Innovations in Early Education: The International Reggio Emilia Exchange is a quarterly periodical published by the North American Reggio Emilia Alliance (NAREA) that focuses on the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education. Innovations was developed in 1992 through an agreement with Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the Reggio Emilia educational project, and continues to be developed in solidarity with the Preschools and Infant-Toddler Centers, Istituzione of the Municipality of Reggio Emilia, Italy; Reggio Children; and the Reggio Children – Loris Malaguzzi Center Foundation.
The mission of Innovations is to provide an ongoing professional development resource that respectfully represents the values and educational principles of the municipal infant-toddler centers and preschools in Reggio Emilia as well as those of educators in schools, centers, universities, and colleges in North America and beyond who are actively engaged in the study of the Reggio Emilia approach with children, colleagues, and families in their community.
In an effort to include more and diverse voices in an increasingly democratic dialogue among early childhood educators who are engaged in the study of the Reggio Emilia approach, Innovations will publish one peer-reviewed issue annually. This annual peer-reviewed issue will include articles that are meant to support collaboration among teachers by integrating reflection and analysis of the shared and reciprocal research and inquiry of teachers, children, and families. In addition, the peer-reviewed issue will include reflections related to each article, written by one of the consulting editors with the goal of inviting readers to relate to their own contexts what they have read and experienced as members of a collaborative. Our intention is to support the work of Reggio-inspired teachers in North America by thinking together through deeper and more complex analysis of and reflection on our own work and that of our colleagues.
The peer review process has been designed to reflect a shared view of learning as a process of individual and group construction and to support the learning processes of children and adults through educational documentation, which includes listening, observation, and interpretation. Our goal is to establish collaborative partnerships among educators, children, families, and community members for systems change and social justice that recognizes the rights of children to quality education.
Educational research and professional development are two of the principles of the educational project in Reggio Emilia, Italy. The role of educational research is described in the publication Indications – Preschools and Infant-Toddler Centres of the Municipality of Reggio Emilia as:
Shared research between children and adults is a priority practice of everyday life, an existential and ethical approach necessary for interpreting the complexity of the world, of phenomena, of systems of co-existence, and is a powerful instrument of renewal in education. (Istituzione of the Municipality of Reggio Emilia, 2010, pp. 11-12)
Carla Rinaldi elaborates the view of research as interpreted within the everyday life and experience with the children in her essay “Documentation and Research (1999)”:
[I]n Reggio, we feel . . . a new concept of research, more contemporary or alive, can emerge if we legitimate the use of this term to describe the cognitive tension that is created whenever authentic learning and knowledge building take place. (2006, p. 101)
Deanna Margini expands on the role of cognitive tension in learning and knowledge-building in her article “Educational Research and Professional Development: An Existential, Ethical Approach Necessary for Interpreting the Complexity of Life and Educational Experiences,” published in the September 2016 issue of Innovations:
By cognitive tension, we mean the tendency toward or movement toward knowledge. All human beings have this very strong tendency toward discovering the world around them, right from the moment of birth. Due to this cognitive tension, research belongs to every human being. Each time an authentic process of learning and knowledge building occurs, cognitive tension takes shape. . . . Research is the epistemological basis of knowledge and the key element in the democracy of knowledge. (2016, p. 4)
Margini goes on to discuss the school’s responsibility to promote research and the democracy of knowledge:
The school promotes the democracy of knowledge and research when it becomes a place that is able to interact with children’s ways of building knowledge, when it is able to produce circularity among the minds of children and adults, when it activates productive cooperation, when it promotes divergent and pluralistic ways of seeing the world, and when it nurtures the attitude toward listening, relationships, and giving value to the different potentials of each individual. (2016, p. 5)
The principles of professional development and educational research are closely aligned and transactive. Professional development is seen as an ongoing process that is also part of the daily life in the municipal infant-toddler centers and preschools in Reggio Emilia, as Indications asserts:
Ongoing professional development is both the right and the duty of each individual and of the group and is included and taken into consideration in the work schedule and organized collectively in terms of its contents, forms, and the methods of participation of each individual. Professional development is given priority within the daily activity of the centres and schools through the reflective practices of observation and documentation, with weekly staff meetings being the primary occasion for in-depth study and sharing. (Istituzione of the Municipality of Reggio Emilia, 2010, pp. 13-14)
Carla Rinaldi describes the relational aspect of professional development as well as its meaning in the Reggio Emilia educational project in “Teachers as Researchers: Formation and Professional Development in a School of Education (2001)”:
