Curriculum Approaches

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Montessori and Reggio Emilia are progressive approaches to early childhood education that appear to be growing in New Zealand and have many points in common. In each approach, children are viewed as active authors of their own development, strongly influenced by natural, dynamic, self-righting forces within themselves, opening the way towards growth and learning. Teachers depend on carefully prepared, aesthetically pleasing environments that serve as a pedagogical tool and provide strong messages about the curriculum and about respect for children. Partnering with parents is highly valued in both these approaches and children are evaluated by means other than traditional tests and grades. This essay will discuss the features of Reggio Emilia and Montessori curriculum approaches in Early Childhood Education in terms to fit with principles, strands and philosophy of Te Whariki and my personal teaching philosophy and practice.

The Reggio Emilia curriculum approach was originated in North Central Italy in 1945, after the Second World War. One of the aims of the Reggio Emilia approach in New Zealand is to ensure that their educational philosophy is developed in a way that sits within the cultural context of Aotearoa New Zealand. The pedagogy of Reggio Emilia and Te Whariki is based on values and relationships which considers the emotional, spiritual and intellectual learning (Edwards, Gandini & Forman, 1998). Te Whariki is the national curriculum for the early childhood education sector in New Zealand. Te Whariki is a powerful and empowering curriculum document which has potential to enhance the quality of experiences for all children in early childhood education through their learning and development (Launder,b 2003). The main features of Te Whariki are the four principles (Empowerment, Holistic Development, Family and Community and Relationships), the five strands are (Wellbeing, Belonging, Contribution, Communication and Exploration) and their goals as well as Maori immersion aspect (Ministry of Education, 1996).

Unlike Te Whariki, Reggio Emilia curriculum approach does not represent as a national curriculum framework. It is a uniform curriculum, which represents a localised, learner centred approach (Launder,2003). In Reggio Emilia curriculum approach, the role of the teacher is assumed as a researcher. To carry out the research teachers should listen, observe and reflect in collaboration with other colleagues (Hendrick, 1997). Te Whariki mentions that evaluation and assessments based on the goals of each strand are very important in early childhood education (MoE, 1996). The education of Reggio Emilia approach understands that evaluation is important to reflect children’s interests as same as documentations (Gandini & Goldhaber,2001). According to Reggio Emilia approach, documentation is the most powerful tool for observing the children, how they learn and how they develop their own ideas (Gandini & Goldhaber,2001).

According to Mac Naughton & Williams (2004) the approach taken by both Te Whariki and Reggio Emilia approach reflect the social learning theory of Vygotsky who described that children learn through interaction, modelling and support from others in order to obtain new skills and information. This interaction helps children to explore the experiences, learn and exchange their ideas, talking with peers and other experts (Penrose,1998). Furthermore, developmental theory plays a significant influence on our knowledge about the child. It looks into the holistic development of the child physical, intellectual, emotional, social and language development (MoE, 1996). A stimulating environment rich in experiences enables child to explore and experiment. This view compares with Te Whariki in the Exploration strand (MoE, 1996), where the child learns through active exploration of his environment. Reggio Emilia approach emphasizes the significance of the environment which is often considered as the “third teacher”...
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