[Discuss-sudbury-model] Re: [AEROlistserve] scientific publications on democratic schools

From: Dana Matthew Bennis <dbennis12_at_yahoo.com>
Date: Mon May 22 21:03:00 2006

Hi Martin - when you say "scientific," what do you mean? Do you mean
anything that is a formal study, or specifically quantitative,
empirical studies? There are very few of either, especially the
latter. I'll describe here what I know, including my own research
which I have just completed, and I urge others to mention other
studies. This message goes a bit long, but there is much to say and I
believe it is important to focus more on research.

Certainly you know about the two Sudbury books, Todd mentioned one of
them in a previous post. Peter Gray is a professor who has also done
several formal studies on Sudbury Valley that have been published in
journals. You will find links to several of these articles by
searching for "gray sudbury valley" at http://scholar.google.com/. If
you have access to a research library you may be able to get full
copies, or perhaps the Sudbury Valley folks can help. The studies show
the benefit of a democratic freedom-based environment, including
specifically the benefits of age-mixing and playing.

Yoshi Nagata studied freedom-based schools in Japan and came up with
some interesting results of the positive effects of this approach. At
IDEC 2002 he had some copies of a book that included one of his studies
- the book is called "Prospect and Retrospect of Alternative Education
in the Asia-Pacific Region." Another book of his will be coming out
shortly. Perhaps he is on one of these listservs, or you can email me
for his email address.

Derry Hannam has done several studies in England on participative
schools (perhaps not full “democratic schools”) which indicate that
such schools enhanced students’ self-esteem, motivation, ownership, and
empowerment, as well as leading to higher academic achievement. I’m
sure Derry is on some of these lists.

Some research in the psychology field bears directly on democratic
schools, including studies by Deci and Ryan, researchers at the
University of Rochester, on autonomy and intrinsic motivation. Their
studies (admittedly not done in democratic schools) indicate that
autonomy-supportive environments are associated with greater conceptual
learning, higher levels of creativity, greater self-determined
learning, and higher levels of intrinsic motivation. Their research
also shows that humans have an innate need to be autonomous and feel a
sense of control and self-governance over our lives. More info at

I believe Deci and Ryan’s work is a gold mine for those of us in
democratic freedom-based education, and we could benefit freedom-based
education by discussing and analyzing their research as well as
creating studies modifying their surveys and scales to be appropriate
for our schools.

That is what I did for my own thesis which I am now completing. I
created a study involving alumni and comparing the educational
atmosphere of conventional and freedom-based schools and assessing the
impact of the schools on student autonomy, student levels of intrinsic
motivation, and students’ development of personal qualities, which for
this study included self-confidence, independence, compassion,
curiosity, responsibility, critical thinking, and self-awareness.

My study was limited by using only 2 freedom-based schools and 1
conventional school, and by having somewhat small sample sizes from
each school. Nonetheless, the results establish a correlation between
freedom-based schools and a positive school atmosphere, high levels of
perceived autonomy-support, high levels of student intrinsic motivation
and self-determination, and strong development of personal qualities.
The results also indicate higher levels of each factor for
freedom-based schools as compared to the conventional school.

Some of the results were striking, though not surprising, such as the
responses to this question: “To what extent do you think your school
helped most of the people develop the personal qualities mentioned in
this study?” The percentage strongly or moderately agreeing with that
statement from the two freedom-based schools was 86% and 91%,
respectively, while the percentage strongly or moderately agreeing from
the conventional school was only 9%.

Many on this list, including myself, don’t need research to tell us the
value of this approach. However, creating more research studies could
have the effect of getting into the hands of people who may not
otherwise visit or consider this form of education. And hopefully,
more studies would help more people learn about this approach and
eventually lead to the creation of additional freedom-based schools and
give more children the opportunity to learn and grow in freedom.

I plan to hold a workshop regarding research in democratic education at
the AERO conference this summer and hope others are interested in this.

Martin, please let me/us know what you choose to do for your research,
and I would love to help out in any way I can.

Dana Bennis

--- Todd Pratum <knowledge_at_pratum.com> wrote:

> There is a book just published by Sudbury that is the only one I can
> think of, not sure of the title right now. Todd Pratum.
> Martin Wilke wrote:
> >Hi all,
> >
> >Is anyone of you aware of any scientific studies/publications that
> deal
> >specificly with the democratic structure, the judicial system and/or
> the
> >freedom aspects of democratic schools?
> >
> >I'm going to write my diploma thesis in political sciences on this
> >subject. Right now I'm drafting a research design and thus need to
> know
> >if anything similar has been done before.
> >
> >thanks for your help
> >
> >Martin Wilke from Berlin
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >Yahoo! Groups Links
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> --
> Todd Leif Pratum
> 5221 Central Avenue, Building A-3
> Richmond, California 94804
> Tel.510.527.1928 Fax.510.528.3513
> Books Bought -- Catalogues Issued
> 25th Year 2006
Received on Mon May 22 2006 - 21:02:03 EDT

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