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Reimagining Education for Peace in the Context of Montessori Education: Learnings from two ethnographically informed case studies



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Ehrenzeller, Carlotta 


For over a century Montessori Education (ME) has offered formal opportunities to provide alternative schooling by placing the child at the centre of learning. In current times of global crises of equity, social justice and holistic wellbeing, it is crucial to critically reimagine education for peace in the context of ME. With two ethnographically informed case studies in a public German Forest-Montessori School and a private Australian Montessori school, this study offers concrete insights into the complexities of how two contemporary Montessori schools educate for peace across contexts, but also how ME contributes to sustaining the violent structures that the approach is aiming to overcome. The research design mirrors the Montessori pedagogy and primarily employs observation and semi-structured interviews with students aged six to nine, teachers and school management, complemented with embodied approaches such as data poetry, reflexive podcasting, and in-depth ethnographic portraits. Notably, the research culminates in the creation of a collaborative peace puppet play and the authorship of a children’s book, Do You Know What Peace Is? A short story about the meaning of peace. As a key theoretical outcome, the findings provide conceptual clarity to the core components of education for peace within ME, delineating it as three interrelated yet distinct dimensions of peace. Through the data analysis, a common cross-case theme for each peace level emerges: (A) inner peace as self-actualisation, (B) inter-personal peace as forming relationships, and (C) ecological peace as the ability to recognise the interconnectedness of all. This research proposes that within ME, teaching about (content), for (skills) and through (pedagogy) peace shall be complemented by a fourth, contextual dimension of critically teaching in peace (place-based). Local and systemic social and ecological justice issues need to be highlighted and addressed in order to provide a critical and place-based Montessori education for just peace.





Cremin, Hilary


Alternative Education, Critical Peace Education, Ethnographic Case Studies, Humanising Research, Montessori Education, Place-Based Education


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge