Articles, Books, & Interviews
Early Childhood Research and Practice
Three Approaches from Europe: Waldorf, Montessori and Reggio Emilia
Waldorf, Montesori, and Reggio Emilia are three progressive approaches to early childhood education that appear to be growing in influence in North America and to have many points in common. This article provides a brief comparative introduction and highlights several key areas of similarity and contrast. All three approaches represent an explicit idealism and turn away from war and violence toward peace and reconstruction. They are built on coherent visions of how to improve human society by helping children realize their full potential as inteligent, creative, whole persons. In each approach, children are viewed as active authors of their own development, strongly influenced by natural, dynamic, self-righting forces within themselves, opening the way toward growth and learning. Teachers depend for their work with children on carefully prepared, aesthetically pleasing environments that serve as a pedagogical tool and provide strong messages about the curriculum and about respect for children. Partnering with parents is highly valued in all three approaches, and children are evaluated by means other than traditional tests and grades. However, there are also many areas of difference, some at the level of principle and others at the level of strategy. Underlying the three approaches are variant views of the nature of young children’s needs, interests, and modes of learning that lead to contrasts in the ways that teachers interact with children in the classroom, frame and structure learning experiences for children, and follow the children through observation/documentation. The article ends with discussion of the methods that researchers apply to analyze the strengths and weaknesess of each approach.
Edwards, C. P. (2002). Three approaches from Europe: Waldorf, Montessori and Reggio Emilia. Early Childhood Research and Practice, 4(1), 2–14. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED464766.pdf
Bambini: The Italian Approach to Infant / Toddler Care
A well-known positive stereotype exists about Italian culture that is captured in a saying among North American travelers: If you want to have an especially warm reception in Italy, bring along a young child. Italians love children! One cannot help but think of this background when reading about the infant/toddler programs described in Bambini. This is a book about a special culture, one that immerses the infant and young child in a network of relationships with shared meaning that overlaps considerably with scientific knowledge about development and with what we generally regard as the best practices for care. It is a special culture that also challenges those of us in North America who would like to emulate much of it. Let me forecast some of the features of the culture as revealed in this book and then point out the connections for American readers.
Emde, R. N. (2001). Foreword. In L. Gandini & C. P. Edwards (Eds.), Bambini: The Italian approach to infant / toddler care (pp. vii–xiiiI). Teachers College Press. Reprinted by permission of the publisher. Copyright © 2000 by Teachers College Press. All rights reserved. https://www.reggioalliance.org/downloads/emdebambini.pdf
Conversation With a Group of Teachers
This conversation took place at the La Viletta School during one of the professional development sessions attended by a number of teachers who have been working at the school for many years and teachers who have only recently started their experience there. Like other conversations, it was part of a professional development project whose objective, among many others, was to analyze the problem areas that were emerging from the daily experience of these new teachers. Terms such as theory, practive, professional development, observation, documentation, strategies, projects, collaboration, and many others came up repeatedly during the conversation and became concepts within which new content started to develop.
The voices of the participants followed one another, alternated with on another, and at times overlapped, seeming to need more space in which to be heard. At times the thoughts that emerged were echoed, as if to find confirmations in different ways or to strengthen a reflection that has been enriched by the opinion of someone else.
This seesaw of dialogues and different points of view is part of a long-term knowledge-building process that leaves open the possibility of revising one’s thinking within a situation that is in a constant state of flux in a search for new identities.
The first question in this conversation stemmed from discussions held during earlier sessions, which had led the teachers to look for more appropriate definitions of their roles based on a careful analysis of the complexity of their work.
Gambetti, A. (2001). Conversation with a group of teachers. In C. Giudici, C. Rinaldi, & M. Krechevsky (Eds.), Making learning visible: Children as individual and group learners (pp. 116–135). Reggio Children. © Reggio Children, The President and Fellows of Harvard College, and the Municipality of Reggio Emilia. Reprinted by permission of Reggio Children. https://www.reggioalliance.org/downloads/Conversation-with-a-group-of-teachers_web.pdf
Introduction to the Fundamental Values of the Education of Young Children in Reggio Emilia
Young children, their care and their education have long been a public concern at various levels of Italian society. What families have obtained was not easy to achieve; it came from a great deal of effort and political involvement. Workers, educators, and especially women were active and effective advocates of the legislation that established public preschools in 1968 and infant-toddler centers in 1971. The results of the effort by all these determined people are publicly-funded municipal as well as national programs for young children that combine the concept of social services with education. Both education and care are considered necessary to provide high quality, full-day experiences for young children.
Gandini, L. (2008). Introduction to the fundamental values of the education of young children in Reggio Emilia [Adapted from Gandini, L. (2008). Introduction to the schools of Reggio Emilia. In L. Gandini, S. Etheredge, & L. Hill (Eds.), Insights and inspirations: Stories of teachers and children from North America (pp. 24–27). Davis Publications.] https://www.reggioalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/INTRODUCTION-EDITED-FOR-BOOK-rev-LG-10-20-08.pdf
Introducción a los valores fundamentales de la educación infantil en Reggio Emilia
Los niños, su cuidado y su educación han sido por mucho tiempo una preocupación pública en varios niveles de la sociedad italiana. Lo que las familias han obtenido no ha sido fácil de lograr; viene de un gran esfuerzo y participación política. Trabajadores, educadores y especialmente las mujeres fueron defensoras activas y efectivas de la legislación que estableció las escuelas preescolares en 1968 y los centros de educación inicial en 1971. Los resultados de los esfuerzos de todas estas decididas personas son ahora programas públicos tanto municipales como nacionales, que combinan el concepto de servicio social con educación. Ambos, la educación y el cuidado, son considerados necesarios para proveer a los niños experiencias diarias de alta calidad.
Gandini, L. (2008). Introducción a los valores fundamentales de la educación infantil en Reggio Emilia [Adapted from Gandini, L. (2008). Introduction to the schools of Reggio Emilia. In L. Gandini, S. Etheredge, & L. Hill (Eds.), Insights and inspirations from Reggio Emilia: Stories of teachers and children from North America (pp. 24–27). Davis Publications. (Traducido al español por Norma Guinto).] https://www.reggioalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/RE-Fundamentals-Spanish-version-final-1.pdf
Reflections on the Relationship Between Documentation and Assessment in the American Context: An Interview with Brenda Fyfe
Lella Gandini and Judith Allen Kaminsky
Brenda Fyfe is the dean of the School of Education at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri. Brenda is a member of the St. Louis-Reggio Collaborative along with her colleagues at The College School, The St. Michael School, and Clayton Schools’ Family Center. Educators from these four schools have had a collaborative relationship with Reggio Children since 1994. The following questions are based on Carlina Rinaldi’s essay, “Documentation and Assessment: What is the Relationship?” in the book Making Learning Visible: Children as Individual and Group Learners. Carlina was a visiting professor at Webster University in the fall of 2001 and co-taught a graduate course with Brenda Fyfe, using the book Making Learning Visible. Gunilla Dahlberg, professor of education at the University of Stockholm in Sweden, will share her reflections on this topic in an upcoming issue of Innovations.
Gandini, L. & Kaminsky, J. A. (2004). Reflections on the relationship between documentation and assessment in the American context: An interview with Brenda Fyfe. Innovations in Early Education: The International Reggio Emilia Exchange, 11(1), 5–17. https://www.reggioalliance.org/downloads/reflectionsfyfe:gandinikaminsky.pdf
An Approach for All Children: Reinterpreting the Reggio Emilia Approach in the USA
Since approximately 1993, I have had the wonderful, ongoing and evolving experience of working with various teachers, administrators, and programs exploring, adapting, and reinventing the principles and practices of the Reggio Emilia Approach to early learning within some of Chicago’s community-based organizations and public schools.
I have heard others question the value of the Reggio Emilia Approach’s usefulness, practicality, and potential within the North American context. Furthermore, some question its realistic use with children who are at risk or from low-income communities as well as its practicality within large bureaucratic educational systems for young children such as Head Start, subsidized Child Care, or State Pre-kindergarten programs.
Haigh, K. (2009). An approach for all children: Reinterpreting the Reggio Emilia approach in the USA. Community Playthings. https://www.communityplaythings.com/resources/articles/2009/reinterpreting-the-reggio-emilia-approach-in-the-usa-an-approach-for-all-children
Reflections from an American Context on “The Path Toward Knowledge”: An Interview with Lynn White
Judith Allen Kaminsky and Lella Gandini
Lynn White has been a first grade teacher at Greeley Elementary in the Winnetka Public Schools in Winnetka, Illinois for 18 years. She has been studying the Reggio educational philosophy for 13 years and visited the schools in Reggio Emilia in 1991 and 1999. The following is an interview based on the article “The Path Toward Knowledge: The Social, Political and Cultural Context of the Reggio Municipal Infant-Toddler Center and Preschool Experience” by Sergio Spaggiari, director of the Istituzione Scuole e Nidi d’Infanzia, Municipality of Reggio Emilia, which appeared in the Spring 2004 issue of Innovations in Early Education: The International Reggio Exchange. Excerpts from this article appear before each interview question and are indicated in italics.
Kaminsky, J. A., & Gandini, L. (2004). Reflections from an American context on “The path toward knowledge”: An interview with Lynn White. Innovations in Early Education: The International Reggio Emilia Exchange, 11(3), 7–14. https://www.reggioalliance.org/downloads/reflectionswhite:kaminskygandini.pdf
The Contribution of Documentation to the Quality of Early Childhood Education. ERIC Digest.
ERIC Development Team
The municipal preprimary schools in the northern Italian city of Reggio Emilia have been attracting worldwide attention for more than a decade. The reasons are many and have been discussed by a number of observers and visitors (see Edwards, Gandini, & Forman, 1993, and Katz & Cesarone, 1994.) While interest in what is now called the “Reggio Emilia Approach” is focused on many of its impressive features, perhaps its unique contribution to early childhood education is the use of the documentation of children’s experience as a standard part of classroom practice.
Documentation, in the forms of observation of children and extensive recordkeeping, has long been encouraged and practiced in many early childhood programs. However, compared to these practices in other traditions, documentation in Reggio Emilia focuses more intensively on children’s experience, memories, thoughts, and ideas in the course of their work. Documentation practices in Reggio Emilia preprimary schools provide inspiring examples of the importance of displaying children’s work with great care and attention to both the content and aesthetic aspects of the display.
Katz, L., & Chard, S. C. (1996). The contribution of documentation to the quality of early childhood education (ED393608). ERIC. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED393608.pdf
Infant-Toddler Child Care in the United States: Where Has It Been? Where Is It Now? Where Is It Going?
Ronald J. Lally
The author summarizes trends in infant-toddler child care before 1960 and describes how interdisciplinary meetings on early development at the Mental Health Study Center of the National Institute of Mental Health in the 1970s led to the founding of The National Center for Clinical Infant Programs (now ZERO TO THREE) in 1977. Periodic legislative efforts to create formal systems of publicly-funded infant-toddler child care have not succeeded. The author describes President Richard Nixon’s 1971 veto of the Comprehensive Child Development Act as a turning point that separated the United States from the rest of the industrialized world by leaving responsibility for child care with individual families rather than the society as a whole. He outlines efforts by various groups during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s to professionalize infant-toddler group care, including challenges and setbacks as well as successes. The author argues that the creation of the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant Program and Early Head Start were the most significant positive advances, but progress is slow. The author concludes with four recommendations for improving infant-toddler child care in the future: 1) build the profession of infant-toddler child care as an essential supplement to family activities enriching a child’s experiences; 2) develop a responsive approach to curriculum; 3) provide training and contemplative time for early care and education teachers; and 4) increase the visibility of the payoff of infant-toddler child care to the larger community.
Lally, J. R. (2003). Infant-toddler care in the United States: Where has it been? Where is it now? Where is it going? Zero to Three, 24(1), 29–34. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ938191
Your Image of the Child: Where Teaching Begins
There are hundreds of different images of the child. Each one of you has inside yourself an image of the child that directs you as you begin to relate to a child. 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. It is very difficult for you to act contrary to this internal image. For example, if your image is that boys and girls are very different from one another, you will behave differently in your interactions with each of them.
Malaguzzi, L. (1994). Your image of the child: Where teaching begins. Child Care Information Exchange, 96, 52–56 (Reprint permission granted by Exchange Press, www.childcareexchange.com)
For an Education Based on Relationships
Although (from our experience in Reggio Emilia) we know how strongly children represent the center of our educational system, we continue to be convinced that without attention to the central importance of teachers and families, our view of children is incomplete; therefore, our proposition is to consider a triad at the center of education—children, teachers, and families. To think of a dyad of only a teacher and a child is to create an artificial world that does not reflect reality.
Malaguzzi, L. (1994). For an education based on relationships. Young Children, 49(1), 9–12 (Posted with permission from the National Association for the Education of Young Children/NAEYC. Copyright © 1993 NAEYC). https://www.reggioalliance.org/downloads/malaguzziyoungchildren.pdf
Reggio Emilia As Cultural Activity: Theory in Practice
Rebecca S. New
This article situates Reggio Emilia’ s municipally funded early childhood program within the city’s cultural traditions of resistance and collaboration and considers what it is about this highly localized program that is appealing and useful to contemporary school reform initiatives. Five features of Reggio Emilia’s approach to early education are described: an interpretation of teachers as researchers, curriculum as long-term projects, the role of symbolic languages in child development and advocacy, the role of the environment, and an interpretation of parents as partners in the educational enterprise. Other features of the city’s hard work—specifically, its capacity to make ideas visible and its emphasis on relations among adults as well as children—are identified as central to Reggio Emilia’s continued influence on the field. The article concludes with a proposal to consider schools as sites where reform initiatives can be informed by principles and practices from Reggio Emilia.
New, R. (2007). Reggio Emilia as cultural activity. Theory Into Practice: Reggio Emilia, 46(1), 5–13 (Reprint permission granted by Theory Into Practice, http://ehe.osu.edu/tip/).
Documentation: Both Mirror and Light
Pam Oken-Wright is a teacher-researcher working with 5-year-old children at St. Catherine’s School in Richmond, Virginia. Pam is a member of the Lugano-Reggio Collaborative and participated in the 1998 Reggio Children Winter Institute in Reggio Emilia, Italy. Pam is also a member of the editorial board of Innovation is Early Education: The International Reggio Exchange. The following is based on Pam’s presentation at a seminar in March 2001 at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.
Oken-Wright, P. (2001). Documentation: Both mirror and light. Innovations in Early Education: The International Reggio Exchange, 8(4), 5–15. https://www.reggioalliance.org/downloads/documentation:okenwright.pdf
At the Crossroads: Pedagogical Documentation and Social Justice
Ann writes this chapter from the perspective of a mentor to the staff at Hilltop Children’s Center, a full-day, urban child care program in the United States. The position of mentor teacher was created at Hilltop in 2003 as a strategy for creating a shared understanding of core pedagogical principles and establishing common teaching practices among the teaching staff. Hilltop had long been influenced by the teaching and learning in Reggio Emilia but, until this position was created, there was little institutional support for center-wide efforts to weave these influences into daily practice. After 12 years of classroom teaching, which launched Ann on her journey into pedagogical documentation, she became Hilltop’s mentor teacher. In this work, she partnered with individual teachers, worked with classroom teaching teams, and facilitated center-wide professional development gatherings, with a year-long focus on pedagogical documentation. This focused attention on the rhythm of observation, reflection, and planning, shook loose old habits and patterns, opened new possibilities, and sparked new participation by teachers who had long been on the periphery or entrenched in old ruts and routines. The experience described below confirmed for Ann the power of pedagogical documentation as a doorway into teaching that is full of zest, engaged awareness, and playful exploration.
Pelo, A. (2006). At the crossroads: Pedagogical documentation and social justice. In A. Fleet, C. Patterson, & J. Robertson (Eds.), Insights: Beyond early childhood pedagogical documentation (pp. 173–190). Padmelon Press. (Reprint permission granted by Padmelon Press, www.padmelonpress.com.au).
Lessons from Reggio
Through a decade of collaboration and association around the “Making Learning Visible” project and through the friendships that have evolved in that time, we at Project Zero have learned many lessons. These lessons have influenced virtually every aspect of our ways of being in the world, but certainly our understanding of schools, our teaching, our ways of working in collaborations, even how we are with family and friends.
Seidel, S. (2008). Foreword: Lessons from Reggio. In L. Gandini, S. Etheredge, & L. Hill (Eds.), Insights and inspirations from Reggio Emilia: Stories of teachers and children from North America (pp. 14–15). Davis Publications (Reprint permission granted by Davis Publications, Inc.).
“She is our Little Sister”: Reflections about Inclusion
Nora Thompson has been a teacher at Galileo Early Childhood Center in Mason, Michigan for four years. Nora’s undergraduate degree is in special education and her graduate work is in child development. She has been teaching since 1980 in a variety of settings, including an early childhood program for children with physical impairments in Lansing, Michigan and a county-wide home visiting program for infants and toddlers with disabilities. Operated by Ingham Intermediate School District, Galileo ECC is housed in an old house on three acres and has two classes with 15 children per class. Each mixed-aged class (children from two to five years old) includes three children with special rights. Nora participated in a study tour of the Reggio Emilia preschool program in 2001. She is also the North American Reggio Emilia Alliance (NAREA) Michigan membership coordinator.
Thompson, N. (2006). She is our little sister: Reflections about inclusion. Innovations in Early Education: The International Reggio Exchange, 13(1) 12–20. https://www.reggioalliance.org/downloads/littlesister:thompson.pdf
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