In the world of Reggio Emilia education, listening, really listening to children is a fundamental belief.  Adults listen to children because they believe that they have wonderful, deep and intelligent ideas to offer and from those ideas, the learning context or experience can be created to further extend or challenge them.  It is an idea that is very radically different from our view in American education.  It is one where the children help the teacher set the agenda and it is only through true listening, responsiveness and observation can the teacher gather clues about what opportunities to provide next.

The work is incredibly responsive and intentional.  It allows for consideration of children’s true and honest curiosities and it demands TIME and truly PRESENT LISTENING.  In Reggio Schools the student are expected to be observers and interpreters of their peers rather than parallel learners.  Additionally, in Reggio Schools there is a lot of careful observation work done through natural objects, manipulated objects, use of outdoor space and the integration of art materials to observe.  It is partially through this careful observation and documentation that students learn to ask detailed questions that lead to inquiry.   Additionally, teachers can “listen” to student ideas by analyzing this work – although not verbal, it is expressive.  Finally, the image of the teacher is decentralized so that the teacher is a participant rather than the one who imparts all of the information.  In this role as a decentralized adult in the room, the teacher can observe the conversations more closely by taking notes, taking pictures or suggesting a new material for exploration.

Listening in this way validates a child in so many ways.  In what ways can we improve our opportunities for observation and listening in the work that we already do?

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