The hundred languages of children
As children proceed in an investigation, generating and testing their hypotheses, they are encouraged to depict their understanding through one of many symbolic languages, including drawing, sculpture, dramatic play, and writing. They work together towards the resolution of problems that arise. Teachers facilitate and then observe debates regarding the extent to which a child’s drawing or other form of representation lives up to the expressed intent. Revision of drawings (and ideas) is encouraged, and teachers allow children to repeat activities and modify each other’s work in the collective aim of better understanding the topic. Teachers foster children’s involvement in the processes of exploration and evaluation, acknowledging the importance of their evolving products as vehicles for exchange.
Reggio Emilia’s approach to early education reflects a theoretical kinship with John Dewey, Jean Piaget, Vygotsky and Bruner, among others. Much of what occurs in the class reflects a constructivist approach to early education. Reggio Emilia’s approach does challenge some conceptions of teacher competence and developmentally appropriate practice.
For example, teachers in Reggio Emilia assert the importance of being confused as a contributor to learning; thus a major teaching strategy is purposely to allow mistakes to happen, or to begin a project with no clear sense of where it might end. Another characteristic that is counter to the beliefs of many American educators is the importance of the child’s ability to negotiate in the peer group, which renders teacher intervention in children’s minimal conflicts unnecessary.
One of the most challenging aspects of the Reggio Emilia approach is the solicitation of multiple points of view regarding children’s needs, interests, and abilities, and the concurrent faith in parents, teachers, and children to contribute in meaningful ways to the determination of school experiences. Teachers trust themselves to respond appropriately to children’s ideas and interests, they trust children to be interested in things worth knowing about, and they trust parents to be informed and productive members of a cooperative educational team. The result is an atmosphere of community and collaboration that is developmentally appropriate for adults and children alike.