Early Childhood Education

Reggio-Inspired Teacher Education (RITE)

 

Reggio-inspired teacher education (RITE) is a term used to connote a group of early childhood educators who have been influenced by the work of Loris Malaguzzi and Reggio Emilia. It is also a term used to refer to specific principles and practices of early childhood teacher education in the United States that derive from this Italian city’s municipal early childhood program. As described by its founders, RITE is really both more and less than a method.

Reggio-inspired teacher education, like the work taking place in Reggio Emilia, Italy, is actually best described as an approach. It is an approach to the way teachers construct curricula; it is an approach to the way teachers create and recreate the learning environment; it is an approach to the ways teachers collaborate with colleagues, parents, and children; it is an approach to how teachers can come to know the meanings children attribute to their educational experiences; and, it is an approach even to the very organization of the school itself. In other words, teacher educators adhering to RITE principles do not prescribe how these things are done but, rather, offer a perspective from which each of these topics can be considered.

This perspective is defined by six factors. First, the educational process, at any level, is embedded in a socially co-constructed context and as such must be responsive to the interests and needs of all the participants in the process, in particular, children, parents, and teachers (Smith, 2001). Second, children are recognized for their competence rather than for their limits, and as such curricula must be authentic, responsive, and build on this competence (Goldhaber and Goldhaber, 2000; Hull et al., 2002). One of the primary goals of a RITE program is to help new teachers understand the concept of curriculum as an emergent or negotiated experience involving others rather than a preplanned set of teacher-defined activities or lessons. A third critical component has to do with the assessment of children’s progress, considered best done through the documentation and collaborative analysis of the products of children’s educational investigations. Fourth, the physical and temporal arrangement of the classroom is an essential element in defining children’s educational experiences. The environment must be accessible and responsive—the schedule allowing children ample time to become intellectually invested in their work. Fifth, teachers must come to see themselves as researchers and advocates as much, if not more, as they do directors of children’s learning. They must be as intellectually engaged in learning as are their children. And sixth, RITE supports the principle that all these factors hold equally at all levels of the educational experience. The approach to preparing teachers and the approach to the organization of a school must be the same as the approach to the operation of a classroom. If the goal of a Reggio Emilia approach to children’s education is to support the active intellectual engagement of children in worthwhile learning experiences, then the same set of considerations must equally be applied to the preparation of the teachers who will work with these children and to the organization of the schools in which this work will take place.

Further Readings: Burlington, B., and S. Sortino (2003). In our real world: An anatomy of documentation. In Joanne Hendrick, ed., Next steps to teaching the Reggio Emilia way. Columbus, OH: Prentice-Hall, pp. 224-238; Gandini, L., and J. Goldhaber (2001). Two reflections on documentation: Documentaation as a tool for promoting the construction of respectful learning. In Lella Gandini and Caroline Edwards, eds., Bambini: The Italian approach to infant/toddler care. New York: Teachers College Press; Goldhaber, D. E., and J. Goldhaber (2000). Education for all young children. In Colin Brock and Rosie Griffin, eds., International perspectives on special educational needs. London: John Catt Educational Ltd; Fu, V., and A. Stremmel (2001). Teaching and learning: Collaborative exploration of the Reggio Emilia Approach. Columbus, OH: Merrill-Prentice Hall, Inc.; Hull, K., J. Goldhaber, and A. Capone (2002). Opening doors: An introduction to inclusive early childhood education. New York: Houghton-Mifflin Co; Smith, D. (2001). Creating a community for infants: Hearing all the voices. Innovations in early education: The international Reggio Exchange 8 (2), 9-21; Smith, D., and J. Goldhaber (2004). Poking, pinching, and pretending: Documenting toddler’s experiences with clay. St. Paul, MN: Red Leaf Press.

Dale Goldhaber and Jeanne Goldhaber