The Pedagogy of Relationships: How Learning Happens

By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE. On January 10th, I had the honour of co-moderating an international #ReggioPLC chat with Suzanne Axelsson, a friend from across the globe. Educators from Sweden, Switzerland, Australia, Turkey across the United States and Canada joined in a fast paced hour of professional collaboration on the topic of listening. A Twitter chat isn’t the ideal medium to listen to others as it does go so fast, typing fingers must fly and sometimes you miss the in depth dialogue that can happen in real time. There were a number of requests made to “storify” the chat to have the time to consider deeply the thoughts on listening being shared. It was an easy and visual way to collect and store a conversation had on Twitter between fellow Reggio-inspired educators. Follow this link to the story.

The pedagogy of listening is an important principle of the Reggio Emilia Approach and underpins the pedagogy of relationships. Listening is essential to building and maintaining relationships. But what is pedagogy, anyway? That is a question posed by a wonderful resource to support Reggio inspired practice from New South Wales and it is a question often asked of me – what is pedagogy? Pedagogy is simply the approach taken to teaching and learning. A more complex question that I am often asked is how does pedagogy connect to curriculum? I turn to Ontario’s newly released (2014) pedagogy for the early years – How Does Learning Happen? for the answer.

What is Pedagogy? What is Curriculum?

What is Pedagogy? What is Curriculum?

A core principle of the Reggio Emilia Approach has always been the inter-relationships between the three subjects of education, families, children and educators (Gandini, 2002). According to How Does Learning Happen? reflecting on the image of children, families and educators is the starting point for developing programs to support learning. How each (children, families and educators) is described in the document indicates the influence of the Reggio Emilia Approach and inspired me to take the descriptions and put them together in word cloud to reveal the connections visually.

Images of Children, Families, Educators Word Cloud

Images of children, families and educators

In a previous blog post I wrote about the pedagogy of listening and listed the principles of the Reggio Emilia Approach as featured in a 2010 publication from Reggio Children, Indications: Preschools and Infant-Toddler Centres of the Municipality of Reggio EmiliaIn this tiny but powerful booklet education is deemed as a right for all children. It is an opportunity for growth and emancipation of the individual and the collective. It is a meeting place for freedom, democracy, and solidarity. Education lives by listening, dialogue, and participation and is based on mutual respect. I believe that all educators in hearts and minds want to create such a place for children, families and themselves. Finding that place, hopefully takes you outside.

There is something very special and magical about listening, dialogue and participation in the great outdoors. I invite you to join other educators as we experience the possibilities of 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 with Ann Pelo.


Ann Pelo

While there is magic to be had indoors and outdoors, there is no magic formula, no bag of tricks, template or list that can make learning happen. It is a complex journey of essential elements. Beginning with positive, respectful relationships with children, families, educators, (and between teaching partners) what is essential first and foremost is the active participation of all. Relationships and active participation are essential. Inviting children to explore and actively engage while expressing themselves in a hundred languages and hundred, hundred more is the starting point. The 2010 publication from Reggio Children also describes another essential element that I think is helpful to those educators trying to implement the principles in practice – class meetings.

“Class meetings are the priority context for constructing the identity and the sense of belonging of a group of children, educators, and parents. The class meetings, by means of diversified strategies, times, and methods … have the aim to promote sociality, to share educational projects and proposals, and to construct exchange and dialogue around the different ideas about children, school, and learning” (p.16).

Inspired as I always am by reading, thinking and reflecting on the Reggio Emilia Approach I am fuelled by the desire to help others. In Ontario, the early years pedagogy asks educators to take an approach that begins with relationships. So what is next? I created this graphic to depict a process that may be helpful to those wishing to find a starting point for their journey.

Pedagogy of Relationships Graphic

When children actively participate with materials rich in potential, they will be encouraged to speak in many languages of expression and inquiries will emerge. Bring these wonders, these questions and inquiries to a class meeting and together collectively make decisions about next steps. In the exploration of where these next steps lead, be a careful observer and documenter. Once documentation is created, interpret in order to achieve what is known as pedagogical documentation. This type of documentation can lead the directions you take with your curriculum.

2 thoughts on “The Pedagogy of Relationships: How Learning Happens

  1. I love the Ontario documents….especially How Does Learning Happen….since it speaks to processes and reflection for teachers, rather than a focus on standards and objectives. It’s not surprising that I love this document, when we consider who had input into its development – lots of people whose thinking I admire, including CarolAnne Wien, Karyn Callaghan, and many others. Job well done.

    On Sun, Jan 18, 2015 at 9:42 AM, Technology Rich Inquiry Based Research wrote:

    > dianekashin posted: “On January 10th, I had the honour of > co-moderating an international #ReggioPLC chat with Suzanne Axelsson, a > friend from across the globe. Educators from Sweden, Switzerland, > Australia, Turkey across the United States and Canada joined in a fast > paced hou”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s