Foundations and Current Issues of Early Childhood Education/Chapter 7/7.1

Brief History and Philosophy


Reggio Emilia is a city in the affluent wine country of Northern Italy. After World War II, educators, parents and children of the city came together with the purpose of offering hope to society and improving life for children and families (Edwards, 2003). The women of Reggio Emilia established the Dianna School and in 1946, Loris Malaguzzi, a local teacher, dedicated himself to this task and remained the director of the school until 1985 (Finegan, 2001). In 1963, Malaguzzi persuaded the city government to assume responsibility for running this school as well as the other schools in the district. Teachers worked to develop new ways of teaching that would support a democratic society by combining the concept of social service with education. A series of national laws passed between 1968 and 1971 made possible the development of the comprehensive program or Reggio Approach as it is known today as a world renowned educational technique (Morrison, 2000). The goal of the Reggio Emilia schools is to serve as a resource for educators, parents, and the community to engage in “collaboration, communication, and participation” to respond to the right of all children to receive a quality education according to their individual learning abilities and specific interests (Finegan, 2001).

“A school needs to be a place for all children, not based on the idea that they are the same, but that they’re all different” - Loris Malaguzzi

This is the key difference that sets the Reggio approach apart from other educational practices, the child is not only the focus of the educational process, but guides his own development. Even very young children are seen as capable of constructing their own learning and negotiating with everything their environment brings to them, strongly influenced by the natural, dynamic, self-righting forces within themselves (Edwards, 2003). It is important that children make and correct their own errors, for this enables a child to become skilled at problem solving from a young age. Children are viewed as active authors in their own development, full of life, power and confidence rather than full of need (Morrison, 2000). Learning involves purposeful progression, but not focused instruction in individual subject areas. Teaching and learning are negotiated, developing processes between adults and children, involving generous time and in depth revisiting and reviewing. This aspect brings about two features of the Reggio approach that are both unique and essential to the process: the role of the teachers and their relationship with each other and parents.

Teacher’s Role


The image of the child, painted above, as one that is full of potential, curiosity, and interest in constructing their own learning, is one that necessitates a teacher whose goal is not to educate the child, but to cultivate and guide the intellectual, emotional, social and moral potentials inherent in each child. Teachers are gatherers of information about children in order to build a more complete picture of them. Based on detailed, systematic observation, the teacher seeks to provide an atmosphere of productive calm as the students move along in their learning (Edwards, 2003). The use of continual documentation as a standard classroom practice is a process unique to the Reggio approach. Not only do teachers observe, take notes, and record conversations between children, but they also keep extensive records of children’s work to understand each child’s individual development. Journals, transcriptions, tape recordings, photographs, and representations of the children’s thinking and learning document the educational progress (Finegan, 2001). Other machines essential for documenting children’s ideas, activities, and representations include slide projectors, typewriters, video cameras, computers and photocopiers (Grieshaber & Hatch, 2003). These resources are for the benefit of the parents, the teachers, and the children themselves. Through the process of re-reading, reflection, and revisiting, children are able to organize what they have learned from a single experience within a broader system of relations. The teachers can use the gathered information for their own professional development, as well. The learning process in the Reggio classroom is a two way street; because of the nature of the approach, documentation and evaluation allows educators to construct theories and hypothesis in regards to how children develop ideas and understandings (Edwards, 2003). Documentation can also be used for instructional accountability, to piece together the learning that has occurred over time (Grieshaber & Hatch, 2003). Rigorous documentation and the time it takes to evaluate this information are essential to the process. Time is a concept that is important to the Reggio approach; children and teachers alike are given all the time they need to complete necessary tasks. Because children work at their own pace and are able to start and finish projects at their leisure, the school day has a sequence, not a schedule (Finegan, 2003). Documentation, rather than graded work, allows parents and educators to see the progress of each individual student.

Collaboration and Communication


From its very conception, the Reggio Emilia system has been a collaborative process between teachers, parents, and children. Through the process of rigorous documentation described above, teachers are able to communicate with each other and parents concerning the development of each individual child. Children too, work with one another to learn and grow together. In Italy, teachers, parents, and other members of the Reggio Emilia community form a “consiglistione,” or council which presents an opportunity to discuss objectives, topics, and concerns resulting in the development of school policy (Finegan, 2003). Another function of the council is to observe societal events that are important to the community and consider how these events might affect the children’s learning. Such events include: wars, elections, holidays, or any other social circumstance that has an impact on the lives of the people in the community. Documentation facilitates communication between teachers and with parents as well. This team aspect is practical in day to day operations as well. Everything is discussed and organized with precision and care including teacher’s schedules, meetings with families and children’s diets. One useful communication tool is personal journals that travel back and forth between home and school (Wilford, 2005). Teachers place photographs and other information in the journal and parents respond. This allows for both communication and developmental assessment. Teachers collaborate with one another as well; they meet to discuss what they have recorded and make flexible plans and preparations for further development. This collaboration and cooperation is the backbone of the Reggio Emilia system and involves sharing information, questioning, and trusting each other ( Morrison, 2000). This process allows both children and adults the opportunity to value each other as people and this is one of the most important aspects of education (Wilford, 2005). Collaboration is encouraged among Reggio children from an early age. In addition to on going projects, children engage in many other forms of activity and play, including pretend play, singing, group games, storytelling, reading, cooking, outdoor play, rest, and sociable meals together ( Edwards, 2003). They become a part of a close-knit group with their own unique rituals and ways of expressing friendship and affection for one another. Because children and teachers usually stay together in the same group for 3 years, close and extended relationships are formed with teachers and parents as well. This relationship allows for the formation of a strong link for the child between home and school and helps facilitate the developmental process.

