are
useful and capable of effort (Donahoe et al.,2013). Valorization,
she argued, is realized when adolescents experience the joy
of successfully employing the work of the mind, hands, and
heart to meet challenges of appropriate responsibilities and
expectations (Donahoe et al.,2013, p. 18.). While she had a
broad vision for adolescent education, Montessori’s educational
plan for adolescents was less specific than for younger ages, and
she spoke very little on the next phase, the Fourth Plane.
The Fourth Plane of development (ages 18–24)
represents young adulthood which Association Montessori
International/USA [AMI/USA] (2022a) suggests should answer
the question “What will I do?” in Montessori’s model. The
focus in the Fourth Plane is on personal responsibility and
interests, spiritual, emotional, and moral independence, and
consideration of one’s place and contribution to society and
humanity. Students enrolled in a traditional undergraduate
course are most likely to be in the Fourth Plane of development.
However, in affluent western countries such as the U.S., there
is growing recognition of a prolonged period of adolescence.
Sometimes referred to as the emerging adult (Arnett,2004),
many of the developmental milestones once thought to
be completed in adolescence are sometimes delayed into
emerging adulthood (ages 18–30). Thus, priorities for optimal
development in both Montessori’s Third and Fourth Planes
along with fundamental concepts of Montessori education
across age levels provided the foundation for the approach
implemented in the undergraduate marketing course examined
in this case study. The key Montessori principles guiding the
course design include:
1. Facilitating the development of community;
2. Prioritizing engagement and motivation;
3. Varying teaching and assignment formats;
4. Decentering the teacher;
5. Applying non-traditional assessment strategies. (Lillard
and McHugh,2019a,b)
Specific strategies used to incorporate these principles
into the classroom for this case study are discussed under
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Intervention Design in the Section “Materials and methods”
that follows. The Section “Materials and methods” outlines
the details of the study where we explore the broad research
question: How can the application of Montessori principles in an
elective upper-level undergraduate marketing analytics course
provide new perspectives on innovation in higher education
Materials and methods
The first author of this paper is an experienced marketing
lecturer who, in collaboration with the second author
who is a veteran Montessori adolescent teacher educator,
developed a new upper-level marketing analytics elective course
incorporating a novel approach to the course content based
on the Montessori method of education. The sections that
follow provide the details of the case study beginning with a
description of the course design.
Course design
This case study began with implementing a new course
designed around the five fundamental principles of Montessori
education outlined in the previous section. The overall flow of
the semester is depicted in Figure 1, and specific components
of the course are described in Table 1. Here we explain
how these components as well as other instructional design
elements incorporated into the course address each of the five
fundamental Montessori principles that inspired this project.
Facilitating the development of community
Fostering a sense of community is crucial for Montessori
learning environments across the age span, so this course
incorporated practices to support a sense of belonging and
connection. The semester kicked off with an icebreaker
“snowball fight” game in which each student listed three things
about themselves along with three work-related aspirations on
a piece of paper which they wadded up into a snowball. The
game proceeded with people tossing the snowballs around the
room, picking them up randomly, and trying to figure out
whose snowball was whose. Since this was at the beginning of
the semester, the icebreaker set the tone for an interactive and
engaging course with a focus on peer respect and interaction.
Splitting the semester into two blocks (or cycles following
Montessori adolescent terminology) served as the primary
mechanism for community-building and cohesion throughout
the semester. Each cycle started with a seminar discussion based
on a reading or video related to the cycle theme in order
to encourage students to think critically about bigger picture
issues impacting careers in marketing. Ground rules for the
seminar discussions reinforced the atmosphere necessary for a
respectful learning community such as being prepared for the
discussion by reviewing background material, not talking over
one another during the discussion, responding to each other by
name, expressing agreement and disagreement courteously and
thoughtfully by agreeing or disagreeing with statements rather
than people, and, most importantly, remaining open-minded.
Each cycle closed with another group activity to reinforce
concepts and close out the theme of that portion of the semester.
Cycle one revolved around “Identity, your place in the
working world, and the cycles opening seminar discussion was
based on an article entitled “What to Look for in a First Job.”
The closing activity for cycle one was forming student teams to
create a research consulting project proposal using the analytical
tools covered in class to address a marketing problem from
mini business case scenarios. Each team created a proposal and
“pitched” it to another group who served as the client. The
consultant and client teams negotiated a hypothetical contract
which served as a hands-on activity exploring possible roles
in the working world and which culminated in a lighthearted
competition among the teams.
