Monday, 28 July 2014

Progettazione - thinking about projects...

In my e-mail this evening the latest post from Technology Rich Inquiry Based Research sparked a few thoughts off (as it usually does) - the quote from Rinaldi sparking my thinking today...

The educational action takes shape by means of progettazione, which is the process of planning and designing the teaching and learning activities, the environment, the opportunities for participation and the professional development of the personnel, and not by means of applying predefined curricula.
Progettazione is a strategy of thought and action that is respectful and supportive of the learning processes of the children and the adults; it accepts doubt, uncertainty and error as resources, and is capable of being modified in relation to the evolution of the contexts.
It is carried out by means of the processes of observation, documentation and interpretation in a recursive relationship, and through a close synergy between the organization of the work and the educational research. (Rinaldi, 2013)

Today was my first day back after my summer break - and I am really starting to think about what will we be doing this term... and I have been chatting with my colleagues at Filosofiska's sister preschool in Skarpnäck about projects and planning and how much planning is allowed, is it allowed, should it all come from the children and their free play... how much comes from the teacher?

I think quite often that there is so much focus on the image of the child that the image of the teacher is being quite forgotten... as Diane Kashin wrote - the principles of the Reggio Emilia Approach are...
1. the image of the child
2. the three subjects of education: children, parents and teachers
3. the image of the teacher
4. documentation: teachers and children as partners
5. environment as the third teacher
6. organization as fundamental
(Kashin, 2009)
There it is, amongst those principles... the image of the teacher being just as essential as the image of the child.... and children and teachers as partners... of course teachers have much more experience than children and the children have a natural curiosity and learn through play which can allow teachers to see things in a new light again, with fresh eyes... these are two perspectives that should be shared with equal value... yet I quite often feel that the image of the child is sometimes being elevated beyond the image of the teacher.... and yet we are partners... we should not be following them, but we should be on the journey together - sometimes they will know the route better and will guide with their play.... sometimes as teachers we will lead the way with our experience and knowledge of the world... together we will go places, experience play and learning on a much deeper level than if just one of us is doing all the guiding...

The project... if you look at how Rinaldi describes it in the above text is not the content of the learning, not the activities that we are doing... but the planning, the process of enabling the children in their play and learning to not only discover things they delight in, but to introduce new possibilities and also to challenge the children appropriately.... this takes skill to observe the children's interests - to dig deeper in the superficial interest of the dark or insects to discover they actually learning to deal with fear - that their interest in transport has little to do with travelling and more to do with spinning and the movement of the wheels... it takes time to see this, it takes time to ask questions, to document and to see patterns... a project then is not the work of the child, but the work of the teachers... the children learn and play - and teach us through their play about their interests, about their knowledge and about a different perspective on life...

Looking at Hawkins (The Informed Vision, 2002) he writes about "I, Thou, and It"

    "Respect for the young is not a passive, hands-off attitude. It invites our own offering
of resources, it moves us toward the furtherance of their lives and thus even, at times
 toward remonstrance or intervention"

RESPECT being a key word here, it does not mean belittling a child, but it does mean that certain behaviours are not acceptable... there needs to be a good relationship between I-THOU (teacher-child) where there is mutual "trust, respect and confidence" - but this relationship is not enough on its own the teacher and child need to share an "IT" -
"some third thing which is of interest to the child and to the adult, in which they can join in an outward projection. Only this creates a possible stable bond of communication, of shared concern."
Hawkins goes on "If you don't find something interesting, and try to feign an interest you don't have, the investment won't last. But if there is that common interest it may last and may evolve. You need to be capable of noticing what the child's eyes notice and capable of interpreting the words and acts by which he tries to communicate with you."

Of course if you just have the CHILD-IT relationship it is not going to be the same opportunity for learning either... it is the triangular relationship of I, THOU, and IT that supports deeper learning...

It is clear to me that our role as a teacher is an extremely important role and that maybe we should talk about the "image of the teacher" more... what is it? Have you ever discussed this like you have discussed "the image of a child"? I haven't, even though I have discussed the image of the child VERY many times... and who's image are we talking of... the image we have of ourselves, the image the children have of us, the image the parents have of us, the image the politicians have of us, the image society as a whole has of us? Are they one and the same... do they differ? And how do they differ?

So where is this all leading me?

Well back to projects and planning... to not be afraid to sometimes direct children in a Reggio Emilia Inspired setting... to be OK with making mistakes and admitting that and trying a new tactic... to be able to listen to the children, be perceptive and insightful and open to new possibilities - and also to realise that handing over the decisions and direction of a project to the children is a choice we as adult make and we need to be responsible for that choice too... not just for the decisions that we make on behalf of the child.

So now I have another perspective of a project... far removed from a "theme" which sometimes I think projects tend to be really, the content being labelled the project rather than the process and planning to create the environments, opportunities and learning activities for the children and teachers to explore an "It"....

So what about you... what is your image of the teacher.?.. and your image of a project?


  1. Suzanne,
    I really enjoyed reading your thoughts about the image of the teacher, I'm going through some of that thinking myself right now. In my zealousness for things I often over apply them at first, and balancing the role of child and role of teacher - or not balancing (which implies they are at odds with each other when they are often not) but instead weaving those roles together for the benefit of both - is one area I have been thinking about a lot in the past few years. I found that my image of the child was so much at the forefront that I took on the role of facilitator without thinking deeply about what my image of the teacher was. ( Image/role are not identical terms but are informed by each other so I'm using them interchangeably) I had an exchange with Laurel Fynes where I realized that I had never consciously thought that Malaguzzi's "nothing without joy" quote applied to the teacher as well! I think that my image of the teacher is moving from facilitator to more of a 'skilled partner' in the classroom ( a la Vygotsky). When taking on that role, I find I can more confidently balance the need for autonomy (for myself as well as the children), and still remain deeply aware that we are connected in our journey and our learning, and that the responsibility lies with me whether I am guiding or walking alongside.

    I so agree that the image of the teacher should be a bigger part of our discourse as teachers. Our image of the child directly affects our image of the teacher (and vice-versa) and that makes them both essential to address when trying to create an environment where everyone is valued.
    Thank you for the thoughtful ideas you raised in your post! I'll be thinking about your comments on projects for a while as well.
    " .. a project then is not the work of the child, but the work of the teachers..."
    Beautifully said.

    1. thank you so much for your thoughtful, and much appreciated, feedback Heather.

      I believe strongly that the "nothing without joy" applies to us teachers as well. David Hawkins also picks up on that with "I, Thou and It" that we, together with the children, should be enthused about what we are exploring…

  2. Hi Suzanne,

    At my center, we spent the last year working as a staff with project work (progettzione) as our annual intention. An unexpected benefit was that teachers really seemed to understand their role in a child-centered curriculum. There's a tendency when we leave behind completely teacher-designed curriculum, or top-down structure to let our internal pendulums swing the opposite way. If I'm not supposed to "teach" then what should I do?! I really used the introduction to Ben Mardell's "From Basketball to the Beattles" quite a bit last year. Anyway, once teachers had this smaller, more focused thread to follow of a work team or project, and some tools to go about it, the emergent curricula center-wide improved.

    I wish you luck this year!