Works Cited


Edwards, C.P. (2003). “Fine Designs” from Italy: Montessori Education and the Reggio Emilia Approach. Montessori Life v.15 no. 1 Winter p. 34 – 39.

Finegan, C. (2001). Alternative Early Childhood Education: Reggio Emilia. Kappa Delta Pi Record v. 37 no. 2 Winter p. 82 – 84.

Grieshaber, S. and Hatch, J.A. (2003). Pedagogical Documentation as an Effect of Globalization. Journal of Curriculum Theorizing v. 19 no. 1 Spring p. 89 – 102.

Morrison, N. (2000). The Reggio Approach: An Inspiration for Inclusion of Children with “Special Rights.” The Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin v. 66 no. 3 Spring p. 35 – 44.

Wilford, S. (2005). Building Relationships: Who’s On My Team? Scholastic Early Childhood Today v. 20 no. 2 October p. 9 – 10.

Essay Question


A school with a Reggio Emilia approach has an ethnically diverse community that includes Christian, Jewish and Muslim students. You are the head of the school and new to the Reggio approach, it is the end of November and you are anxious about the up coming holiday season. How does your school handle this process? And why should you not be nervous?

Multiple Choice Questions


1. Mr. Jacobs is an administrator at a Reggio inspired school in the U.S., in one word what essential concept do teachers and students have at this school that they do not have at many other schools?

a) Respect

b) Time

c) Money

d) Teamwork

2. Mr. Haymond, a teacher in an American school with a Reggio perspective most likely:

a) Works alone

b) Is in constant collaboration with another teacher in the classroom

c) Works with another adult in the classroom who acts as his assistant

d) Meets with parents once a week to tell them how their child is progressing in relation to the other children

3. Ms. Manciati wants to show Eli’s parents his progress in understanding concepts of shapes and colors, employing the Reggio Emilia approach, what is the best way to do this?

a) Allow Eli to take his work home with him, this way his parents will be able to see what he has done first hand, I’m sure they have kept his previous projects for comparison.

b) Hang project on classroom wall to show to parents when they come in to see class. When parents come to visit classroom, tell him how much Eli has progressed over the months.

c) Set up a conference with Eli’s parents to discuss his progress. Show them his most recent work and, have them bring in previous projects they might have hung on the fridge.

d) Take a photograph of Eli with his most recent project and place it with a photo of Eli and previous work, send a portfolio home with Eli with comments and ask parents to respond.

4. Josi is 2 years old, upon entering his Reggio Emilia school he:

a) Is given discretion as to how he enters the classroom

b) Must follow structure rules as to how to begin his day as instructed by his teacher

c) Watches other students in order to understand how to act upon entering the classroom

d) a or c is correct

e) none of the above

5. Mrs. Applewhite is new to the Reggio Emilia approach describe her role as a teacher in two words.

a) Potential Cultivator

b) Instructor of Curriculum

c) Child Observer

d) Child Research Coordinator

Potential Answer to Essay Question


Because of the nature of the school and its extensive network of parents, teachers, and other educators that are in constant communication about every aspect of the children development. Even though I am new to the school, I am aware the most of the parents and teachers have been here for years and are more than familiar with this process. I shouldn’t be anxious because the teachers and parents at this school are here engaged in the educational process together and all have a common goal: the social, emotional, intellectual, and moral development of each individual child. The parents, teachers and students have, in the past, met and established a plan for this time of year. The council will meet again this year to include me in this discussion and explore any ideas I might contribute. The “holiday season” is approached with honesty and open to discussion and exploration. This is a learning opportunity for students, and unlike in a lot of public school, parents will not get distressed about their children learning about different religions and cultures. This also allows children to grow up culturally and socially aware that people are different, and even though someone may not share the same belief system, they are still good people. Children are allowed to ask questions and explore different aspects of the various religious and secular celebrations of the holiday season. The school respects the faith of the diverse population and honors their practices with a holiday party that incorporates themes from all cultures.

Multiple Choice Answers


1. B

2. B

3. D

4. D

5. A


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