Values of the Reggio Emilia Approach to Childhood Education (page 3)
The schools are organized to promote participation and constructive co-existence based on listening, openness and recognition of others. Many projects are initiated in order to bring adults and children together. Reggio educators view education as a relationship among three protagonists: child, teacher and parent. Exchange and dialogue is valued between children, teachers and parents.
Ongoing professional/staff development
The work and relationships of teachers to children and parents is essential. The teachers' professional development is integrated into their work week. In fact, teachers are paid six hours a week for professional development, planning, preparation of materials, community management and meetings with families and others. Ongoing professional development is valued through initiatives by and for teachers.
Teachers work in pairs and maintain strong collegial relationships with colleagues and staff. They engage in ongoing discussions and interpretations of their work—and the work of the children. It is these exchanges and dialogues that provide the ongoing training and theoretical enrichment so vital to the Reggio Emilia experience.
When you walk into a Reggio Emilia School it's easy to understand why the Reggio Emilia approach considers the school environment to be the "third teacher." Much attention is paid to the look and feel of the classroom. The objective is to create a pleasant atmosphere, where children, families and teachers feel understood and at ease. The environment is seen as a significant element of the education and a reflection of the school's culture over time. The focus on the environment represents the value placed on aesthetics, organization, thoughtfulness, provocation, communication and interaction.
One of the primary innovations of the Reggio Approach is the atelier, the school studio and laboratory. The atelier is a place for experimentation with separate or combined visual languages, either in isolation or in combination with verbal ones. There are mini-ateliers next to each classroom, which are used for extended projects. These ateliers are equipped with clay, wire, paint, pens, paper, beads, shells and a variety of recycled, natural materials used by the children in short- and long-term projects with the purpose of expressing the "hundred languages" of children.
Family and Community
The exchange of ideas between parents and teachers is essential and favors the development of a new way of educating. The schools are governed by community-based management that promotes interaction and communication among educators, children, parents and the community. There is a strong effort to maintain dialogue among teachers, administrators, elected officials and the city as a whole in the development of the early childhood educational system.
The educators in Reggio have developed a sophisticated system of documenting their daily experiences with the children. Attention is paid to the presentation—the visible trace—of children and teachers' thinking as they engage in their investigations. Documentation provides a record of the learning and reveals connections between events. It also provides an opportunity to review past experiences and plan future ones.
The documentation teaches children that their work is valued. Parents are also able to read the documentation and become more aware of their children's experiences. And it allows teachers to better understand the children, to evaluate their own work and to exchange ideas with others. Study, research and experimentation are valued in order to provide a creative and constructive learning environment for children.
The Reggio Approach sees the child as protagonist, an active constructor of his or her own knowledge. The teacher is likewise seen as a protagonist who engages in the same processes with colleagues (co-teachers and others), making individual and collective interpretations. Social constructivism is shown in the teachers' respect for the children's need to generate their own questions and revisit their choices.
The Reggio Approach makes the connection between children as co-constructors of knowledge and the importance of reciprocal communication and as a key element of learning.
Education is based on communication within teacher-teacher, child-child, teacher-child, parent-child, parent-teacher and parent-parent relationships. This creates a very rich learning environment for all those involved. In the Reggio Approach the teacher is a researcher and the school is seen as a place of research—a place of participation and shared construction of value and meaning.
Reprinted with the permission of the Innovative Teacher Project. © Innovative Teacher Project.
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