What is the Reggio Emilia Approach?

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Marina Davis

I am glad there are some people interested in the Reggio Emilia approach for children, which really helps kids become…

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The “Reggio Emilia Approach” is a preschool teaching philosophy developed by Loris Malaguzzi after the Second World War in the Italian city of… you guessed it… Reggio Emilia! By way of reference, Maria Montessori began developing her method in Rome around the turn of the 20th century. What’s with all the Italian teaching philosophies, you say? Maybe it’s the child-friendly culture. Italians just seem to love kids!


One of the biggest things to remember about the Reggio Emilia teaching philosophy is that it is an educational approach and not a formal model, per se. There is no linear Reggio Emilia “system” or set of teacher qualifications as there is, for example, in the Montessori philosophy.

The lack of explicitly defined direction is by design: the Reggio approach depends very heavily on the child’s unique environment; no two environments are quite the same anywhere in the world. A particular curriculum developed in a preschool in Washington DC would not be a perfect fit for a preschool in Los Angeles, for instance, although there may be similarities.

With that in mind here are 5 things to know about the Reggio Emilia philosophy:

  • Learning is project-based.

Students work together on learning projects based on certain subjects. Students find the answers together instead of being told the answers.

  • Learning is driven by student curiosity.

Children may, for example, take interest in an animal during a field trip and ask the teacher about it. This question will lead the group to a collaborative project around the subject.

  • The teacher is a researcher.

In a Reggio Emilia preschool, the teacher observes projects and keep detailed documentation on each of them. He or she does generally does not “broadcast” information as in a more traditional preschool environment.

  • Graded tests are not popular.

The records kept by the teacher for each project are the main way pupils’ progress is tracked in the Reggio Emilia preschool philosophy.

  • Parents are heavily involved.

Parents frequently volunteer for preschool activities and use the Reggio philosophy to encourage more learning at home.

As a result of the above, the Reggio Emilia approach encourages preschoolers to work with each other and explore their own environments.

Do you have children enrolled in a Reggio Emilia preschool or are you a Reggio Emilia teacher? What else would you add to answer the often asked question: “What is the Reggio Emilia philosophy?”

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  • I am glad there are some people interested in the Reggio Emilia approach for children, which really helps kids become more curious and creative. It has not made History as a Brand like Montessori, but it is much more interesting for children and teachers.

    For some parents it’s just more important to say “My kid goes to Montessori” as a status. But they are not necessarily sure of what that school has to offer to that particular child.

  • It’s very interesting seeing the models behind the way teachers teach their students! I definitely think this one sounds like a great way to keep preschoolers engaged in learning. Thanks for sharing!

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