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Pedagogy Spotlight – Reggio Emilia

This post links is from from a visit by a teacher to Italy.

Reggio Emilia staff often discuss the use of wait, watch, and respond as a strategy to use when working with all children-especially children with special rights. Because funding for the Reggio Emilia schools is not based on labeling children, children are always treated as children first. If the child has a documented disability, such as Down syndrome, this fact is noted. The child is observed, and documentation is developed about the child’s strengths and areas of concern. A formal document is developed, called the “declaration of intent,” which is a written agreement between the school and health authorities to ensure collaboration. Parents are included in this collaboration with every step of the development of the “declaration of intent.” This document is flexible, providing a direction for the education of the child with special rights. In addition, a portfolio is developed for each child with special rights, as it is for all children in Reggio Emilia schools. This portfolio documents the child’s progress over time in all developmental areas. Copious observation notes are collected about each child as well.

I think the services for children with special rights are carried out in a very thoughtful manner. The naturally occurring environment for all children is adaptive and inclusive. The goal for all children is to emphasize the value of differences rather than the stigma associated with disability.
Parents and Community

The parents of the children in the centers are essential participants in all planning and in many activities. They are on local and community advisory boards, and some parents volunteer in the centers. Parents help with projects, discuss projects with their children, and help children gather information for projects. On our visit, we met parents who seemed very engaged and pleased with the educational experiences for their child. An essential component of the Reggio Emilia philosophy is creating a community of caring adults who value children.

The Emilia Romagna region in which the small town of Reggio Emilia is located is in a part of Italy that has been governed by socialists since World War II. This philosophy is evident in the Reggio Emilia schools and community. Individual needs are balanced by the needs of the group. The community support for the schools is remarkable. The town supports education with a large portion of its budget-indicating the high priority in which children, families, and community are held. Also, in Italy, there are strong cultural beliefs about the importance of family. These philosophical and cultural values provide the rich context of support for the Reggio Emilia schools.

The following statements are a summary in “telegraphic” language of what I learned from my visit to Reggio Emilia:

Take time to listen; know what you are listening for.
Listen to each child’s melody.
Provide space and time to be alone.
Accept the premise that learning need not be lonely.
Recognize that dialogue is more valuable than singular thought.
Keep boredom away.
Value the process of thinking.
Ask “Why?”
Help children ask “Why?”
Question everything.
Seek truth, but realize there is no one truth.
Accept and value differences.
Shun the stigma associated with disability.
Have a profound respect for each child.
Look further into the reasons for a child’s behavior, rather than just the external signs.
Recognize that it is all about relationships.
Understand the importance of enjoying food and rest.
Observe, document, and interpret.
Wait, watch, and respond.
Recognize that documentation is visible listening.
View the child as the protagonist in the environment.
See the teacher as a facilitator and guide assisting the child in learning.
Understand that instruction and education are different.
Do not hurry the children or yourself.

These are questions I asked myself about my work with children and families:

Do we value and respect all of the various ways children express their thoughts and feelings?
Do we value equally the verbal and the nonverbal child? The arts? The rational thinker as well as the creative thinker?
To what extent have artificial labels been developed for children who do not fit into our educational system and its narrow perspective of learning. This narrow perspective rewards highly verbal children who can sit still and do their work.
What are ADD and ADHD if not different styles of learning?
Do we label for our own convenience?
Do we medicate children instead of looking at our own practice and the environment we create and make changes there?
Do we listen to what children say with their words? Their behavior? Their body language?
Do we reflect enough? Do we take time to reflect?
Do we interrupt the thinking processes of children when we adhere to a rigid daily schedule? Do we actually lessen their attention span in this way?
Do we carry out meaningless activities for short periods of time during the day that are not connected to the child’s real world and experience?
Do we really value families?
Could we observe children more often in their daily routines?
When we assess, do we use the information in planning educational experiences? Or do we primarily utilize the information to label the child?
Do teachers teach or children learn?
Do we pay enough attention to a child’s motivation for learning?
Do we pay enough attention to a child’s strengths?
How do we help children understand themselves?


About danbowen

Educational technology learning and teaching consultant, support, training, change management, innovation and all things ICT and educational, father of two, guitarist, welsh rugby follower,

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