At the heart of the Reggio Emilia approach is to view children and teachers as capable and competent, ready to enter into relationships, ready to be listened to, and eager to learn. When we value children and teachers this way we transform education.
At a Reggio Emilia inspired school, teaching is not so much about imparting information, but rather, it has to be an experience in which teachers and learners construct learning together. Teachers act as guides and mentors providing meaning learning experiences, foster relationships between the child and peers, and adults. Classroom investigations in small groups often emerge based upon the interests of the children. Relationships and communication with parents is highly valued. Reggio teachers encourage parents to be connected with the community that supports the school.
The Reggio Emilia approach is based upon the following principles:
We know that children learn best when they have a vested interest in the subject. 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, shadows, dinosaurs, etc.). Children learn to read, write, investigate, communicate and create using subject matter that is of personal interest to them as opposed to repetitive curriculum that is imposed upon them.
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.
Consistent with Loris Malaquzzi's concept of the Hundred Languages of Children, the Reggio Emilia approach calls for the integration of the graphic arts as tools for cognitive, linguistic, and social development. Print, art, construction, drama, music, puppetry, and shadow play are viewed as essential to children's understanding of experience and expression of what they know.
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. There is high emphasis on the collaboration among home, school and community to support the learning of the child, what Reggio Emilia defines as The Three Teachers in a child’s life.
Teachers as Researchers:
The teacher's role within the Reggio Emilia approach is complex. The teacher is a teacher-researcher, a resource and guide as she/he lends expertise to children. Within such a teacher-researcher role, educators carefully listen, observe, and document children's work and the growth of community in their classroom. Teachers are to model wonder, provoke, co-construct, and stimulate thinking, and children's collaboration with peers. Teachers are committed to reflection about their own teaching and learning.
Documentation of children's work in progress is viewed as an important tool in the learning process for children, teachers, and parents. Photographs of children engaged in experiences, examples of their creative work, their words as they discuss what they are doing, feeling and thinking are displayed in the classroom and in individual portfolio books. Teachers use documentation as an assessment of their own work and of children’s learning.