Education based on Interrelationships
A network of communication exists between the children, parents and teachers of Reggio. These three protagonists work together to create the spirit of cooperation, collaboration, and co-construction of knowledge. They work together, interacting toward a common purpose: the building of a culture which respects childhood as a time to explore, create and be joyful. Each of these three protagonists has rights within the school; those of the children were highlighted earlier.
Lori Malaguzzi defines the rights of parents: It is the right of parents to participate actively and with voluntary adherence to the basic principles in the growth, care, and development of their children who were entrusted to the public institution. This means no delegating and no alienation. Instead, it confirms the importance of the presence and the role of the parents, who have always been highly valued in our institutional tradition. First, we have the school, which makes strong and concerted efforts to involve the parents in the awareness of how much can be gained from close collaboration with the families for the greater security and well-being of the children. Parent participation enables a communication network that leads to fuller and more reciprocal knowledge, as well as to a more effective, shared search for the best educational methods, content, and values. (Loris Malaguzzi, Reggio Emilia, 1993)
The Reggio Teacher
The Reggio teacher is unique because she offers herself to the process of co-construction of knowledge, releasing the traditional roles of a teacher and opening doors to new possibilities. She starts with the use of the child’s own theories, promotes disequilibrium, and helps the child to think about their thinking to facilitate new learning. (Seong Bock Hong, 1998)
The Reggio teacher is a keen observer, documenter, and partner in the learning process who allows the
The teacher, like the parents and children, also has rights within this unique system. It is the right of the teachers and workers of each school to contribute to the study and preparation of the conceptual models that define educational content, objectives, and practices. This takes place through open discussion among the staff, with the pedagogical coordinators and parent advisory committees, in harmony with the right of children and families; through cooperation on the choices of methods, didactics, research and observation projects; and through a definition of the fields of experience, ongoing teacher self-training and general staff development, cultural initiatives and the tasks of community management. This cooperation also extends to the organization of the environment and the daily workings of the school. (Loris Malaguzzi, Reggio Emilia, 1993)
The Environment as the Third Teacher
The educators of Reggio Emilia view the school as a living organism, a place of shared relationships among the children, the teachers, and the parents. The school produces for the adults, but above all, for the children, a feeling of belonging in a world that is alive, welcoming and authentic. (Malaguzzi, 1994, p.58)
The layout of the physical space in the schools encourages encounters, communication, and relationships. The arrangement of structures, objects and activities encourages choices, problem solving, and discoveries in the process of learning. In preparing the space, teachers offer the possibility for children to be with the teachers and many of the other children, or with just a few of the children, or even alone. Teachers are aware, however, that children also learn from their peers, especially when they can interact in small groups. (Gandini, 1993, p.6)
Long-Term Projects as Vehicles of Learning
One of the highlights that often first attracts educators to the Reggio Approach is its complex, long-term exploration of projects. Unlike North American predetermined thematic projects, the projects undertaken by Reggio educators may derive from the children’s and teachers’ ideas and interests, thoughts and theories in things worth knowing about. Teachers often work on projects with a small group of children while the rest of the classroom continues to involve itself in other self-selected activities and explorations.
Importance of Documentation
Documentation is a key element in the Reggio Approach. Documentation serves many purposes, but most of all it is used as a research tool for studying children’s learning processes. Documentation is about what children are doing, learning and grasping, and the product of documentation is a reflection of interactions between teachers and children and among children. Documentation, because it is done on a daily basis, is a medium through which teachers discuss curriculum, keep it fluid and emergent, and develop a rational for its course. It provides a growing theory for daily practice. (Seong Bock Hong, 1998, p.51)
Documenting children’s daily experiences and ongoing projects gives meaning and identity to all that the children do. It is through the documentation that the teachers are able to gain insight into the thoughts of the children, determine further investigation for working on topics, create a history of the work, and generate further interest.
Reggio teachers are skilled observers of children. If a teacher observes closely, she can see the intelligence on a child’s face. On a daily basis, they collect data via notes, recordings of conversations between children, and through videotaping of events and activities whether related to project work or just during classroom time. She watches what children are doing and saying and how materials are being used. The documentation is then used to analyze children’s understanding and thoughts – it is revisited by the teachers and children together. This revisiting process provides children with the opportunity to discover their own questions and problems and to determine, together, what the next steps could be. In the process of revisiting, children’s theories and understanding grows. Also, in the revisiting process, they collect more data and information which enhances the work. Documentation of work in progress is made visible on large panels throughout the classroom, thereby keeping the memory of the work vivid and alive.
Seong Bock Hong (p.50-51) summarizes the purpose of documentation as: