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In the world of standards, how might this educational approach be beneficial to me and the children I work with?
Comments by various board of directors or advisory board members:
Karen Haigh: Reggio Inspired learning supports and provokes children and adults to be better explorers and experimenters, communicators and collaborators, creators and problems solvers which are all needed for 21st century learning. Additionally, key strategies for learning are use of dialogue, documentation, reflection, and revisiting.
Assessment is valued as a tool to inform educators of learning processes rather than assess educators. Qualitative data is equally as important as quantitative data and therefore provides more information about what and how learning occurs.
Academics are tended to but in a more meaningful and imbedded way as knowledge, skills, and/or attitudes are advanced. When Loris Malaguzzi was asked what happens to these children as they go on, he stated, these children “will have an extra pocket” from which to cope, thrive, learn, and relate throughout life.
Jesus Oviedo: In the current climate of education, early childhood programs are working to validate themselves and produce outcomes while jointly dealing with ongoing budget cuts. Although assessment and standards are important tools for educators, classrooms can spend several hours per week on inputting data with less time for reflection and contemplation, which are essential for reflective practice. Teachers often fall back on prescribed activities to satisfy reaching all of the learning areas. According to Ben Mardell and Melissa Tonachel, “With [children’s] activities and play scenarios so well scripted, children are not always well prepared to enter into the kind of dialogue that promotes the development of flexible thinking and rich relationship”.
The Reggio Emilia approach is not a prescribed curriculum per se but rather a philosophy that fosters a strong “Image of the Child”. According to Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the Reggio Emilia approach, “This theory within you pushes you to behave in certain ways; it orients you as you talk to the child, listen to the child, observe the child. According to Lella Gandini, Liaison for Reggio Children, “All children have preparedness, potential, curiosity; they have interest, in relationship, in constructing their own learning and in negotiating with everything the environment brings to them”.
With today’s programmatic and financial challenges, this approach can go a long way in adding value to education in the world of standards, especially for educators whom are searching for deeper meaning in their work. With so much on their plates, this philosophy can inspire educators to foster creative problem-solving, inquiry, and critical thinking. Among other things, the Reggio Emilia approach fosters social learning. Children can learn from each other as well as from adults. Groups of children can solve problems with each other, employ creativity and imagination, formulate hypotheses, test-out theories and form consensus, giving children valuable tools throughout life. It is believed that children who attend the preschools of Reggio become great citizens.
Juana Reyes: This is a very challenging time for advocates and educators of young children. A time in which the rights of children are violated by an educational agenda that tries to “teach” young children a very limited set of skills and information using approaches that are contrary to sound, developmentally appropriate practice. States are scrambling to implement the core standards and policymakers, administrators, and teachers look to early educators to “prepare” young children for schooling. This agenda is limiting the possibilities for early educators and young children alike. Developmental theory and brain research has informed early education as a discipline that young children learn and build understanding through the use of all five senses, and they do so in the context of relationship. Nonetheless, exploration, movement, curiosity, and invention are replaced by direct instruction, desk time, workbooks, and large group activities in early childhood settings.
We, as early educators and advocates for young children should certainly prepare young children for their future. But how should we proceed? The Reggio Emilia Approach cultivates creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking for not only the young children, but for their teachers as well. It equips children with the possibilities for not only answering finite questions, but also to generate their own theories about the world. Likewise, teachers are invited to become reflective practitioners and co-researchers with children as they explore possibilities and build understanding.