Reggio Emilia

If I can
ask my own questions,
try out my  ideas,
experience what’s around
me, and share what I find;

If I have
plenty of time for
my special pace,
a nourishing space,
things to transform;

If you’ll be
my patient friend,
trusted guide,
fellow investigator,
partner in learning;

Then I will
explore the world,
discover my voice,
and tell you what I know in a  hundred languages.

by: Pamela Houk

One extremely successful implementation of a holistic approach to constructivism in action is the early childhood education system of the Reggio Emilia region of Northern Italy.  Social constructivism guides the work that administrators do with both the teachers and the students in this system.  Teachers work collaboratively in learning communities where rich, on-going in-service supports them and they are encouraged to reflect on their practice.  Each child is viewed as unique and the protagonist of his/her own growth.  It is accepted that the child has a desire to gain knowledge, create ties with others and to communicate.  Everything is connected in the child’s world; social, emotional, physical, intellectual and cultural factors are all considered part of educating the child.  Much of the work that children do is project-based and the aim of education is growth.

In the Reggio approach, pedagogistas are educators who work alongside the teacher to enhance the observation that teachers are doing, and to continue to focus on reflection about the learning that happens in the classroom both from the student’s and the teacher’s point of view. Pedagogistas are there to help with that ‘meta’ thinking that needs to be on-going. They can help with discussions around going deeper with instructional strategies or next steps for learning.

The teacher-child role is rich with problem-solving and has much more to do with interacting about the work of the child and less to do about the child’s level of performance on academic tasks.  Much of the study of how children are learning and how teachers can promote deeper understanding is observed from the collection of work that students represent during and at the culmination of the project work.  Smaller classes, multi-age groupings, reflective, collaborative practice among teachers and pedagogisti (responsible for integrating the administrative, technical, pedagogical, social and political components of the system) and other experts (including parents and community members) working alongside teachers make this a uniquely effective PBL environment.   This approach should certainly not stop with the young child, and technology does provide the tools to promote this kind of higher-level thinking as students continue their development.

Characteristics of this approach include:

  • A holistic approach to educating the whole child
  • Learner-Centred
  • A carefully organized environment engages children in a stimulating learning environment
  • Children are encouraged to inquire, observe, record, reflect upon and share their experiences
  • Community members are involved members of the learning community
  • The delight in learning is a major goal of this project approach

Learn More about Reggio Emilia:

Edwards, Carolyn, Gandini, Lella, & Forman, George. (Eds., 1998). The hundred languages of children: The Reggio Emilia approach – Advance reflections (2nd ed.).  Westport, CT: Ablex Publishing.
**An absolute must-read for educators interesting in this excellent example of holistic education.

Authentic Childhood by Susan Fraser