The Reggio Emilia approach was influenced by many theories. The first practices of the Reggio Emilia schools were massively influenced by Jean Piaget’s constructivist theory. This theory relates especially to the education aspect and how the environment is the third teacher. This theory recommends that the child builds up his or her own interpretation of reality from his or her own particular experiences or interactions with the environment.
“The establishment of cognitive development occurs not solely by way of a copy of the external world, nor by a set of structures performed within the individual, but by continuous interaction between the external world and the individual (Piaget, 1976)” (Kari Slipp, 2017). For that reason, as educators part of our role is to set up a nice and welcoming environment filled with good materials and instructions that is best suitable for the age group developmentally. Then the child will begin to analyze an object or idea. Soon after, by either assimilating and trying to relate and make connections between the new information they learned into existing schema or mentally accommodating the new experience by constructing a new schema. The Reggio Emilia approach from Vygotsky’s perspective, is focused on sociocultural theory that contributed to the determinant to Reggio Emilia.
One of the concepts of his theory is the zone of proximal development it refers to the variation between a learner’s ability to carry through a task independently without adults help or a more knowledgeable person. This is a huge and essential role of an educator in the Reggio Emilia school. The zone of proximal development is “the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers” (Kari Slipp, 2017).
When children are in the zone of proximal development it’s very important to scaffold them by giving them the support and the tools they need in order to learn and complete the task effectively. When scaffolding children it’s important to make sure that the task is not too difficult to avoid the children getting frustrated and quickly giving up nor it is too easy to the extent that the children will do it in a few seconds or minutes very easily without learning any new skills or information. It’s important that the task is in between just right for them where it still provides just enough challenge in order for the child to learn something new, Eventually, the scaffolding will be removed and once the child masters the skill or the task independently, it’s important to upgrade and make the task just a little more challenging for the child to keep learning new skills and knowledge. Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory shows that knowledge expands by trying to make meaning and connections by continually interacting with other people and the world. This theory shows how children and educators work together in order to help children gain new knowledge and in the development.
This theory does not only focus on the importance of adult and peers and how they have an influence on learning but also the culture beliefs and traditions play a big role on how children think, view instructions and learn. Dewey’s focuses on the education aspect he believed that children that the curriculum should be based on the children’s interest and that they learn best through hands on and play based activities. These educational methods are indeed used in the Reggio Emilia Program. Dewey also believe that the learning experiences should be purposeful and that the children should be really engaged in the activities ahead of their knowledge intake in order to get a better idea of their own theoretical understanding. His theory also gave great importance on social and the community just like Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory. Which means that children learn by interacting and being social with others.
He also believed that the environment should be aesthetic which is applied in the Reggio Emilia theory since they view the environment as the third teacher. (Slipp, 2017)