Reggio Emilia

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written by Alanna Morgan


Located at the centre the prosperous Po Valley, Italy, Reggio Emilia is famed throughout the world for its nursery and primary schools where the “Reggio Approach” was born. The Reggio movement sprang up through the rubble that remained after the Second World War. Communities in this region held a strong belief of collective responsibility for children and were therefore determined to build a positive future for them through high-quality education (Drummond 2004). Loris Malaguzzi, a Reggio nursery teacher and key founder in the development of the approach, is often accredited with inspiring the philosophical underpinning to the movement; however, it is also based on the ideas of educational theorists Piaget and Vygotsky. The idea of learning emerging from children’s own ideas rather than teachers teaching what they believe children should learn is a key assumption in the theoretical background of the Reggio schools (Bennett 2001). In Reggio Emilia, children are seen as the protagonists in the educational process (Cadwell 2003). Learning is based around the child’s own discovery and exploration and teachers simply facilitate this learning when the opportunity arises. In the Reggio Approach, learning is also linked to the real lives of the children so they can make connections between experiences at school and those in real life.

Central to the approach are key principles which have been identified and are mentioned concisely below (Sightlines Initiative 2005 and Cadwell 2003):

  • All children have potential and construct their own learning through their inquisitiveness.
  • All children are connected through families, communities and peer groups whereas traditional methods are constructed around children as solitary individuals.
  • Hundred languages of children – Children should be free to express themselves in many different forms (painting, drawing, singing, puppetry, acting, dancing etc).
  • The school environment is designed so that every part has its own purpose and identity and spaces encourage communication through interaction. The piazza (communal areas) and atelier (art studios) are considered the core of the schools.
  • Children are assisted in their discovery of ideas by both teachers and artelierista (all pre-schools in Reggio have an artist based at the school). Educators observe children and know how to question them to discover their ideas and own theories, thus developing their learning.
  • Teachers should be committed to on-going training and academic investigation by viewing themselves as researchers.
  • In order to communicate to parents what children have been doing, a range of media such as drawings, photographs recordings and children’s own words are used. Not only does this increase parents understanding and involvement but makes children feel important in the learning process.
  • Parents are actively involved within the school and their ideas and experiences are viewed as a valuable resource.
  • The role of the educators is not to answer questions for pupils or inform them if they are correct or not, but instead to help children discover the answer for themselves and question further.

The Reggio Emilia approach has been adopted and adapted by educators around the world.


Bennet, T (2001) Reactions to Visiting the Infant-Toddler and Preschool Centers in Reggio Emilia, Italy, Early Childhood Research and Practice, Vol 3 Issue 1. (Viewed 28-June-05)

Cadwell, L (2003) Bringing learning to life: the Reggio approach to early childhood education, Teachers College Press (An e-book version is available with Athens password: (Viewed 28-June-05))

Drummond J (2004) Learning partners (Viewed 28-June-05)

Sightlines Initiative (2005) The Reggio Emilia Approach (Viewed 28-June-05)

Useful Links

Article about the Reggio Approach (Viewed 28-June-05)

Information about the Reggio Approach (Viewed 28-June-05)

List of useful links about the Reggio Approach (Viewed 28-June-05)

Links of useful resources for the Reggio Emilia approach including links to other websites (Viewed 28-June-05)

Official site for the Reggio Children Association (Viewed 28-June-05)

An encyclopedia article about the history of the Reggio Emilia approach. (Viewed 28-June-05)

Edwards, Carolyn Pope (2002). Three Approaches from Europe: Waldorf, Montessori, and Reggio Emilia. Early Childhood Research & Practice, 4 (1)

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