REGGIO EMILIA – AN APPROACH TO TEACHING
The following information is extracted from Carnegie Mellon – Cyert Center for Early Education.
“The curriculum is not child centered or teacher directed. The curriculum is child originated and teacher framed…We have given great care in selecting the term ‘negotiated curriculum’ instead of emergent or child centered curriculum. We propose that ‘negotiated curriculum’ better captures the constructive, continual and reciprocal relation among teachers, children and parents and better captures the negotiations among subject matter: representational media and the children’s current knowledge.” Innovations in Early Education: The International Reggio Exchange, vol. 3, no.
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.
Origin and development of the Reggio Emilia Approach:
Loris Malaguzzi founded his school in 1945 in Reggio Emilia, a beautiful town in northern Italy. It became a public school in 1967 and has continued to evolve. Malaguzzi’s school became internationally known in the 1980’s. The RE approach was introduced in the U.S.A. in the early 1990’s. There are some schools that have adopted the RE approach in the U.S.A., the majority of them being in the states of Massachusetts, California, Missouri and Illinois. We have 3 schools so far in the State of Florida: Miami, Gainesville and St. Pete. We are the first school to adopt the RE approach in Central Florida.
Principles of the Reggio Emila Approach. (You must remember that all principles outlined below are interrelated).
- The Hundred Languages of Children. Each child has his or her own way of learning and communicating. All the ways are recognized and celebrated.
- Images of the child. Children are competent individuals who have within themselves the ability to find out what they need to know. They often learn through trial and error. “Mistakes” are stepping-stones to knowledge.
- Children’s relationships and interactions within a system. The relationship between parents and teachers, children and teachers and parents and children forms the “triangle” that supports the learning process. It is important for the teacher to “know” their children and “know” their parents as it fosters an environment conducing to collaboration in the learning process.
- Collaboration as the foundation of the system. The high degree of cooperation requires much support, which is supplied by a careful and well-developed structure and organization. Teachers are deeply aware of each child’s potential and use this knowledge to construct and maintain a cooperative environment and respond appropriately to each child. Teachers work together in a classroom. 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.
- The role of time and the importance of continuity. Time is not set by the clock and continuity is not interrupted by the calendar. Children have their own rhythm and sense of time. This is taken into consideration when planning activities. Children stay with the same teachers and the same peer group for 3-year cycles. Each year the group changes environments because their developmental needs and interests change, but the relationships with teachers and peers remain constant and intact.
- The 3 subjects of education.
- The role of the child. Children’s rights should be recognized, not only their needs. Children have a right to high-quality care and education that support the development of their potentials.
- The role of parents. Parents are an active part of their children’s learning. Parents’ participation is expected and supported and takes many forms: day-to-day interaction, work in the school, discussions of educational and psychological issues, special events, field trips if any and celebrations.
- The role of teachers as partners. The teacher’s role is as a resource, a listener, a nurturer, a partner, and an instigator for further development. The role of the teacher is considered to be one of continual research and learning process, taking place with the children and embedded in team cooperation.
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. The teachers’ roles are:
- 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
- The power of documentation. Transcriptions of children’s remarks and discussions, photographs of their activity, and representations of their thinking and learning using many media, are carefully arranged to document the work (and process of learning) done in the school. This is done to make parents aware of their children’s experiences, allow teachers to understand children better and to evaluate the teachers’ own work, thus promoting their professional growth, to facilitate communication and exchange of ideas among educators, to make children aware that their effort is valued and to create a portfolio for the children.
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 experiences through the visual media are displayed as a graphic presentation of the dynamics of learning.
- Emergent curriculum. Themes arise from children’s theories and interests, supporting the desire for life-long learning. Teachers express general goals and make hypotheses about what direction activities and projects might take, consequently, they make appropriate preparations. Then, after observing children in action, they compare, discuss, and interpret together their observations and make choices that they share with the children about what to offer and how to sustain the children in their exploration and learning. 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.
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.
- Project based curriculum. Projects provide the backbone of the children’s and teachers’ learning experiences. They are based on the strong conviction that learning by doing is of great importance and that to discuss in groups and to revisit ideas and experiences is the premier way of gaining better understanding and learning. Ideas for projects originate in the continuum of the experience of children and teachers as they construct knowledge together. Projects can last for a day or a year depending on the passion and curiosity of the children designing them. 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.
- 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 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 work tables for children from different classrooms to come together.