Cycle two related to an ethics theme, “Finding profit in
the greater good.” The cycle two seminar involved two choices
for the preparatory material: (1) Watching the movie The Big
Short (Lewis,2011) or reading an article by Plangger and
Watson (2015) entitled “Balancing customer privacy, secrets,
and surveillance: Insights and management.” The seminar
involved breaking the students into two large discussion groups
to consider the preparatory material in terms of the portrayal
of business ethics in the media, its impact on public opinion,
and their role in perpetuating or changing this impression
in their future roles as business leaders. Cycle two concluded
with group-based discussion board posts related to an ethics of
data use video from CBS’s 60 min entitled “The Data Brokers:
Selling your personal information” (Gavrilovic,2014). Students
reviewed the American Marketing Association Statement of
Ethics (American Marketing Association [AMA],2016) on the
Blackboard Learning Management System (LMS) and both
commented on the existing statement and generated a list of
additional guidelines based on the video and recommendations
from an Acxiom (2015).
In addition to the two-cycle structure of the semester,
other elements of the course were incorporated to foster
a sense of community. Independent work during class
time included opportunities for informal conversations and
discussions of challenges students faced to encourage peer
learning, camaraderie, and trust. In addition, based on required
readings for each module, students formed small weekly
discussion groups, called Q&A Discussions. In these small group
discussions with classmates who chose the same module topic
that week, students worked during class time to collaboratively
answer questions on the topic prepared by the instructor. More
information about the module expectations follows in the next
section about prioritizing engagement and motivation.
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Overall flow of semester activities.
TABLE 1 Course components.
Required activities in the course included:
Cycle activities: The course was organized into two cycles which split the semester into two blocks. Each cycle began with a facilitated seminar discussion
based on assigned readings or videos designed to encourage students to think critically about bigger picture issues related to careers in
marketing. Each cycle ended with a group closing activity to revisit the cycle topic and provide closure.
Q&A sessions: Based on required readings for each module, students formed weekly groups during class meeting time with those who chose the same
module topic to discuss questions prepared by the instructor related to the topic they were currently working on.
Hands-on module
Seven modules were required over the course of the semester. Each module addressed a different analytical tool and involved a hands-on
assignment applying the tool to a real-world dataset.
Semester project: Groups were formed by the instructor based on information provided by students in introduction discussion board post gathering their
interest in analytics and capacity for effort on the project and anyone else in the class they would like to work with. Groups were required to
conduct a meeting with instructor to discuss plans before beginning work on the project.
Industry enrichment
An industry enrichment activity was designed to help students get feel for marketing analytics in the “real world, was a required component
of the course.
Class participation: Class participation included engagement in class activities, providing feedback on their own learning, and group participation experiences.
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Prioritizing engagement and motivation
Encouraging deep engagement and intrinsic motivation
are hallmarks of Montessori education, so the course focused
on creating interesting, real-world data analysis opportunities,
providing the right guidance and encouragement at the
right time for each student, and establishing blocks of time
where students could immerse themselves in their work.
On the first day of class, the instructor/researcher provided
a brief background on Montessori education explaining
that, although they may be familiar with the approach
in preschools, it is growing in middle schools and high
schools. Basic principles of Montessori education (Table 2)
and recent applications with adults (law school, new hires, and
community college) were explained. The instructor outlined
the expectation that students would take the initiative for
guiding their own learning so that what they got out of
the course would be determined by what they put into
The course met in person twice each week for 1-h and 15-
min. During most weeks, Mondays were reserved for discussing
the reading for each of the analytical techniques (termed
Q&A sessions), and Wednesdays were hands-on work days
implementing the analytical techniques discussed on Monday
of the same week with real world data. The required textbook
was Grigsby (2015)’s Marketing Analytics: A Practical Guide
to Real Marketing Science and the required software was
SPSS available through the university’s cloud based virtual
lab or on laptops during class. Seven modules were required
over the course of the semester. The modules incorporated
data from a variety of sources to provide students with
the tools necessary to engage in today’s data rich decision-
making environment and to equip them with the quantitative
foundation to leverage new analytical tools likely to emerge
throughout their careers. Each module addressed a different
analytical tool and involved a hands-on assignment applying
the tool to a real-world dataset. Each module included links
to online resources to understand how to execute the analysis
in SPSS. The modules were broken down so that four
modules were covered during cycle one in the first half of
the semester, and three remaining modules were covered in
cycle two in the second half of the semester. Table 3 outlines
the topics covered which included a variety of multivariate
statistical techniques as well as big data and digital analytics.
While all students were expected to cover all of the module
topics during the semester, they would decide the order and
depth they engaged with each within this unconventional
Varying teaching and assignment formats
The instructor varied teaching strategies including
individual, small group, and large group instruction. As
discussed in the facilitating community and encouraging
engagement sections, assignments and activities were designed
TABLE 2 Montessori principles.
Students were provided with a list of Montessori
principles as context for project:
Freedom within limits
Active and hands-on learning
Student led work
Individualized learning
Revolving around peer relationships based on courtesy and respect
Downplaying competition and encouraging striving for personal best
TABLE 3 Module topics.
