About DERS


The DERS is a classroom observation tool that measures environmental and behavioral qualities proven to support executive functions, linguistic and cultural fluency, and social-emotional development.

Developed over the course of three years of school-based and laboratory research, the DERS can measure classroom quality for any developmental educational model, not just Montessori.

DERS Wheel

Research has shown that executive functions (the neurocognitive functions which enable us to pay attention, control behavior, and think flexibly), deep literacy, and social-emotional learning are key developments, which can be nurtured in classrooms, and are highly predictive of academic and life success.

And Montessori (and other developmental models) have long demonstrated support for this growth.

The DERS focuses on five key outcomes:

  • Initiation and Concentration
  • Inhibitory Control
  • Working Memory
  • Linguistic and Cultural Fluency
  • Social Fluency and Emotional Flexibility


Mapping backward from these desired outcomes, the instrument guides observers through 60 items, 20 for each of the three observation areas:

  • child behavior
  • adult behavior
  • environmental attributes

All of which are validated by current research on executive functions, linguistic and cultural fluency, and social-emotional learning.


Each item is linked to one or more outcomes. Many of the observable attributes of classrooms that nurture executive functions and social-emotional development map onto multiple domains of the DERS.

For instance, uninterrupted learning time, free choice, voluntary physical movement, and adult behavior that is calm, predictable, and respectful of student engagement are items that influence all five domains.

Other items, such as children’s ability to carry out a multi-step sequence, adults’ use of clear language and precise movement, and a classroom that is free of clutter, strongly influence working memory as well as concentration.

While still other items, such as intentionally limited learning materials, a soft, conversational voice, and meticulously modeled social graces support the development of inhibitory control.


A 60-minute classroom observation generates quantitative and narrative reports built around the five outcome domains.

A graphic display of all 60 items is also included, which provides an immediate, highly detailed touch point for reflection, ongoing assessment, and continuous improvement.