Sunday, 9 November 2008

Reggio Emilia Philosophy

The following overview of the Reggio Emilia Approach was taken from a packet of information available at The Hundred Languages of Children traveling exhibit:
Hailed as an exemplary model of early childhood education (Newsweek, 1991), the Reggio Emilia approach to education is committed to the creation of conditions for learning that will enhance and facilitate children's construction of "his or her own powers of thinking through the synthesis of all the expressive, communicative and cognitive languages" (Edwards and Forman, 1993). The Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education is a city-run and sponsored system designed for all children from birth through six years of age. The Reggio Emilia approach can be viewed as a resource and inspiration to help educators, parents, and children as they work together to further develop their own educational programs. The Reggio Emilia approach is based upon the following principles:
Emergent Curriculum: An emergent curriculum is one that builds upon the interests of children. Topics for study are captured from the talk of children, through community or family events, as well as the known interests of children (puddles, shadow, dinosaurs, etc.). Team planning is an essential component of the emergent curriculum. Teachers work together to formulate hypotheses about the possible directions of a project, the materials needed, and possible parent and/or community support and involvement.
Project Work: Projects, also emergent, are in-depth studies of concepts, ideas, and interests, which arise within the group. Considered as an adventure, projects may last one week or could continue throughout the school year. Throughout a project, teachers help children make decisions about the direction of study, the ways in which the group will research the topic, the representational medium that will demonstrate and showcase the topic and the selection of materials needed to represent the work. Long-term projects or progettazione, enhance lifelong learning.
Representational Development: Consistent with Howard Gardner's notion of schooling for multiple intelligences, the Reggio Emilia approach calls for the integration of the graphic arts as tools for cognitive, linguistic, and social development. Presentation of concepts and hypotheses in multiple forms of representation -- print, art, construction, drama, music, puppetry, and shadow play -- are viewed as essential to children's understanding of experience. Children have 100 languages, multiple symbolic languages.
Collaboration: Collaborative group work, both large and small, is considered valuable and necessary to advance cognitive development. Children are encouraged to dialogue, critique, compare, negotiate, hypothesize, and problem solve through group work. Within the Reggio Emilia approach multiple perspectives promote both a sense of group membership and the uniqueness of self. There high emphasis on the collaboration among home-school-community to support the learning of the child.
Teachers as Researchers: The teacher's role within the Reggio Emilia approach is complex. Working as co-teachers, the role of the teacher is first and foremost to be that of a learner alongside the children. The teacher is a teacher-researcher, a resource and guide as she/he lends expertise to children (Edwards, 1993). Within such a teacher-researcher role, educators carefully listen, observe, and document children's work and the growth of community in their classroom and are to provoke, co-construct, and stimulate thinking, and children's collaboration with peers. Teachers are committed to reflection about their own teaching and learning.
Documentation: Similar to the portfolio approach, documentation of children's work in progress is viewed as an important tool in the learning process for children, teachers, and parents. Pictures of children engaged in experiences, their words as they discuss what they are doing, feeling and thinking, and the children's interpretation of experience through the visual media are displayed as a graphic presentation of the dynamics of learning. Documentation is used as assessment and advocacy.
Environment: Within the Reggio Emilia schools, great attention is given to the look and feel of the classroom. Environment is considered the "third teacher." Teachers carefully organize space for small and large group projects and small intimate spaces for one, two or three children. Documentation of children's work, plants, and collections that children have made from former outings are displayed both at the children's and adult eye level. Common space available to all children in the school includes dramatic play areas and worktables for children from different classrooms to come together.
Features of The Reggio Emilia Approach
Teacher Role:
to co-explore the learning experience with the children
to provoke ideas, problem solving, and conflict
to take ideas from the children and return them for further exploration
to organize the classroom and materials to be aesthetically pleasing
to organize materials to help children make thoughtful decisions about the media
to document children's progress: visual, videotape, tape recording, portfolios
to help children see the connections in learning and experiences
to help children express their knowledge through representational work
to form a "collective" among other teachers and parents
to have a dialogue about the projects with parents and other teachers
to foster the connection between home, school and community
can emerge from children's ideas and/or interests
can be provoked by teachers
can be introduced by teachers knowing what is of interest to children: shadows, puddles, tall buildings, construction sites, nature, etc.
should be long enough to develop over time, to discuss new ideas, to negotiate over, to induce conflicts, to revisit, to see progress, to see movement of ideas
should be concrete, personal from real experiences, important to children, should be "large" enough for diversity of ideas and rich in interpretive/representational expression
explore first: what is this material, what does it do, before what can I do with the material
should have variation in color, texture, pattern: help children "see" the colors, tones, hues; help children "feel" the texture, the similarities and differences
should be presented in an artistic manner--it too should be aesthetically pleasing to look at--it should invite you to touch, admire, inspire
should be revisited throughout many projects to help children see the possibilities