First cycle modules Second cycle modules
Targeting: Logistic regression Digital analytics
Segmentation: Cluster analysis Big data
Advanced MR techniques: Conjoint Integrated data sources
Marketing experiments
to interweave subjects, real world activities, and both short-
and long-term projects. These real-world activities are
consistent with the concept of experiential learning which
is gaining interest for its potential to address the “persistent
critique that colleges and universities do not prepare students
adequately for the world of work” because it inherently
connects students with experiences in the outside world
(Roberts,2018, p. 3). The course also incorporated multi-
layered, differentiated assignments using a variety of modes
of learning. Classroom activities were designed to encourage
conversation requiring divergent and convergent thinking
with connections to the text, personal experience, and other
Decentering the teacher
Across age levels, Montessori education places the teacher
in the role of a facilitator and collaborator with some
in the Montessori community preferring the term “guide”
over “teacher” (Association Montessori International/USA
[AMI/USA],2022b). The instructor in this course similarly
approached students as a patient observer, monitor, and coach
rather than an all-powerful and all-knowing authority. Strategies
for shifting the locus of control to the students came from
course design elements discussed previously including ceding
control of pace and sequence of content to the students, allowing
independent choice among options along with opportunities
for being proactive, practicing time management, and directing
their own learning process through questioning and seeking
their own answers. Assessment for the course is discussed in
the following section and supported this unique role for the
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Applying non-traditional assessment strategies
Montessori education, even for older students, prioritizes
authentic and formative classroom assessment over high stakes
exams and grades (Becker et al.,2022). In this course,
students engaged in self-evaluation using checklists to monitor
understanding. For example, on days when students engaged in
small group discussions, they submitted “exit slips” reflecting
on their participation and learning which were credited
toward class participation. In addition, along with more
traditional responses to questions about the data analysis
results, the work day module assignments were graded based
on a self-evaluation form that included a question about the
difficulty of the task and a description of steps students took
to address the challenges they encountered. The instructor
also provided one-on-one feedback through observations and
informal interactions on multiple occasions. These occasions
included informal conversations when students worked on
assignments during class as well as scheduled conferences with
student groups as they worked on their semester projects. These
formative assessments provided opportunities for students to
take risks and push themselves without fear of negative impacts
on their grades.
As expected in the marketing program, the course did
assign letter grades for student performance in the class
as a form of summative assessment, but the structure of
these grades reflected the priorities of the class. The largest
proportion of points (60%) came from class participation and
homework/classwork. The semester project represented 20% of
the points, and the final exam represented only 10% of the course
grade. The semester project was student-driven with groups
implementing an analytical technique covered in the class that
they were interested in exploring further using interesting
datasets they identified. Groups were formed by the instructor
based on information provided by students in an introduction
discussion board post which asked each student about their
interest in analytics and capacity for effort on the project and
inquired about anyone else in the class they would like to work
with. Each group was required to conduct a meeting with the
instructor to discuss plans before beginning work on the project.
The final exam was an open-book, open-note, take-home
format with prompts designed for student reflection on what
they learned over the course of the semester and how it would
apply to their careers. The first question on the exam asked
students to choose three of the analyses covered during the
semester and describe how they might be useful to a business
they would be interested in interviewing for. The second final
exam prompt allowed students to respond to a series of queries
from one of three “interviewers.” The interviewers were the
instructors’ colleagues who were working in the industry and
who described the types of questions they typically ask of entry-
level analytics candidates. The final 10% of the course grade was
an individual industry enrichment assignment of the students’
choosing which required them to engage on some level with
businesses involved in marketing analytics. Choosing among the
wide range of acceptable options depended on student interest
and included job shadowing, interviewing analysts in the field,
or simply analyzing articles about marketing analytics in the real
world among other options proposed by students.
Now that we have described the intervention, the remaining
sections in part three describe methodological elements of the
case study design.
A total of 28 students were enrolled in the class and
were invited to participate in the case study research project.
Approval was obtained from the university institutional review
board, and 26 students consented to participate. Consistent
with the demographics of the School of Business, the class
was predominantly white with a small number of international
students and students of color. The gender breakdown was
fairly even with somewhat more females (N= 17) than males
(N= 11). Nineteen students participated in the end-of-semester
anonymous survey in which almost half reported GPAs above
3.50 (N= 9), with the remainder between 3.00 and 3.49 (N= 6)
or between 2.50 and 2.99 (N= 4).
Case study approach
This study followed a case study design as described by
Gillham (2000) because it represents “human activity embedded
in the real world” which “can only be studied or understood
in context” (p. 1). As is characteristic of case studies, this
investigation relied on multiple sources of evidence with each
having its own unique strengths and weaknesses. The case
study design leveraged the naturalistic approach to gathering
real world evidence using an inductive design to allow findings
to emerge out of the data collected by the instructor in
the role of participant-observer (Gillham,2000). Due to the
inherently subjective nature of this type of research, the
instructor/researcher acknowledges her role as a faculty member
in a research one, state university along with her status as a
white cis-gender female which creates a specific positionality and
frame of reference that influenced this study from its inception
and execution to its analysis. The impact of possible researcher
influence on findings from her position of power and possible
bias toward her anticipated findings were mitigated by looking
for disconfirming evidence and triangulating data from multiple
sources (Gillham,2000).
