Reggio Emilia North American Study Tour: Day 6 – Implementation in the Primary School Part I

-a0d9d19ae1b5e626This was the day I had longed for all week. This was the day that the veil would be swept back and the secrets of a Reggio-inspired curriculum implementation plan for grades K to 8 would be revealed. I was not alone. Many of my U.S. colleagues welcomed this movement away from infants, toddlers and preschool children and into a frank discussion about the intricacies and obstacles inherent in projecting the ‘Reggio Approach’ into America’s standards-driven and test-obsessed public (and, yes, some independent) schools. How, we wanted to know, can American educators embrace the ‘Reggio Approach’ in primary and middle school when our high schools are mired in siloed instruction with no cross-curricular connection, and our colleges and universities require standardized test scores as entrance criteria?

No true conversation around this topic happened. We were not invited to visit any of the Reggio Emilia primary schools. With all of the talk about the importance of child centered learning and community commitment to education as a “right,” were the primary and secondary schools in Reggio Emilia struggling with the same content specific parameters as we in the U.S. were?

What was discussed, first by Claudia Giudici, and then by Paola Strozzi and Giovimagesanna Cagliari was the concept of “CONTINUITY.” Why, Claudia admonished us, is continuity so important to education? Why is continuity of curriculum and its delivery methodology used as an issue to segregate different levels of schooling? By embracing the false concept of continuous growth and development at a routine or regular pace, an unrealistic expectation that children at one level will be perfectly prepared to enter the next is created. Continuity, our hosts suggested, is antithetical to child development theory and the ‘Reggio Approach.’ Continuity then, is certainly an indictment of America’s one-size-fits all Common Core.

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John Dewey © 1907

We were reminded that learning is not manifest in a linear fashion. It is a blend of the experiential as well as the formal. We were asked to leave behind the standards, accept learning as a natural process of life; like eating or sleeping. All learning is participatory. Learning is interacting in a social way with one’s immediate culture and environment. Different than that idea of ‘life long learning’ we give lip-service to in the States, we were asked to reject the concept of continuity, and to find a new vocabulary to describe the change in culture this new way of seeing education produces.

I think this is wise council. I was not disappointed that the answers I sought – or thought I needed – were not cut and dried into some “best practices” context. Wide and deep public debate about education – from pedagogical, cultural, and political points of view – will help us rediscover the role of school in society.

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