RIVER FALLS — The University of Wisconsin-River Falls will become one of the few institutions in the country to offer a doctoral degree in Montessori studies, an alternative education method focused on self-motivated learning and collaboration

The UW System Board of Regents approved the request Friday, Feb. 5, the university announced in a news release. The doctor of education degree will be the first of its kind to be offered at UW-River Falls.

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“UWRF’s College of Education and Professional Studies has over 150 years of innovation in preparing teaching excellence,” CEPS Interim Dean Ogden Rogers said in a statement. “Our experience in successful curriculum development to help train Montessori teachers has helped establish a foundation to prepare programming to develop leaders in Montessori education.”

The 54-credit program offered through the Teacher Education Department can be completed in about three years, the university said. It is scheduled to launch in June 2022.

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Coursework will be offered online throughout the academic year with an in-residency component over summers, including in-person classes and networking, program director Kateri Carver said.

The university said it hopes the doctoral program will attract students from around the world and with diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.

Montessori was developed in the early 1900s by Italian physician Dr. Maria Montessori. The education method “fosters rigorous, self-motivated growth for children and adolescents in all areas of their development — cognitive, emotional, social, and physical,” according to the American Montessori Society.

Kai Rodgers, head of Red Cottage Montessori in Red Wing, said the UW-River Falls doctoral program will be a boon to vibrant Montessori communities in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

“Hopefully this is the beginning of Montessori education becoming more recognized as the research-based, successful method of developing the whole child that it is,” she wrote in an email reacting to Friday’s announcement.

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Montessori was developed in the early 1900s by Italian physician Dr. Maria Montessori. The education method “fosters rigorous, self-motivated growth for children and adolescents in all areas of their development — cognitive, emotional, social, and physical,” according to the American Montessori Society.