Data sources
Data collected for the study included instructor field notes,
weekly student response submissions, and an end-of-semester
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student survey. Instructor field notes were documented at the
conclusion of classes each week in a document stored on her
computer. The fieldnotes included candid observations about
the week’s successes and challenges as well as reflections on
how to improve the process going forward. Weekly student
responses were in the form of “exit slips” completed at the
conclusion of class after the Monday Q&A discussion sessions.
Students responded to five Likert-scale questions related to
their participation, preparation, and engagement. A total of
182 exit slips were collected across the semester. The end-
of-semester survey included both open- and closed-ended
questions, including Likert and multiple-choice items as shown
in Table 4.
Ethical considerations
Since the researcher was also the instructor of record
for the course, ethical considerations were important. The
research activities involved classroom activities as part of the
regular learning experience in the course regardless of study
participation, and the consent form signed by students who
agreed to participate outlined the expectations, risks, and
benefits. Specifically, students were asked to acknowledge they
understood that:
1. Students who participate in this project will exert no
additional effort and will face no additional risk based
on their participation because this project involves
only "normal education practices" in an educational
setting. Conversely, students will experience no adverse
consequences for deciding not to participate in the project
because the student experience in the course will be no
different for those who are participating and those who are
not participating in the research project. Grades will not be
affected by participation.
2. Student records are not at any greater risk of disclosure
for this study than they are for students in any class at
the university. Grades will be tracked in the Blackboard
TABLE 4 Survey topics.
Topics in the end of semester survey included:
Perceptions of differences in format, learning and enjoyment relative to
traditional classes
Preferences for various course components
Most and least favorite aspects of the class, including rationale
Feedback on specific modules
Agreement with statements about their participation in the class
Space for open-ended comments about students’ experiences, positive and
system, as is standard practice, for both participants and
3. There are no direct benefits to participants because
students’ learning experience will be unchanged regardless
of whether or not they choose to participate in the
research project.
4. There will be no compensation or credit for participating
and there will be no negative consequences if participants
withdraw from the study.
5. Students are not required to sign the Consent and
Authorization form and they may refuse to do so without
affecting their right to any services. However, those who
refuse to sign cannot participate in this study.
The results presented here summarize findings from each of
the data sources outlined previously: field notes, weekly student
responses, and the end of semester student survey.
Field notes
The instructor’s field notes compiled over the course of the
semester were organized by type of activity for the purposes of
analysis. Identified themes and direct quotations from the field
notes are provided in the sections that follow: overall semester
framework activities (initial ice breaker, cycle seminars, and
cycle closing activities), small group Q&A discussions, work
days for weekly assignments, and project-related activities.
Course framework activities
The semester started off on a high note with field notes
reporting, “Snowball ice breaker was a big hit. didn’t note
anyone sitting back and not participating. Most were smiling
and talking. I overheard lots of questions about majors and
where people were from. Saw much smiling and mingling and
not just sticking by friends.” The cycle opening and closing
activities seemed to interest students with most of them seeming
to be “well-prepared, but students were not actively engaged
in the discussion for the opening seminar which was based on
the first cycle theme of students’ role in the working world.
The limited discussion that did occur was “interesting but
really never took on any momentum.” The instructor noted
that, “Often I ended up having to call names to get people to
talk.” The reluctance to deeply engage with classmates became
a recurring theme over the course of the semester. The cycle
one closing activity in which students pitched their research
proposal in small groups generated active discussion and very
positive feedback including a “unanimous reaction that this was
a valuable activity that I should do in future semesters.” The
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majority of students seemed very engaged and motivated to
create an effective proposal. The process of selling the idea to
the “client” teams also generated productive discussions.
The groups of roughly eight students each discussing the
cycle two opening seminar generated engagement and interest
in the topic of business ethics with the groups spending about a
half-hour in their group discussions. The conversation revolved
around Hollywood’s portrayal of businesses and how these
students will contribute to the image of business in their roles as
future business leaders. Students had the option of watching the
movie The Big Short or reading an article. Roughly two-thirds of
the class watched the movie and a smaller but significant group
read the article. There was general agreement that Hollywood
does portray business negatively but that this is not the way all
businesses are viewed. Students argued, “Sometimes business is
the bad guy and so depicting that in movies is only appropriate
and necessary to point out those few that are bad cases.”
