Inspiration and Key Ideas

Learning from Reggio Emilia

Since the late 1960s, educators in the city of Reggio Emilia in Northern Italy have worked to establish a system of what is now 34 municipal preschools and infant-toddler centers that serve children from three months to six years of age.

Teachers in Reggio schools see themselves as researchers, continually exploring and contributing to our knowledge about who children are and how they learn; the role of the teacher; and the role of school in society. In any classroom in Reggio, teachers (and even children) take photographs, record video, take notes, and collect other records of children’s work and activities.

Through this careful documentation, these schools in Reggio have come to the attention of the world. They are considered by many to be the premier model of early childhood education and are visited by many educators from around the world. Reggio Children and the Loris Malaguzzi International Centre offer study tours and conferences.

At the Documentation Studio, we seek to learn (and help others to learn) more about some key practices that help to make the Reggio schools so extraordinary—namely, the use of documentation to support individual and group learning (for learners of all ages). In Reggio, documentation is used as a mechanism for collaboration among colleagues, as a way for both children and adults to look back on and reflect on their learning, and to communicate learning to others (colleagues, parents, and the wider community).

Transforming Our Perspective

Making Learning Visible Project

The origins of the Documentation Studio can be traced back to an early phase of the Making Learning Visible (MLV) Project, a research project at Project Zero (PZ) at the Harvard Graduate School of Education that began as a collaboration between PZ researchers and educators in Reggio Emilia.

MLV has sought to understand and translate Reggio’s approach to group learning and use of documentation to support learning to the U.S. context and across all ages of learners. It brings together Project Zero’s experience creating authentic and ongoing assessments and Reggio’s experience documenting the individual and group learning of young children.

The first phase of MLV was geared toward better understanding the practices in Reggio Emilia’s municipal schools and the ways they supported learning. Two key practices became the foci of MLV: learning in groups and documenting learning through a variety of media to support learning.

Teachers who have participated in the MLV Project have collaborated with the Documentation Studio in several ways: sharing documentation they are working on, exhibiting their work, and sharing perspectives on the work of others. Stephanie Cox Suárez, along with BU Wheelock colleague Bobbi Rosenquest and Lisa Fiore of Lesley University, comprised the teacher educator component of the project, exploring ways to incorporate group learning and documentation in their own teaching in the higher education setting while introducing pre-service teachers to these practices.

Learn more about Project Zero’s Making Learning Visible Project.