Reflections on the Reggio Professional Learning Collaborative Summer Intensive

Hard to believe that is has been just over a week since I returned to my little cottage in Grand Bend, Ontario, two and a half hours from my real home, in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Normally, a full week home in the city in July would not have been my preference but in that week I was able to have an authentic professional learning experience that will stay with me forever.

It was a privilege to co-facilitate an intensive week of Reggio inspired professional learning with my friend, colleague and collaborative partner, Louise.  Joining our facilitation team were two teachers from the Acorn School, Crystal and Stephanie. Our relationship with these two younger Reggio inspired teachers goes back to their years as students in the Bachelor of Child Development (BCD) Degree program and it was indeed a unique and special opportunity to facilitate the summer intensive with them.

Knowing that environment is a key element to the Reggio approach, Louise and I felt honoured to be able to extend messing about invitations to others in real, authentic Reggio inspired spaces. In Richmond Hill, at both the Acorn School and Richland Academy we had a backdrop that inspired and provoked the first ever Introduction to Reggio Inspired Practice Intensive.

Acorn boys in the mud kitchenBoys from Acorn School enthralled with the mud kitchen during our time outdoors during the Summer Intensive.

Inviting SK room at Richland AcademyThe inviting SK room at Richland Academy

It was in these spaces of Reggio inspired practice that 14 other like-minded educators joined us for a very significant collaborative professional learning experience.  I am ready to do it again. So what is the formula?  Can it be repeated? There is no magic. The term “intensive” is key. In addition to many, many hours spent in preliminary development, Louise and I spent an intensive week prior pouring over our research, reflecting on our combined years of experience, and engaging in some deep thinking about theory and practice to develop the final version of the course. Doing this task with the backdrop of the beach by my little cottage provided an ideal setting for our work.

Now we are ready for the second installment of the Reggio Inspired Intensive and we are committed to continue to:

  • Offer this course, utilizing Richland Academy and Acorn School as they reinforce the Reggio principle of the environment as the third teacher.
  • Begin the week with one agreed upon principle: “Nothing without Joy”
  • Provide ample experiences to mess about with big idea concepts and represent and re-represent these in multiple ways
  • Respect all participants and their different points of entry into this journey of professional learning, the Reggio way.
  • Integrate technology as a tool, utilizing multiple documentation applications and social media platforms to share and collaborate
  • Not to use pre-prepared PowerPoint presentations!

The last bulleted commitment is one that I am going to carry through into my return to teaching in the BCD program in the fall after a year of sabbatical spent researching the potential of social media for professional learning. I will be enforcing a “no PowerPoint” rule in my classes. While usually a proponent of breaking the rules, I have realized that as an adult educator I was using PowerPoint to be accountable to the administration but it was not an effective pedagogical tool especially when students used it in their presentations. When material is presented in an informational way and learners are expected to read, listen and absorb, the potential for collaborative learning is lost. This type of experience is presenter-focused when it should be learner-focused. I will use PowerPoint presentations for students in a flipped classroom way. They do provide the information about the concepts being considered. Information is not knowledge. Professional knowledge happens with application. Professional knowledge happens when we conceptualize.

Concepts should be conceptualized. I am drawn to this diagram based on the book, A New Kind of Mind: Why Right Brainers will Rule the Future by Daniel Pink (2011) as representing my fundamental shift in thinking about professional learning.

21st Century Learning

We began the week by practicing and applying our right brains. Nature art, marble runs, building down, light, reflection, metaphors, and documentation provided our key experiences; we did not begin the week by trying to pour the information in. We were conceptualizing and representing.

ReggioPLC Art in Nature

A Summer Intensive participant arranged nature materials on her documentation clipboard, creating instant aesthetically pleasing art.

When some of the participants voiced their discomfort about engagement without a predetermined learning outcome, we identified the theory of disequilibrium and labeled it as part of our collaborative cognitive processing. By the week’s end the lights that were illuminated shined as bright as the mosaics on the light table.

ReggioPLC Mosaic on the Light Table

Participants in the Introduction to Reggio Inspired Practice Summer Intensive mess about with light and create beautiful and fascinating mosaics.

The week is over but a Professional Learning Network (PLN) begins! I now can see the power that a PLN can have as we launched on Twitter #ReggioPLC. As we continue to connect and collaborate with 14 incredible teachers we are providing documentation of our professional learning. We are making our professionalism visible. This has changed my life. Reggio inspired practice has come home for me.

ReggioPLC Summer Intensive Participant Final Reflections

ReggioPLC Summer Intensive Participant final reflections.

Louise and I are thrilled to announce the second invitation to an Introduction to Reggio Inspired Practice starting on Saturday September 28th, 2013. Please join us!

2 thoughts on “Reflections on the Reggio Professional Learning Collaborative Summer Intensive

  1. Diane,

    What you gave us in structuring a week of “messing about” was invaluable. I read above your description of how some participants expressed initial discomfort with not knowing the direction of where the play would lead. What the provocations (instead of “lessons”) do so brilliantly is to allow each player to interpret the meaning and relationship between various materials. This, unlike the PowerPoint or teacher talk, doesn’t trigger cognitive dissonance. I mean, hearing about how to structure your classroom in a way so totally unlike the traditional, perhaps comfortable method can’t help but trigger an emotional response, even amongst educators who embrace a playful day in their teaching. But giving us time to explore, touch, manipulate, talk, create, talk more, and play… is powerful. And then giving time to talk about it together, to reflect of people’s questions and noticings? Such good modelling for how we can do it daily in our classroom. Tying the theory in with our readings during debrief time made the theory come alive.
    You all did manage to offer a course while following that most important idea: “nothing without joy”.
    I’m sure I’ll read this again and see more, but for now, I just wanted to thank you again for a wonderful week. I feel very much at home with my ReggioPLC.


  2. Laurel,
    It was a joyful week made even more special by having you there with us. You made a big commitment and travelled far and we were so lucky that you did. It is inspiring teachers like you that make all this messing about so meaningful. You take the theories and apply it to your practice with children! We can’t wait to read your tweets and your posts in the fall. You are truly a Reggio inspired educator and above all else, now you are a friend!


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