Reggio Emilia Principles, Philosophy with Children, and Inquiry Learning.


An introduction to Reggio Emilia Principles and Approaches and Philosophy with Children and Inquiry Learning.

Schooling is a partnership between the teacher, children, and parents all working in the best interests of children. Teachers also share this responsibility they are also aware of the needs and relationships within the whole classroom and the larger school community. By discovering and sharing our mutual concerns in these regards our activities as a school community can only be strengthened.

What is Learning? Valuing curiosity and imagination

Education is essentially learning to think. Young children live imaginatively and have ideas largely unburdened by facts. It is critical to keep the desire to learn from their curiosity alive. The desire to know, ask questions and seek answers underlies the key purpose of all our learning. All learning, regardless of age, is driven by curiosity and doubt. Very early on, as soon as children can speak with any coherence, they constantly ask, Why? Children come to school bringing with them their own knowledge and experiences. Building on this apparently innate desire to learn the early years – Prep to Grade 4 – provides the foundations for the continuing development of intelligent behaviours or habits in the middle to upper primary years and establishing the capacity for independent learning and self-regulation in secondary and post-compulsory education.

By building strong foundations good habits are developed

Formal, school based learning requires a period of transition for young children. Play and game based approaches to learning is an important aspect of the classroom. Many aspects of our culture ignore the authentic needs of children. Specifically our culture tends to define all of us as consumers rather than creators. This is also perhaps best explained by understanding that young children should not feel pressured to perform to predetermined standards and outcomes but rather encouraged to appreciate a love of learning. Consequently the emphasis is on building understanding and meaning by using their own activity, thoughts and reflections on their everyday experiences.

Reggio Emilia principles and approaches seek to build on children’s strengths and understand children as they are rather than what we want them to be or think they should be thereby acknowledging that personality and character are developed by social interactions and the relationships between themselves and adult co-inquirers. Reggio teachers equally regard themselves in this way too; we do not walk in front or behind but alongside students as co-inquirers. Such an approach explicitly acknowledges children’s personal and collective intellectual efforts to make sense of their world and the place of learning within it.

Reggio Emilia educational theory and practice is informed by many years of international collective research based on observing and listening to children in early years settings. While it is very influential in preschool settings we believe that the principles and approaches can be, and should be, extended into primary education. While the emphases may shift The arts are at the center of all aspects of their learning whether it is literacy, numeracy or imaginative exploration and discovery. Philosophy with Children has a similar approach to Reggio Emilia and describes its model as a process of creating a community of inquirers where the object is “thinking about thinking” or meta-cognition.

The combination of these approaches makes possible a powerful foundation for what is commonly defined as Inquiry learning. By encouraging the skills of respectful dialogue between the children themselves and their teacher the importance of questioning and thinking is also emphasised along with direct instruction of ‘thinking tools’ and processes that the discipline of philosophy provides. These two approaches also provide for learning that is slow and deep.

Creating a community of learners

Learning to get along with each other, developing routines and responding to a variety of situations is an important aspect of early years education. Learning how to be with others and value them is a significant theme throughout the early years.

Understanding who they are and where they belong in the world begins to develop in a self-conscious way through the awareness of others as they move from a predominantly egocentric view of the world.

Children are encouraged to actively make, and think, about their world. By exchanging their own stories, speaking and listening, reading and exchanging opinions, and questioning each other’s stories they are encouraged to be critical self-conscious thinkers.

Creating a sense of common purpose and cooperation.

A multi-age classroom offers many opportunities for formal and informal peer learning and teaching. Relationships between adults and children are nurtured. The quality of this relationship is an important element of the children’s self-understanding and development as a learner and teacher. For this reason the active participation of parents and other significant adults in the classroom is encouraged across all programs.

Teacher judgment.

The teacher is the authoritative adult who acts with the best interests of the individual child and the children as a whole. Learning and teaching in this environment expects to encourage dispositions that assist independent and cooperative learning. A self-critical or self-reflexive attitude that does not rely on rewards and punishment is encouraged at all times.

In Conclusion.

It is not possible to do justice to these approaches on paper other than to reiterate that other than their own intrinsic worth these approaches significantly support learning in all areas of the curriculum. The thinking and manipulative skills developed positively impact on literacy – language, reading and writing, story telling, drama – feelings, emotions, other points of view, numeracy and mathematics – quantifying, recognising patterns and their expression in mathematical language.

Equally it provides the basis for significant and profound approaches to the social nature of learning and knowledge by using explicit strategies to build behaviour that is appropriate to sharing and exchanging opinions and knowledge with those around them. In this way children are not merely the passive recipients of values but actively participate in developing and understanding our shared expectations as individuals, and as a community.

 

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