The Pedagogy of Listening: Inspiration from the Reggio Emilia Approach

By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE. Technology Rich Inquiry Based recently celebrated its 2nd anniversary and 100,000th view. At this time we would like to thank our followers and readers for sharing in this journey of Reggio inspired teaching and learning. For 2015 we wish only good wishes for you and to commemorate the New Year, here is a link to a video from the Loris Malaguzzi International Centre, “Two thousand fifteen good wishes”.

Reggio inspired teachers are always learning. Teachers should never cease to be learners. Teaching can’t be mastered, only improved. You cannot reach a certain point in your professional life and say that you have acquired all the knowledge necessary to teach. Teaching requires reflection and acceptance that what we have once known as truth can change. I learned this lesson recently. One of the greatest achievements of my professional life had been the completion of my doctoral thesis – Reaching the Top of the Mountain: The Impact of Emergent Curriculum on the Practice and Self-Image of Early Childhood Educators in 2007. What I knew then is nothing in comparison to what I realize now. At that time, my research focused on the Reggio Emilia Approach and I wrote about the principles of the approach and listed six as fundamental. You will be able to read my thesis here. 

During the last two years, I have become active on Twitter, co-moderating a bi-monthly chat #ReggioPLC from which the topics have been gleaned from Reggio principles. Now with 2015 upon us, I have been doing a lot of thinking of what will frame our #ReggioPLC Twitter chats going into the new year especially since we have gone global with the help of Suzanne Axelsson from Interaction Imagination who recently changed her profile picture to reflect a focus on LISTENING!

Suzanne Listening

One of my new year’s resolutions is to be a better listener as inspired by my thinking about the pedagogy of listening. Listening involves giving attention to others that goes beyond the hearing of sound. To listen requires mindfulness – being present in the here and now. To be present means to be focused on what is happening right now and to be open to and see the possibilities among the people, the space, and the materials within the environment. This requires “the openness and sensitivity to listen and be listened to – listening not just with our ears, but with all of our senses (sight, touch, smell, taste, orientation) (Rinaldi, 2008, p.65). Listening needs time – time to be silent, to pause and to listen to ourselves.

Listening graphic

I created this graphic for a new textbook that I have written with Beverlie Dietze – Empowering Pedagogy for Early Childhood Education to be published in March 2015. Whenever I think of a strong sense of social justice, I think about the work of Ann Pelo. In Embracing a Vision of Social Justice in Early Childhood Education, Pelo (2008) helps us to recall how the Reggio Emilia Approach began. When World War Two ended, the people of Reggio Emilia were determined to create a new culture in which the “fascism that had taken hold of Italy in the decades leading up to the war would find no foothold. The citizens of Reggio Emilia were clear about how to begin this work of culture-building: they would create schools for young children” (p. 2). Parents occupied an abandoned building and demanded that the government make it available for their first school. They and the teachers didn’t want to create private schools available to only a few; they wanted publicly funded schools open to all families in the community and organized around critical thinking and collaboration. For Pelo (2008) this is a reminder that “early childhood education is a political act, and that it necessarily involves values and vision” (p. 2). Being open to rethink beliefs and values is essential and to change reflects new growth. Recently I was playing around with and remembered that you can enter the URL of any blog post, which I had done in one of my earliest blog posts. Comparing the two wordles now serves as a visual representation of new growth as our interests have become increasingly nature-based.

Comparison of two wordles

I am excited to be working with the York Region Nature Collaborative whose mission is to “empower the early learning communities of York Region to engage meaningfully with nature on a daily basis” on an event in May 2015 with Ann Pelo as the keynote speaker. I know the experience with help me rethink and grow as I embrace listening more intently into my practice. Inspired by our inaugural event, a family adventure walk in the forest, this time we focus on educators. For more information on this conference – Walking in Place: Cultivating Ecological Identity in Young Children — and in Ourselves: An invitation to early years educators to be outdoors in their bodies and in the body of the Earth.

Nature Mandala

To truly listen to another is to give the other a voice. Hearing the voices of others is central to the pedagogy of listening. There have been times in my life when I have felt my voice has not been heard. For me, this is always a difficult experience and I can only imagine how children might feel. Voice is “what people mean when they speak of the core of the self” (Gilligan, 1993, p. xvi). Voice can be seen as a metaphor of development extending well beyond the expression of a point of view. “Voice is a powerful psychological instrument and channel, connecting inner and outer worlds” (Gilligan, 1993, p. xvi). To have a voice is also relational; it depends on listening and being heard. Voice also reflects the empowerment of those being heard. I did not write about the pedagogy of listening in my doctoral dissertation. Yet now, I see it as so important to my growth as an educator and as person. The pedagogy of listening underpins the pedagogy of relationships and no one more eloquently brings this to light than Carlina Rinaldi.


When I wondered why the pedagogy of listening was not listed as a principle of the Reggio Emilia Approach I did a little research and found that in actuality it was. A publication by Reggio Children in 2010, Indications: Preschools and Infant-Toddler Centres of the Municipality of Reggio Emilia provides a list of twelve redefined principles. They include:

  1. Children as active protagonists of their growth and developmental processes
  2. The Hundred Languages
  3. Participation
  4. Listening
  5. Learning as a process of individual and group construction
  6. Educational research
  7. Educational documentation
  8. Progettazione
  9. Organisation
  10. Environment, spaces and relations
  11. Professional development
  12. Assessment

With the redefined principles shaping our chats and inspiring our posts, I know that 2015 will be a significant year.

8 thoughts on “The Pedagogy of Listening: Inspiration from the Reggio Emilia Approach

  1. Pingback: Re posted: The Pedagogy of Listening: Inspiration from the Reggio Emilia Approach | mentor minute

  2. Hi, I am a prek teacher in Boston Area and have found your website to be very helpful in my work as a teacher in the areas of research and teaching practice. Thank you for all the insight and knowledge and wisdom you share. I’m curious about the Reggio PLC Twitter chats and wonder how can I join the chats?


    • Hi Cris! Thanks for your feedback. You can start by following us on Twitter @DianeKashin1 and @LouiseJupp. At the designated time of the chats look for tweets using #ReggioPLC. I use an app called Tweetchat – it will pick up all tweets using the hashtag and will automatically add it to your tweets so others can follow. Looking forward to chatting with you soon 🙂


  3. Pingback: The Pedagogy of Listening: Inspiration from the Reggio Emilia Approach | TCDSB21C

  4. Pingback: All You Need is Love in Early Learning: Embrace the Cliché! | Technology Rich Inquiry Based Research

  5. Pingback: A Hundred Ways of Thinking: Weaving Dialogue and Technology Into Learning Spaces – Cynthia Mackey

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