Reggio Emilia Approach
By Andrew Loh, Dec 2006
Hailed as the best pre-schools in the world by Newsweek magazine in
1991, the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education has
attracted the worldwide attention of educators, researchers and just
about anyone interested in early childhood education best practices.
Even the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)'s
revised version of developmentally appropriate practices (DAP)
guidelines also included examples from Reggio approach. Today,
Reggio approach has been adopted in USA, UK, New Zealand, Australia
and many other countries.
Loris Malaguzzi (1920-1994) founded the 'Reggio Emilia' approach
at a city in northern Italy called Reggio Emilia. The 'Reggio'
approach was developed for municipal child-care and education
children below six. The approach requires children to be seen as
competent, resourceful, curious, imaginative, inventive and possess
a desire to interact and communicate with others.
The 'Reggio' vision of the child as a competent learner has produced
a strong child-directed curriculum model. The curriculum has
purposive progression but not scope and sequence. Teachers follow
the children's interests and do not provide focused instruction in
writing. Reggio approach has a strong belief that children learn
through interaction with others, including parents, staff and peers
in a friendly learning environment.
Here are some key features of Reggio Emilia's early childhood
The role of the environment-as-teacher
Within the Reggio Emilia schools, the educators are very concerned
about what their school environments teach children. Hence, a great
attention is given to the look and feel of the classroom. It is
often referring to the environment as the "third teacher"
The aesthetic beauty within the schools is seen as an important
part of respecting the child and their learning environment
A classroom atmosphere of playfulness and joy pervades
Teachers organize environments rich in possibilities and
provocations that invite the children to undertake extended
exploration and problem solving, often in small groups, where
cooperation and disputation mingle pleasurably.
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.
Here is a link to view some of the
Children's multiple symbolic languages
Using the arts as a symbolic language through which to express
their understandings in their project work
Consistent with Dr. Howard Gardner's notion of schooling for
multiple intelligences, the Reggio 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 such as
print, art, construction, drama, music, puppetry, and shadow play.
These are viewed as essential to children's understanding of
Documentation as assessment and advocacy
(Rather unique in Reggio approach)
Documenting and displaying the children's project work, which is
necessary for children to express, revisit, and construct and
reconstruct their feelings, ideas and understandings.
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 experience through the visual media are
displayed as a graphic presentation of the dynamics of learning.
Teachers act as recorders (documenters) for the children, helping
them trace and revisit their words and actions and thereby making
the learning visible.
Supporting and enriching children's learning through in-depth,
short-term (one week) and long-term (throughout the school year)
project work, in which responding, recording, playing, exploring,
hypothesis building and testing, and provoking occurs.
Projects are child-centered, following their interest, returning
again and again to add new insights.
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.
The teacher as researcher
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
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 and stimulate thinking
Teachers are committed to reflection about their own teaching and
Classroom teachers working in pairs and collaboration, sharing
information and mentoring between personnel.
Children, teachers, parents and community are interactive and work
together. Building a community of inquiry between adults and
For communication and interaction can deepen children's inquiry
and theory building about the world around them
Programs in Reggio are family centered. Loris's vision of an
"education based on relationships" focuses on each child
in relation to others and seeks to activate and support children's
reciprocal relationships with other children, family, teachers,
society, and the environment.
Reggio approach is not a formal model with defined methods (such as
Waldorf and Montessori), teacher certification standards and
accreditation processes. But rather, the educators in Reggio Emilia
speak of their evolving "experience" and see themselves as
a provocation and reference point, a way of engaging in dialogue
starting from a strong and rich vision of the child. In all of these
settings, documentation was explored as a means of promoting parent
and teacher understanding of children's learning and development.
While this article concentrate on Reggio Emilia approach on early
childhood education, it did not play down on the other approaches
such as Waldorf and Montessori. Each approach has its own strengths
and weaknesses as well as areas of difference.
What makes the Reggio Emilia approach stand out? In a nutshell,
Reggio approach articulates children to acquire skills of critical
thinking and collaboration. All preschool operators ought to
benchmark against the Reggio Emilia schools. Here is the contact link to
preschool that based on Reggio approach.
This article aims to serve as an introduction to Reggio approach;
you are encouraged to do your research on the Internet.
Alternatively, there are four recommended books on Reggio approach:
The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia
Approach - Advanced Reflections
The book is a comprehensive introduction covering history and
philosophy, the parent perspective, curriculum and methods of
teaching, school and system organization, the use of space and
physical environments, and adult professional roles including
Bringing Reggio Emilia Home
This book is good for parents who like to have more in-depth
understanding on Reggio Emilia principles and may be inspired to
implement Reggio approach at home.
Bringing Learning to Life: A Reggio Approach to Early Childhood Education (Early Childhood Education, 86)
"Bringing Learning to Life" is a practical view of the
everyday learning that can happen in a classroom. If you don't know about the Reggio
Emilia Approach, after reading Bringing Learning to Life you would.
Working in the Reggio Way: A Beginner's Guide for American Teachers
Working in the Reggio Way helps teachers of young children
bring the innovative practices of the schools in Reggio Emilia,
Italy, to American classrooms. Written by an educator who
observed and worked in the world-famous schools, this
groundbreaking resource presents the key tools that will allow
American teachers to transform their classrooms, including:
Organization of time and space, Documentation of children's
work, Observation and questioning, Attention to children's