By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE. I have been reflecting on the principles and philosophy of the Reggio Emilia Educational Project but I am going to make a concerted effort not to label my reflections as Reggio inspired. Yes, it is true, for many years, I have found the work of educators from Reggio inspiring but I am re-thinking since my last blog post: The Reword Challenge. In that post I shared this great little nugget of a video, Reggio in a Nutshell because I found it very useful to support my understanding and thought it would help others seeking to know more about the Reggio Emilia Educational Project too. Later I followed the conversation of a group of educators discussing the label “Reggio-inspired” in reference to the video on Facebook. After, reading their thoughtful musings about the often used and often misused term “Reggio-inspired”, I recognized that the term can lead us away from a more important “re-word”, RESEARCH. We need to be our own inspiration and to practice locally appropriate pedagogy implementing a curriculum that is co-constructed with others in our own contexts. With research I can create “Richmond Hill, Ontario” inspired practice that is my own educational project. Research is well situated on this word cloud of the principles of the Reggio Emilia Educational Project. It should be well situated in practice.
My practice involves teaching and learning with adults. I am often asked, as I was this past week, to support educators wishing to learn more about the Reggio Emilia Educational Project. Rather than focus on “doing Reggio” or “becoming Reggio” or even embarking on a journey of Reggio-inspired practice, I tried to turn worries and concerns into questions focused on research. During the time I spent with this team of early years teachers, we engaged in a visualization exercise using loose parts, where every component was a metaphor representing their own practice/project.
Each teacher was given a professional journal and a documentation book. I hope that when I return in couple of months they will be engaged in authentic, locally appropriate teaching and learning and see themselves as researchers. Research can seem a daunting task meant for the academic but action research can be for us all. Research should be the framework of the profession of teaching and learning.
Research is a process used to examine questions and produce outcomes that form findings, which will advance knowledge, skills, or abilities about a particular issue or practice (Kellett, 2011). Research involves the collection of data and data analysis. Action research is a form of self-reflective inquiry that early years teachers can use to understand practice and improve practice. Kurt Lewin (1890–1947) is often credited with coining the term action research (Mills, 2011). The concept of “teacher as researcher” and the practice of action research call for those who teach to research issues related to their practice. Piggot-Irvine (2003) stated, “the word ‘action’ in action research is key. It is about making or implementing change, rather than investigating an issue. This process involves teacher’s willingness to commit to investigating a “problem” that needs to be explored, which should lead to the creation of a list of potential data sources that will support the investigation of the problem. Beverlie Dietze and I used this graphic in our textbook, Empowering Pedagogy in Early Childhood.
I realize after further reflection on the process of action research that ethics approval, as a formal process is not necessary when engaging in action research if the focus of the problem is connected to self and the question is about our own practice and not involving conducting research on children. From the collection of data to the action steps and analysis and evaluation, research is key to taking action and implementing change. By linking research to practice, teachers as researchers can become inspired by their own contexts and work. They create knowledge rather than receive knowledge or just take inspiration from others. To be Reggio inspired is not enough. It is a great start, but it is not enough.