Students reported that ethics discussions in most other business
courses are given cursory attention and the scenarios discussed
are not very realistic or thought provoking. Students said they
had “no real sense of the gray area of ethical dilemmas.” In
class, students responded that this “was a valuable activity
that helped them see some of the issues that professionals in
fields dealing with customer data will have to deal with in the
future.” The cycle two closing activity involved group comment
posts to the LMS bulletin board. The activity seemed to be
only moderately effective with the field notes saying, “Limited
depth of discussion. Lots of ‘I agree with your points’ kinds
of comments and some rather surface-level suggestions about
disclosing more about the sharing of information. Not a bad
experience but not particularly fruitful.”
Q&A discussion sessions
The Q&A Discussion Sessions generated the largest volume
of fieldnotes with the most evidence of presenting challenges
for the instructor. At the beginning of the semester, students
did not seem to understand the need to be prepared for the
discussion sessions with many students not having their books
and not having done the readings. In fact, the fieldnotes state,
“Many didn’t seem to remember that the book existed, but there
were many who did have the book and referred to it during
the discussions.” In the most productive cases, “People were
engaged for about 15 min but ran out of steam.” Later in the
semester, students seemed aware of the requirements for the
discussion sessions, but preparation was still limited. In fact,
about 2 weeks into the semester, the fieldnotes say, “Going okay,
but a lot of students are not coming to class prepared for the
small group discussions and seem to be rushing through the
discussion questions based on the reading just to check them off
and get out the door.” In subsequent weeks, the trend continued,
“most people seemed to be done within 30 min. . .some hurtled
through in 20. Not sure how much they are getting out of the
discussions. They seem to be just trying to get through the
questions rather than really discussing what they mean. I’m
frustrated that I can’t get them to engage in a more thoughtful
conversation. It seems to help when I go talk to them, but it’s not
happening on their own.”
In the following weeks, the instructor asked students
questions to understand why the Q&A discussions were not
working as intended. The field notes reported that students
said it “depended on the module” whether the interaction was
valuable, but some felt it was just “easier to do it on your
own.” There were also challenges with figuring out who was
working on the same module they were. In addition, “Several
students mentioned that the book doesn’t really help them with
the homework assignment because it doesn’t show them how
to do it. I think they miss the point that the book is supposed
to talk about the techniques in a theoretical and applied way
rather than being an SPSS tutorial.” Rather than seeing the
textbook as laying the theoretical foundation and offering real
world applications for the statistical techniques, students felt it
was “hard to follow the book and really wanted me to show them
step by step how to do the homework because the book is really
overwhelming.” Students also began opening up that it is hard
to “teach yourself.” The fieldnotes continued, “Most students on
the first day were happy with the idea of hands-on learning and
being responsible for their own learning, but the reality seems to
be a challenge.”
By late in the semester, Q&A days fell into a routine with
most people reading and working independently with some
classroom discussion “buzz.” However, many students did not
see the value of peer discussions and instead continued to be
“very task oriented and focused on answering those questions
and leaving. No real recognition of the value of the conversation
in helping them really understand the concepts.” Even when
the class was focused and engaged for almost a full hour, most
people were working individually not in their groups.
Assignment work days
Assignment work days were much more productive than
the Q&A discussion days and seemed to be more valuable
to students. With some of the analytical techniques, students
seemed so overwhelmed that they did not “know where to start
with the process of figuring it out.” The instructor wondered if
students found the process of figuring things out on their own
to be valuable in the learning process saying, “They just seem to
be plugging things in randomly and not trying to understand
what it is they are doing. It’s just sort of throw stuff in there
and see what happens and maybe I’ll come up with the right
answer.” After a few weeks, the instructor began doing informal,
small group tutorials to walk step-by-step through some of the
analyses since students struggled to get started figuring things
out independently even with the online resources that were
provided. These sessions seemed to be appreciated and attended
by small groups of students, but they did not make dramatic
changes in students’ behavior.
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Project activities
The most positive entries in the fieldnotes revolved around
the project work days and activities. The first semester group
project work day generated this in the fieldnotes, “Today felt
like a very good day! Many students seemed very excited about
their respective projects and had some good ideas on their
enrichment activities. Almost everyone was in attendance and
almost the entire class stayed until 10:30 with many lingering
after that.”
Some of the very motivated students chose job shadowing
activities at local analytics firms for their industry enrichment
projects. One student’s experience was described in the field
notes, “They allowed her to sit in on meetings and she got
to chat with a range of people. They were supportive of her
international study plans.” Sharing the industry enrichment
experiences at the end of the semester was in the form of
“speed dating” where students had a couple of minutes to
describe their experience one-on-one with another student
before being rotated and paired with a different student. This
activity generated some level of engagement as students seemed
to be actively conversing. When asked if they enjoyed the
sharing activity and the industry enrichment assignment the
instructor received lots of positive feedback.