The classroom space is a discrete entity which is subdivided into "centers" including art, writing, sand/water, reading, math, manipulatives, blocks, science, and a domestic/house or dramatic play area. There is also a meeting area. The room may appear crowded with the amount of furniture and shelves in the space. Consider what is allowed into this space. On the walls are commercially made (along with some teacher-created) charts or posters. Adjacent to the calendar, or included as part of it, is a weather chart. Along the top of the chalkboards, or just underneath, are strips depicting the alphabet and numbers to10. Charts identifying colors and shapes are posted on available bulletin board spaces. There may be seasonally related posters, or pictures of community helpers (doctor, firefighter, police officer, letter carrier), or information posters on dinosaurs, parts of the body or animals, depending on the current theme of study. The bulletin boards will be backed with colored papers and surrounded by a scalloped decorative boarder. Each bulletin board may be decorated in a different color of paper with a different scalloped boarder. For example, in one small classroom I visited recently there were seven different boarders around six boards each backed in one of three different colors. There may be mobiles or things hung from the ceiling. The overall impression is often of a visual bombardment of images. There is a particular "aesthetic" to this room. Just from the images on the walls we know at once we are in a kindergarten (or primary grade) classroom. This look, like the string paintings or string prints typical of school art (Efland, 1988), exists only in schools.

The image of the child is one who must be protected from the outside world in order to learn. The child is seen as an object to be filled with information distilled and dispensed in regulated doses beginning with simple concepts leading to more abstract concepts. However, Egan (1988) argues that even very young children are concerned with the abstract themes of good/bad, beautiful/ugly, power/control, love and hate-- all those issues surrounding what it means to be human, are typically excluded from early childhood.


JessicaJoy said...

This is very interesting material on Reggio! I am left wondering however, what the differences are between Reggio and Montessori ? Could you clarify this for me?

Ella said...

:) I`m on a studdy progress about Reggio E. Never hear about Montessori before :(

Ms. Polly's Playroom said...

Reggio allows the enviroment to be the third teacher. If a child wants to learn aabout mountains then the teacher facilitates the child on a investigation about mountains. If a a Montessori activity says sort the rocks arrording to the color and the child sorts the rock according to size (which issomething far more difficult) the child is considered wrong. If I child does the same activty with the same result in Reggio, the are considered brilliant! :)

Lisa Kathleen said...

As a Montessori teacher, I'd love to comment on the difference between Reggio and Montessori. As a university professor with a focus on Reggio once told me, there's a lot of love between Montessori and Reggio Emilia philosophy, and I certainly agree! I have found that it's easy to look for and make negative judgements about other ways of teaching, but that it is much more beneficial to explore different pedagogies with the desire to find love between them, and the realization that we are all doing this work for the love of children. I have done much exploration of Reggio schools and philosophy, and found much love:). One of the keys to Reggio is the idea that it should NOT become a methodology, but should remain a collaborative model which follows the interests of a given classroom. Reggio has a strong focus on the development of the classroom/school within the culture, and the importance of the collaboration between teachers, parents and community. I have found that most Reggio schools do these things exceptionally well. Montessori classrooms are also focused on following the child's interest, and the child's exploration. In most Montessori classrooms, a child's exploration of rocks in a way that differed from the lesson given would be welcomed, as long as the materials were not damaged by the exploration. Read "Children Who Are Not Yet Peaceful" for an incredibly insightful look into the depth of Montessori philosophy and methodology to support the vast range of children's personalities and ideas. Unlike in the Reggio Emilia approach, the Montessori approach includes a very specific curriculum and lessons, though only one or two lessons, 5 to 20 minutes each, may be given to each child per WEEK. So, the majority of the child's time is spent choosing his or her own work. In the Montessori school, 3 through 6 year olds share a classroom, then 6 through 9 years, then 9 through 12 years. Most 3 and 4 year olds choose to work on their own, exploring their own relationship to their work, though they may sit together and chat. 5 year-olds tend to choose to work with another child often, and 6 through 12 year-olds develop their social muscles and work in pairs, small groups, or the whole group, almost constantly, by choice. The teacher guides the children to develop their own interests, pursue their own projects, and complete extended processes, just as in a Reggio Emilia environment, but with less large group work for the younger children, as they tend not to choose large group work until they are older. The Montessori classroom will have fewer and specific materials for the young child (3-6), and the materials and exercises were developed based entirely on the children's interests, and what they chose to pursue when left to choose. So, a lesson is given, and the child may choose to follow up with that lesson, choose another material in the classroom to work with, or create an activity to do.
It is my observation that some Montessori classrooms/schools are not as good at art, music, and community, as others. A well-run Montessori program is deeply invested in and connected to the community of parents and the community around the school, and its children are extremely creative and interdependent, very much like a well-run Reggio Emilia-inspired program. To find out more, feel free to contact me about an audio/workbook product I am in the process of creating called "Alternative and Traditional Schooling Options". It should be available in the fall of 2012! Lisa Kathleen,