Reggio Emilia Approach: Theory, Method & Examples

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  • 0:05 Reggio Emilia Approach History
  • 1:13 The Approach Itself
  • 2:57 Reggio Emilia Approach…
  • 4:25 Examples in Practice
  • 5:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

With the multitude of educational approaches to choose from, it is hard to decipher one from another. This lesson reviews the Reggio Emilia Approach, including the principles and examples of methods.

Reggio Emilia Approach History

Imagine there has been a major war that has torn your city apart. Imagine you are surrounded by children whose lives are devastated and whose parents are financially ravaged by the circumstances of war. Now, add to this image the presence of an over-bearing religious rule that governed much of everyday life. Would your final image be the same as it was for a small group of people in the Italian city of Reggio Emilia? Post-WWII, this group of women decided to make a difference by breaking from the Catholic Church to start a progressive, child-led, play-based learning environment for young children (preschool-aged).

The approach was then formally developed by psychologist Loris Malaguzzi. The Reggio Emilia Approach was an early childhood education method that was practiced in Reggio Emilia, Italy, from just after WWII. In 1991, it became world renowned after a preschool in Reggio Emilia was listed as one of the top 10 schools internationally. The world took notice of the educational approach in practice in the city and began to try to replicate it.

The Approach Itself

The Reggio Emilia Approach is purely used for early childhood education. It is experienced-based, play-based, and child-led learning. Experience-based refers to a focus on creating experiences for students to learn through doing something active rather than learning through listening or watching.

Play-based education means that the educational environment is staged to ensure children are exposed to a multitude of learning opportunities as they choose their own play activities. There is little structure or forced learning; just an encouragement to explore and play with all the available materials. Child-led learning is an important aspect of the Reggio Emilia Approach because in this approach, the child decides what to learn about, when to learn about it and for how long they'll focus on it. The approach believes that children choosing their own educational paths will remain actively engaged in the learning process longer than when they are forcibly guided to learn topics.

There are a few foundational principles included in every school that follows a Reggio Emilia Inspired Approach:

  • Documentation of student's thoughts is paramount to show progress and learning.
  • Children maintain a large amount of control over their educational process and choose their educational targets.
  • Relationships are to be supported: relationships between students, with teachers and with the environment.
  • The learning process should include active investigation with stimulation for multiple senses included.
  • Children should be given many methods for self-expression.
  • Adult leaders are there to gently guide and help students find their own interests.

Reggio Emilia Approach Benefits

Research has shown that, especially in early childhood, child-led learning keeps children engaged in the learning process longer and results in deeper processing than traditional passive learning techniques. The greatest benefit of the Reggio Emilia Approach to early childhood education is its child-led educational foundation. Children are exposed to a great number of interesting curriculum-based concepts, but are given the freedom to choose their own interests and explore them while the interest lasts.

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