Weekly student responses
Weekly student responses took the form of exit slips
collected throughout the course of the semester to provide in-
the-moment feedback from students as they reflected on their
experience for that week’s Q&A discussion. The most positive
responses were for the students’ engagement level as seen in
Table 5. However, this response should be viewed skeptically
since the exit slips were not anonymous and were collected for
participation points. It is plausible students would have been
biased toward inflating their self-perception of their engagement
to make a positive impact on the instructor. Still, it is interesting
to note that the lowest rated statement was for being fully
prepared for class which we would expect to be biased toward
making a good impression as well. Perhaps this is an indication
that these slips were an honest reflection on their preparation
making the engagement results a bit more believable. Still, in
combination with other sources of data in this study, the exit
slips provide valuable additional opportunities for triangulation.
End of semester survey
All 19 students who responded to the end-of-semester
survey reported that the structure of the class was different from
their typical marketing classes, with an even split between those
who said it was “very different” (9) and those who said it was
“somewhat different” (9). Only one student reported that it was
TABLE 5 Exit slip mean agreement ratings (5-point Likert scale, where
5 is “strongly agree” and 1 is “strongly disagree”).
Completely engaged in class 182 4.56 0.65
Participated actively in class 182 4.44 0.87
Class will help in completing homework 182 4.41 0.73
Class will help in future career 182 4.23 0.84
Fully prepared for class 182 4.22 0.87
TABLE 6 Student mean ratings of their liking of various course
activities (5-point Likert scale, where 5 is “like a great deal” and 1 is
“dislike a great deal”).
Hands-on module work days 19 4.63 0.597
Enrichment activity 19 4.42 0.507
Cycle 1 seminar (Discussion of first job and career
readiness articles)
19 4.32 0.820
Cycle 2 seminar (Discussion of The Big Short and
Balancing Customer Privacy article)
19 4.21 0.631
Guest speaker 19 4.21 0.787
Group analytical project 19 4.00 0.943
Cycle 1 conclusion (Mock proposals and contracts) 19 3.89 0.809
Cycle 2 conclusion (60 min video and activity) 18 3.78 1.003
Review activity 18 3.78 0.732
Module Q&A discussion classes 19 3.26 1.195
Data cleaning activity 17 3.12 1.166
only a “little different.” When using a 5-point Likert scale with
5 being “much more” and 1 being “much less, students on
average rated their learning (M= 3.53, SD = 1.02) in the class
as significantly more than in a traditional lecture class format
which would be reflected by a rating of “3” [t(18) = 2.25, p= 0.04,
d= 0.53]. They rated their enjoyment (M= 4.21, SD = 0.85)
even more favorably using the same scale [t(18) = 6.17, p<0.01,
d= 1.42].
Students used a five-point scale to rate how much they
“liked” class activities (Table 6). The most positive ratings
came from the hands-on module work days followed by the
enrichment activity, cycle seminars, and guest speaker. In fact,
8 students identified the hands-on module work days as their
“favorite” activity and 7 students rated the enrichment activity
as such. The least positive ratings came from the module Q&A
discussion classes and the data cleaning activity which was a
more traditional review activity toward the end of the semester.
The largest group of students (12) identified the module Q&A
discussion classes as their least favorite.
Students’ open-ended comments explained the reasoning
for their most and least preferred activities. Positive feedback
about the module work days largely revolved around the hands-
on nature of the activity and the opportunity to ask questions
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and really learn the material. One student said, “Getting to
do hands-on work with different analytic models was the best
way I learned about it, while another said, “It was nice to
work on our homework in class so we could ask questions
as we went.” Students’ preference for the enrichment activity
tended to relate to having an opportunity to get exposure to
real world work settings. One student said, “Because it was
a great eye-opening experience that showed us what the real
world is like in digital analytics. It was something that was
much better and enlightening than just getting lectured about
it in a classroom.” While another said, “I had the opportunity
to do a job shadow. . .. It truly changed the way I looked at
post-graduate life.”
Table 7 shows that students clearly felt an atmosphere of
mutual respect and a responsibility for their own learning even
though, consistent with the instructor’s observations in the field
notes, they reported only a moderate amount of preparation for
each class.
Results from the instructor/researcher’s field notes including
the weekly student responses, and the end of semester survey
were fairly consistent. While the field notes emphasized the
largely logistical challenges students faced in the data analysis
work days, they also recognized the value students seemed to
find in the activity. From students’ perspective, the positives
seemed to outweigh the negatives because on average the data
analysis work days were rated as the most positive experiences in
the class on the end of semester survey by a substantial margin.
Actively engaging with the material and having opportunities
for interaction and trial and error seemed particularly valuable
based on student comments.
Other positive results related to connecting students to the
real world as reflected in both the field notes and the end
of semester survey which identified the industry enrichment
project as very valuable. Students seemed to appreciate engaging
with the analytics industry in a meaningful way that gave them
a glimpse into future career opportunities. For similar reasons,
TABLE 7 Student mean ratings of the degree to which each statement
reflects their participation in class (5-point Likert scale, where 5 is “a
great deal” and 1 is “none at all”).
