The ReWord Challenge: Reflecting on the Principles and Philosophy of the Reggio Emilia Educational Project

By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE. On August 11th, 2016, I helped organize a workshop attended by 100 educators: Global Perspectives on Reggio-inspired Practice in Context: Global Perspectives. There were four presentations, two of which represented a United Kingdom context, Debi-Keyte–Hartland  and Hayley Peacock from Little Barn Owls Day Nursery and Farm School. Suzanne Axelsson, a preschool teacher and director from Stockholm presented a Swedish perspective and Tanya Farzaneh and Laura Salau represented our local context from the Seneca College Newnham Campus Labschool. It was during their presentation that they shared this graphic and have kindly allowed me to publish it here.

RE Words

With an earlier blog post ABCs of ECE and a generous donation from Louise Kool and Galt I was able to challenge others to come up with a list of words connecting with ECE for each letter of the alphabet. The winner will be announced September 1st. For this post, it is the reward of thinking deeply that should be the REward! The challenge is to come up with five RE words that speak to your context and demonstrate the complexity of learning about the principles of the Reggio Emilia educational project. This time the REward is non-tangible; it is the opportunity to REflect and REthink.


The importance of reflection should not be underestimated. Reflection is the bridge between your cognitive and emotional states, and it is essential to professional practice. Critical reflection involves thinking. According to Jones & Shelton (2011), there are four aspects of thinking that make reflection possible:

Abstract Thinking: A cognitive process for understanding concepts that cannot be experienced directly through our senses such as friendship and trust.

Complex Thinking: An ability to see the multiplicity of problems or situations at the same time.

Metacognition: An awareness of our thinking about our thinking as it relates to a problem or a situation; thinking about thinking.

Pragmatism: An ability to think logically and apply this thinking to real-life to manage the ambiguity that often accompanies these situations.

A recent posting on my Facebook newsfeed, is helping me to think about reflection in relation to the principles of Reggio Emilia and specifically pedagogical documentation. In our profession, planning and reflection have in the past been private, invisible activities carried out in isolation and only made visible to supervisors and regulators. Reflection that is collaborative is full of potential and possibilities. Social media supports the creation of “communities of inquiry”, virtual and real places of collaborative reflection.


One year ago, I wrote a blog post Worksheets Don’t Work: Try Reggio-inspired Mathematics  that has been viewed more than any other post. It continues to be shared widely and recently I saw it turn up on a Facebook page, Flights of Whimsy where the posting was preceded by these comments “I’ll admit to wincing whenever I hear (or read) the term ‘Reggio-inspired’”. The term was referred to as an “overworked” cliché. I have to admit as someone who has proclaimed themselves as Reggio-inspired for many years that I am experiencing cognitive dissonance thinking or re-thinking about the use of the term. I have been doing a lot of REthinking lately related to this blog post. I am having some provoking thoughts about “provocations”. I too love to look at wonderful set ups of beautiful materials but wonder why these have become known as “provocations”. In the years before Instagram and Facebook, we used to call these set ups activities, learning experiences or learning opportunities and even learning centres. I also don’t understand the reason to search for differences between the term invitation and provocation. Shouldn’t all that we put out for children be inviting and provoking? As I think and re-think I realize that I need to think about this further in a forthcoming blog post.


I have been thinking about this RE word ever since Debi Keyte-Hartland’s visit to Canada when she relaunched with me, the concept of pedagogical documentation as a process involving time in a way that provoked my understanding to a higher level. Fundamental to incorporating the principles of the Reggio Emilia educational project is the process of relaunching ideas or concepts with the children which act as provocations but are not necessarily physical set ups. I know that I have much more reading and thinking to do about the concept of RElaunching!


It is impossible to understand a philosophy without reading. The educational project from Reggio Emilia cannot be understood superficially. I wish I had more time to read the books on my night table and on my shelf. Books that are 100s of pages long can be daunting to read so I encourage beginning with shorter articles. I have linked two below, followed by one that will require more time and deeper understanding.

Your Image of the Child

It's Your Choice

Understanding Loris Malaguzzi


Seeking to embody the image as teacher as researcher and create places of research in our settings is an important goal to work towards. The origin of the term “research” is to search.


Search beyond the surface or the superficial. Be discerning in your RE Searches. The pretty images on Instagram and Facebook of set ups are great especially to see how others interpret “Reggio-inspired” practice. This could be seen as the first stop on the search. To REdiscover your way, think deeply and search for complexity. It would be so beneficial if we all had time to read books and conduct actual research but reality (another RE word) is that we don’t. You can learn a lot in snippets! Check out this video as an example: Reggio in Nutshell.

Share your thinking and support the deep thinking of others to create a “community of inquiry”. On the Reggio Emilia Approach Facebook group page  Suzanne Axelsson, one of the administrators has asked the group to …

ALWAYS include the thinking that goes behind the set up …This way we can allow Reggio to extend beyond the physical beauty of images of activities/provocations and the Third Teacher… and allow us to understand the processes that lead us there…

I am really pleased to be part of the Reggio Emilia Approach group on Facebook during a time when there is encouragement and support for deep thinking as I strive for complexity to avoid the superficial. I invite you to think about your 5 RE words and join me. Please add them to the comments. I thank you in advance for provoking my thinking.

5 thoughts on “The ReWord Challenge: Reflecting on the Principles and Philosophy of the Reggio Emilia Educational Project

  1. 1) RE-member: remember what worked and what didn’t.

    2) RE-peat children need opportunities to try things and then try them again and again.

    3)RE-invent One of the most damaging things we can say (or believe) is “We’ve always done it this way so why change now?”

    It’s so important for educators to challenge and question practices. Those that don’t align with good pedagogy may need to be reinvented.

    RE-fuse to keep anything that does not foster deeper, more meaningful learning and is not in the best interests of the children at that moment in time. (But RE-member them for future)

    5) RE-joice With the digital age comes opportunities to network and learn.

    There are a wealth of professional learning communities that support and inspire educators from around the world.

    Ideas, discussions and personal narratives deeply enrich us and so we must rejoice at the possibilities for adult learning!


  2. RElaunch: “Fundamental to incorporating the principles of the Reggio Emilia educational project is the process of relaunching ideas or concepts with the children which act as provocations but are not necessarily physical set ups.” with “not necessarily physcial set ups” as the central piece.


  3. REspect- children as capable, competent learners
    – colleagues with different styles and/or philosophies as also capable
    REmove- all things, routines and ideas which do not provide meaningful and engaging learning opportunities (ie calendar)
    REpeat- activities or materials many times over multiple days/weeks so long as the children continue to be engaged and curious
    REflect- to inquire about the deeper meaning behind my own practice and continue to become more intentional
    REread- insightful articles and books to continue to internalize and explain the Why behind he What


  4. Pingback: The Missing Link: Teacher Research and the Reggio Emilia Educational Project | Technology Rich Inquiry Based Research

  5. I still think about the Ontario Ministry of Education’s phrase from 2010 that still rings true today; Rethink, Repeat and Remove. As we continue to Rethink all that we do in our work with young children and their families, (that would require REflection), we are positioned to Repeat what makes sense from a pedagogical perspective and subsequently Remove practices that contradict the image of the child as capable, competent and rich in potential. And on that note, I think I’ll have a coffee and Relax!


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