Angeline Lillard headshot

Angeline Lillard

Professor of Psychology

I remember well the excitement of arriving at university at 18; I relive that excitement as a first year advisor, and love watching it develop into the knowledge and confidence one gains by second year. Yet as a Psychology professor, I have also been frustrated by structures in which I am usually asked to teach—a large lecture hall with multiple choice tests. Through careful, sensitive, and objective observation, scientists have learned a great deal about optimal conditions for human learning and development. However, the educational institutions most of us have experienced were founded on preconceived ideas, not science. I have taught fourth year students about the radically different and scientific approach to education taken by Maria Montessori, and those students expressed frustration at learning about this just moments before graduation, because they would have done college differently had they known. The Engagements allow for an amazing convergence—I get to teach first years about a scientifically-based reorientation to human development and learning while simultaneously co-creating sound educational structures that mirror our learning in the Engagements format. In addition, students can follow my current work with the Equity center and community organizations as we establish Montessori childcares in underserved, economically-disadvantaged Charlottesville neighborhoods.

My expertise is in the science of play and playful learning, which extends to Montessori education. My book Montessori: The science behind the genius, shows how scientific discoveries about children follow on Maria Montessori’s original observations. I was an English major in college, and before going to graduate school in Psychology I wrote computer manuals in California (when not windsurfing). When not travelling the world, I reside with my husband, two miniature American shepherds, chickens, and horses, in a country setting where I tend my garden, practice Buddhism and yoga, and watch with awe as my two daughters weave their way through their 20s.