Key Elements of The Reggio Emilia Program
Additional key elements of the Reggio Emilia model are the cooperation and collaboration between staff members in each school and throughout the system (Gandini, 1993). Teachers work in pairs in Reggio classrooms and view themselves as equal partners in gathering information about children and making plans to enhance students’ growth and development. Through active cooperation, teachers and administrators make it possible for students to achieve the lofty goals of the program.
Cooperation and collaboration are more effective in a system that is highly organized. Reggio Emilia teachers work within a structured system that is designed to make planning and discussions about children more effective. The program sets aside a minimum of 6 hours each week for teacher meetings, preparing the environment for children, parent meetings, and in-service training (Hendrick, 2003).
A specialist trained in the visual arts referred to as the atelierista is hired for each Reggio Emilia school and works with the other teachers and children to develop projects summarizing learning experiences (Edwards et al., 1998). The atelier (workshop/studio area), with its tools and art materials, is the focal point for the atelierista’s efforts. By guiding teachers and children as they proceed through several refinements of their projects, the atelierista contributes significantly to the work efforts in the Reggio Emilia classroom.
The Importance of Documentation
A critical part of schooling in the Reggio Emilia model is the process of documenting learning experiences (Hendrick, 2003). Students are expected to describe for others the work they have accomplished and the processes they have used in discovering new knowledge. This documentation can take a variety of forms, including
- Transcriptions of children’s remarks and discussions.
- Photographs of activities in and around the classroom.
- Art media representations of experiences (group murals, sculptures, paintings, drawings, etc.).
Documentation serves several important functions (Hendrick, 2003). First, it helps parents become more aware of children’s learning and development. In addition, teachers use these representations of learning to better understand children and to assess their own teaching strategies. Reviewing documentation with other teachers also encourages a sharing of ideas among adults and promotes professional growth. Children benefit as well, seeing that their efforts are valued by adults and consolidating their understandings by being able to communicate them to others.
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