Learning is and can be a value if we are aware that learning—which is pursued by each individual in times and ways that cannot be programmed—is a “relational place” that makes us reflect on the meaning of education itself and search for new paths in educating and personal and professional development. In educational practice, this means being open to the complex, conflictual, and unpredictable nature of human learning, wherever it takes place, both inside and outside the institutional contexts that are directly involved in education. . . . So what, then, do we mean by professional development? It is simply learning: our job is to learn why we are teachers. It means keeping our distance from an overriding sense of balance, from that which has already been decided or is considered to be certain. It means staying close to the interweaving of objects and thoughts, of doing and reflecting, theory and practice, emotions and knowledge. (2006, p. 141)
Rinaldi qualifies the essential role of listening and the value of differences in the process of professional development:
In order to educate ourselves, we must try to understand the differences rather than wanting to cancel them. . . . This means “listening” to the differences . . . but also listening to and accepting the changes that take place within us, which are generated by our relationships, or better, by our interactions with others. It means letting go of any truths we consider to be absolute, being open to doubt and giving value to negotiation as a strategy of the possible. (2006, p. 140)
The relationship between educational research and professional development within the Reggio Emilia educational project is addressed explicitly in the Charter of Services of the Municipal Infant-Toddler Centres and Preschools:
To encounter this natural complexity and creativity of living and building knowledge, the early childhood educational services are structured around: . . . An approach to knowledge involving research with others and the exchange of knowledge, centered on the learning of the child in the group and with the group rather than an approach based on transmission/teaching. . . . The weekly collegial staff development meetings, an interdisciplinary context that involves the presence of all the professionals involved in running the school, [are] a systemic vision of complementary responsibilities in relationship. In the weekly meeting, the documentation of the educational experiences becomes the subject of professional development for all the personnel. (Istituzione of the Municipality of Reggio Emilia, 2017, p. 17 & 19)
Carla Rinaldi further elaborates on the relationship between professional development and research in “Teachers as Researchers: Formation and Professional Development in a School of Education (2001)”:
In fact, personal and professional development, like education, should not be seen as static or unchangeable qualities, achieved once and for all, but rather as a process, an ongoing path that we follow from birth throughout our lives . . . Personal and professional development and education are something we construct ourselves in relation with others, based on values that are chosen, shared, and constructed together. It means living . . . in a permanent state of research. (2006, p. 137)
The editorial staff of Innovations sees value in exploring within our North American contexts the “concept of shared research between children and adults” as a “priority practice of everyday life” that is “necessary for interpreting the complexity of the world.” We believe that the Reggio educators’ concept of research is a “powerful instrument of renewal in education” and a “key element of the democracy of knowledge,” and we are inspired by the way in which the educators in Reggio Emilia have organized professional development as an ongoing system that sustains pedagogy. In addition, we view the process through which educational research among and with children and educators in Reggio Emilia develops over time through professional development as being of special interest to readers of Innovations. Therefore, we are interested in manuscripts from North American educators that focus on the topic of “Exploring the Relationship Between Educational Research and Professional Development.”
We believe that through professional development initiatives in Reggio Emilia and North America along with Reggio Children publications and Reggio-related resources such as The Hundred Languages of Children and the Innovations periodical, Reggio educators have prompted educators in North America to rethink how to sustain the growth of teachers through a system of professional development. We believe it would be a contribution to the field of early education to share research related to professional development systems that support educational research in North American schools, particularly those with a long history of study of the Reggio Emilia approach. Manuscripts should include citations and references to published work by Reggio educators and others that support the authors’ ideas and are accompanied by a layer of interpretation by the authors.
We are interested in manuscripts that focus on some of the following aspects of this topic:
Interested educators must submit a proposal for the manuscript they would like to submit to Thresa Grove by October 1, 2018. Those submitting will receive responses regarding approval by October 31, 2018. Proposals must include:
Those whose proposals are approved must submit their manuscript by December 31, 2018. When submitting a manuscript to Innovations, please follow the following formatting and submission guidelines:
Details of the September 2019 issue peer-review process will be published in the September 2018 issue of Innovations and posted on the Peer-Review Process page of the NAREA website.
Margini, D. (2016, September). Educational research and professional development: An existential, ethical approach necessary for interpreting the complexity of life and educational experiences. Innovations in Early Education: The International Reggio Emilia Exchange, 23(3), 4-9.
Preschools and Infant-Toddler Centres, Istituzione of the Municipality of Reggio Emilia. (2010). Indications – Preschools and infant-toddler centres of the municipality of Reggio Emilia. Reggio Emilia, Italy: Reggio Children.
Preschools and Infant-Toddler Centres, Istituzione of the Municipality of Reggio Emilia. (2017). Charter of services of the municipal infant-toddler centres and preschools. Reggio Emilia, Italy: Reggio Children and Roswell, GA: NAREA.
Rinaldi, C. (2006). In dialogue with Reggio Emilia: Listening, researching, and learning. New York, NY: Routledge.
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