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Jackman (2005) stated that Reggio Emilia is a town in northern Italy which became the name of a world renowned approach in Early Childhood Education. They established what is now called the Reggio Emilia approach shortly after world war two during that time when working parents helped to build new schools for their young children (New,2000)
The history of the Reggio Emilia approach began in 1945.Loris Malaguzzi was the founder of this approach. Who was Malaguzzi?Malaguzzi was a blooming teacher who had heard about a school the villagers of Villa Cella had built out of the ruins of their war-ravaged community which was close to Reggio Emilia.(Malaguzzi,1994)
Newsweek Magazine, (Kantrowitz & Wingert,1991) picked Reggio Emilia, in Italy's Emilia-Romagna region, as an example of a grass-roots project that has become an international role model (Kantrowitz & Wingert,1991) .The story of how Malaguzzi became the founder of this approach was:
In 1946, a teacher named Loris Malaguzzi rode over on his bicycle to take a look at the work in progress. Malaguzzi stated that, he was so impressed that he never left. By the time he retired as director in 1985, he had built a program praised by early-childhood educators around the world for its commitment to innovation. "A school needs to be a place for all children," he says, "not based on the idea that they're all the same, but that they're all different." (Kantrowitz & Wingert, 1991)
This approach was inspired by John Dewey's progressive education movement (Jackman 2005) .Lee Vygotsky believed in the connection between culture and development and Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development,Malaguzzi developed his theory and philosophy of early childhood education from direct practice in schools for infants, toddlers and preschoolers (Jackman 2005)
LeBlanc (1997-2012) stated that the Reggio preschools consisting of infant-toddler centres which have been publicly mandated since the 1970s are available to children from birth to six regardless of economic circumstance or physical disability, and continue successfully to this day.
Theoretical foundations of the Reggio Emilia approach
The foundational philosophy of the Reggio Emilia Approach displaces in the state that "knowledge is a co-constructed and socially go through commodity, which occurs within a historical, cultural and political context" (Gandini, L, 1993). Education is an important attempt of developing every aspect of a child's mind, body, emotion and social competence. The Reggio Emilia approach emphasizes openness to new knowledge on education. Therefore, there are two defining characteristic of the Reggio Emilia Approach are that firstly it is principally founded upon continued research in both its own practices and other educational approaches, and second it emphasizes the role of a child's cultural, social and physical environment in the development of an educational curriculum.
Furthermore, the most influential theorists for Reggio Emilia approach will be Bruno Ciari, John Dewey, Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky (Gandini, L, 1993). Each of the theorists has their own opinion and assumptions on this approach. Lev Vygotsky signified that learning occurs through interaction between adults and children. Adults, as more skillful and advanced partners in the learning investment, provide social guidance and modeling to children, encouraging the development of both their cognitive and social processes. The next theorist Jean Piaget's perspective is more focused on a child's cognitive development. Piaget saw intellectual and cognitive conflicts as building a higher order of thought, and an authority for learning within social settings.
John Dewey's assumption on the approach emphasized the role of thought and social interaction in the development of the learning process. Experience and investigation formed the core of the learning process. John Dewey's philosophy of 'progressive education' sees collaboration in learning where both teachers and students interact and cooperate in the educational process. He felt that children would develop the inner motivation to learn if teachers gave them the freedom to construct knowledge from their own investigations (Nkechy Ezeh, 2005).
The last theorist will be Bruno Ciari. He was perhaps the most influential person in the development of an interactionism education system in the Municipality of Reggio Emilia in Italy. From the early 1950's, Ciari eagerly campaigned for an education system that would promote the development of the whole child. He concentrated more on greater community-involvement in education, where parents, teachers, and other citizens engage in open dialogue on all aspects of education. Among his proposals include having two teachers for each class, that each class has not more than twenty students, and that the physical environment of the school is governed as a third teacher.
Teachers play a very important role in a child's early development. Teachers observe and document projects using photographs and/or videotape. This documentation is "assembled" (conversations between teachers and children are typed out and put onto colourful mounting boards with attached pictures) and displayed throughout the classroom. Children view themselves as capable learners and important contributors to the project, when they view the panels. The panel also allows each child to return to their learning process. Educators know the worth of a child's idea and they monitor the children's speech very closely. They also join hands with children to plan next steps of ideas. The image of the child shapes the role of the teacher and involves four major components. Teachers are:
Co-constructors: partners, guides, nurtures, solves problems, learns, hypothesizes
Researchers: learns, observes, revisits
Documenters: listens, records, displays, revisits
Advocates for children: involved in the community, politics relating to children, speaks for children and presents work to other educators and community members.
The classroom environment is said to be the third teacher for a child. It is naturally designed to be warm and accepting to both adults and children.Children are encouraged to paint and sketch in class often. There are many plants and "homey" touches in the space to support a close home-school connection. The teachers often place mirrors in interesting places around the classroom. The materials are beautifully displayed in baskets to invite children to come and play with them. The layout of the physical space can include a common space for children to gather for group work and play. Children's artwork and documentation panels are beautifully displayed on the walls throughout the school.
There are different types of curriculum in the Reggio Emillia approach, some are play-based and some are not. A child-centered curriculum is partially play-based, but is teacher-guided using what the children are interested in. The children are the teachers, and the teacher assists in obtaining the knowledge that they would like the children to learn, through each topic. For instance, if the children were interested in farm animals, then the teachers would come up with curriculum (math, science, language, etc.) that they would meet certain objectives of that topic.A teacher-led curriculum is where the interests of the children aren't brought into the current curriculum. The topics and lessons would be preplanned, maybe even months to years before the teacher implements these lessons in the classroom. This is a structured learning environment in which the teacher is developing the areas that they deem most important.A child-led curriculum takes the child's interest one step further. Not only are the lessons planned after what the children are interested in, but the children plan the lessons and activities for the day. This idea implicates that each individual child can come up with activities rather then just the group as a whole. This type of curriculum is very play-based, and the center of the Reggio Emilia approach.
Gandini, L. (1993). Fundamentals of the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education.
Nkechy Ezeh. (2005). School of Education: Reggio Emilia approach.
Downey, J., & Garzoli, E. (2007). The Effectiveness of a Play-Based Curriculum
in Early Childhood Education. Retrieved From: http://teachplaybasedlearning.com/8.html
Jackman, Hilda L. (2005), 3rd edition, Early Education Curriculum: A child's connection to the world. NY. Thomson Delmar Learning
Malaguzzi, L. (1994) History, Ideas and Basic Philosophy an Interview with Lell Gandini. (L. Gandini Trans.) In C. Edward, L.Gandini, &G Forman (Eds) The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Childhood Education (pp.41-89). Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing
LeBlanc,M. (1997-2012), Reggio Emilia-An innovative approach to education
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Kantrowitz, B. & Wingert, P. (1991) THE 10 BEST SCHOOLS IN THE WORLD, Retrieved October 16th October 2012, from,