Felt an atmosphere of mutual respect 19 4.68 0.478
Felt responsible for my own learning 19 4.47 0.513
Gained knowledge that will help me in my career 19 4.16 0.898
Believed I was learning something important 19 4.05 0.705
Felt motivated to learn 19 4.05 0.911
Was engaged in activities in class 19 3.89 0.994
Prepared adequately for each class 19 3.58 1.071
the guest speaker was also rated positively. While the group
semester project was also designed to have real world relevance
and seemed to receive some of the more positive feedback based
on field notes, the end of semester survey indicated ratings for
the project to be in the mid-range relative to other aspects of
the class suggesting more mixed reactions. Perhaps the biggest
surprise is that students rated liking the cycle seminars as
fairly positive, right behind the industry enrichment activity.
So, while the field notes suggested group discussions did not
generate as much engagement as anticipated, students seemed to
like participating in these big picture, philosophical discussions
related to the marketing analytics industry.
Students’ degree of engagement with course material
was another area with mixed results. In the exit slips
which included students’ names, they reported being highly
engaged in the activities; however, in the anonymous end
of semester survey, students rated engagement as least
accurate in describing their participation in the course.
The fact that motivation, engagement, and preparation were
rated lower than students’ feelings of being respected, being
responsible for their own learning, and gaining knowledge
that will help them in their career seems to suggest that
the course may have fallen short on several important and
interrelated goals.
The results also suggested areas that were less effective in
this unique course design. A consistent theme that emerged
in the instructors’ field notes which was also evident in the
weekly student responses related to a lack of student preparation
or reading materials before class. Similarly, being prepared for
class was the item students rated lowest in terms of describing
their participation in the course in the end of semester survey.
This lack of preparation likely contributed to the frustration
the instructor noted in the field notes for the weekly Q&A
discussions and to the low student ratings for the Q&A
discussions resulting in them being their least favorite aspect
of the class. Another aspect of the class that seemed to fall
short of the instructor’s hopes was students taking charge of
their own learning. While this was a stated goal of the course
and students reported feeling this responsibility in the end
of semester survey, field notes suggested that some students
struggled to take on this role instead wishing for more directed,
step by step guidance.
The purpose of this case study was to understand
how the application of Montessori principles in an elective
upper-level undergraduate marketing analytics course can
provide new perspectives on innovation in higher education
pedagogy. This purpose helps to address gaps in the literature
around pedagogical innovation in higher education (Fernandez
et al.,2022), particularly related to student centered learning
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(Alamri et al.,2020) and experiential learning (Roberts,2018).
Innovations in these areas can overcome the widely recognized
limitations of the current model of higher education which
remains largely based on a lecture delivery model of instruction.
The Montessori approach for older students employs practices
that can be considered both student centered and experiential
which makes it a powerful model for building an innovative
approach to undergraduate education. For example, student
centered learning addresses the inherent power imbalance in
traditional lecture format courses in order to foster student
autonomy (Fernandez et al.,2022). In addition, Jay Roberts
(2018) outlines a number of reasons for increased interest
in experiential learning pedagogy which are related to the
effectiveness of the approach as well as providing students
with skills in high demand in the workforce. He observes
that, “What is clear is that more research on experiential
learning in higher education is needed” (Roberts,2018, p. 5). In
response to these identified needs, we conclude this article with
a discussion of the implications based on results from this case
study incorporating Montessori practices into an undergraduate
marketing course.
Experiential learning
The key areas where evidence in this study suggested
clear benefits were the interactive, hands-on activities for
enhancing learning and leveraging student interest in real-
world industry activities. Students largely recognized the unique
approach to learning through independent engagement with
statistical resources. While the instructor was concerned about
a haphazard approach of trial and error, many students
appreciated the opportunity to try different approaches without
high stakes grades associated with every effort even though
they were sometimes uncomfortable with proceeding without
step-by-step guidance. For consideration in future courses, this
study suggests incorporating more opportunities for taking risks
and expanding beyond students’ comfort level to strengthen
learning. Important strategies to incorporate relate to providing
scaffolding to provide students with gradually less guidance in
the process of independent problem solving as they become
more comfortable with such expectations.
Connections to the industry were also considered very
valuable as they connected upperclassmen to careers they would
soon be pursuing. Based on this study, future courses should
consider more ways to expand these industry connections,
beginning with guest speakers but also identifying additional
ways of linking to businesses in the field. While the data
analysis group projects were designed to be both hands-on
and connected to the real world, the assignment could have
been enhanced by building in even more of these elements.
Incorporating connections to industry in each assignment
and activity would be a powerful way to build on this case
study although challenges associated with the post-COVID
pandemic workplace may make this more difficult but also
even more valuable.
Learner centered approach
While the experiential learning aspects of the course seemed
to largely live up to expectations, the learner centered approach
components were less effective. The goal of incorporating a
Montessori approach was to foster learner agency and encourage
students to take charge of their own learning. However, the case
study suggested this is difficult to accomplish over the course of
a single semester in a class that meets only twice a week with
students often looking for more directed, step by step guidance.
Efforts to build community to enhance motivation and
collaborative learning through the seminar activities generated
positive results overall even though robust conversations were
limited. These big picture, theoretical discussions seem to
have potential for further exploration although it may require
additional tactics to increase participation. The weekly small
group discussions were clearly the weakest element of the
course. This seems likely to be due to a combination of less
engaging reading materials, student inexperience with such
student driven activities, and students being accustomed to
courses where the only important course activities generated a
grade. For future semesters, this is an area where significant
changes would be necessary to implement this format beginning
with strategies for ensuring that the readings are more relevant,
valuable and essential to the various topics.
Many of the challenges in encouraging learner agency
seemed to revolve around overcoming students’ inertia in
approaching college coursework using strategies they have
found effective in more traditionally designed courses. It was
difficult to encourage self-direction and student-led learning
activities when this was so different from the expectations in
other classes. Students had little experience following their own
interests and self-motivating, so they requested more direct
instruction and guidance. Furthermore, since initiative based on
interest was not part of their educational repertoire, students
found it difficult to engage in learning activities that did not have
a direct consequence in the form of a grade.
In conclusion, this case study demonstrated that, while
the Montessori principles incorporated into this course
showed promise, successfully changing the paradigm in higher
education requires efforts beyond a single course. Truly shaping
undergraduate education for the 21st century involves broad
and integrated change across departments and even universities
to empower students to take control of their own learning,
to be inspired and motivated by their own intrinsic values,
and to expand their thinking beyond narrow expectations of
textbook learning.
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As with any case study, limitations exist as compared
to rigorous experimental research designs. However, the
limitations of subjectivity, sample size, and contextualized
findings also represent strengths of this approach. The nature
of case study research leverages the long-term, intimate
relationships possible with such a design. Even so, we
acknowledge that this case study lacks an important element
of diversity among participants. While the participants reflected
the population of the marketing department at this university,
the participants still reflect a stark lack of divergent voices
from different races, cultures, genders, and neurodiverse
backgrounds. The study was also limited because only one
section of the course was offered and it met at 9:30 a.m. in
the semester the research was conducted. Implementing these
strategies when students may be more alert later in the day
would certainly be something to consider exploring along with
similar strategies with different groups of students in different
types of courses across the business school and beyond.
The research problem addressed by this study relates to
generating innovative pedagogical approaches to offer learner-
centered approaches higher education. The objective of this
study was to offer a new perspective on innovation in higher
education pedagogy by exploring how Montessori principles
can be applied in an elective upper-level undergraduate
marketing analytics course. Results of the study suggest
incorporating a Montessori approach into an undergraduate
marketing course seems to show promise, so this case
study provides a basis for future research exploring these
practices as well as the recommendations for future course
designs building on these findings. Continued innovation
in higher education is crucial for preparing students for
the challenges they will face in the workplace and in
society. Montessori education offers a unique perspective for
addressing many of the shortcomings identified in current
approaches to undergraduate instruction and should continue
to be explored for its potential to inspire innovation in
higher education. Expanding the number of studies exploring
innovative approaches in higher education pedagogy is
important for the field to evolve and meet the changing needs
of today’s students.
New directions for research
Future research should not only explore the implementation
of novel approaches in university classrooms but should
also incorporate a variety of research designs, including
rigorous experimental and quasi-experimental methods along
with rich, contextualized qualitative studies to build a strong
foundation supporting a paradigm shift in higher education
pedagogy. New lines of research regarding applications of
Montessori educational principles could extend not only to 4-
year colleges and universities but also to vocational programs
and programs for youth in out-of-school settings such as
after school programs, enrichment programs, and programs for
incarcerated youth.
Data availability statement
The datasets presented in this article are not readily available
because as a small case study, releasing participant data would
risk easily identifying participants. Requests to access the
datasets should be directed to AM,
Ethics statement
The studies involving human participants were reviewed
and approved by University of Kansas Human Subjects
Committee. The patients/participants provided their written
informed consent to participate in this study.
Author contributions
AM and MM contributed to the conception and design
of the study. EP and KC provided background research and
analysis for the theoretical framework. AM was the participant
observer who collected the data and performed the analysis
and wrote first draft of the manuscript. MM, EP, and KC
wrote sections of the manuscript. All authors contributed to
the manuscript revision, read, and approved the submitted
This research was conducted on an unfunded basis as part
of the primary investigator’s instructional responsibilities. We
acknowledge their appreciation for the funding of the open
access publication fees paid from a grant received from the
Prepared Adult Initiative.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that the research was conducted in the
absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could
be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
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Publisher’s note
All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the
authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated
organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the
reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article, or
claim that may be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed
or endorsed by the publisher.
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