I spotted this article in ECRP by Carol Anne Wien York University with Victoria Guyevskey & Noula Berdoussis and thought it summed up the ‘Reggio’ approach nicely. Obviously, you could take this further, but for a starting point, this is nice and concise! We have plenty of centers here in New Zealand who describe themselves as ‘Reggio-inspired’ (usually for marketing purposes – in fact, the majority of ECE in NZ is now ‘Reggio-inspired’). However, there is sometimes a gap between the practice of documenting and the actual understanding of the Reggio approach to documentation …
The Reggio Approach
“The Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education was developed in the municipal system of 46 infant-toddler centers and preschools for children birth to age 6 in the city of Reggio Emilia in northern Italy. The approach has attracted worldwide attention for its rich and vibrant image of children, teachers, and families in relation to society (Cadwell, 1997, 2003; Edwards, Gandini, & Forman, 1998; Fleet, Patterson, & Robertson, 2006).
The Reggio educators’ conception of documentation as combining many forms of texts to make learning visible is highly respected and considered a major contribution to the early childhood field (Burrington & Sortino, 2004; Giudici, Rinaldi, & Krechevsky, 2001; Katz & Chard, 1996; Malaguzzi, 1996); it appeals to students of the Reggio approach and can be grasped intellectually. Yet, in our experience, when teachers outside of Reggio attempt such documentation in their own classrooms, they find it much more challenging than they had expected, which suggests how radically different the Reggio notions of documentation are from those often found in schools and child care settings in North America.
To use the term Reggio-inspired regarding early childhood programs is to recognize that one does not “implement” or use the approach as a “model to copy” (a modernist position that reflects an inaccurate view of reality). Rather, educators outside of Reggio explore and re-interpret—for their own contexts and through their own understandings—a number of processes for which Reggio offers useful reference points.” (np)
“Documentation as Teacher Research
Reggio educators use the term “documentation”; in the North American context, it is helpful to distinguish documentation concerned with teacher research from the myriad other forms of documentation in our society—from cash register receipts to family snapshots, from legal documents to the results of standardized testing. Educators in several English-language-dominant countries are experimenting with such documentation and with terms to adequately describe it, such as “learning story” in New Zealand and “pedagogical narration” in British Columbia in Canada (Berger, 2008). Both “learning story” and “pedagogical narration” imply a storyline or plot in a learning process, countering the notion of learning as a transmission to the learner for testing. In this article, the term pedagogical documentation, introduced by Dahlberg, Moss, and Pence (1999), is used in order to differentiate a form of documentation that attempts to “make learning visible.” The term keeps intact the notion of the educator’s study of learning in order to figure out how to teach. Pedagogical documentation is treated here simultaneously as teacher research into children’s thoughts and feelings and as a design process for invention of curriculum in a specific context.” (np)
I won’t quote the whole article – you can read it online where it was published…
Ref: Carol Anne Wien York University with Victoria Guyevskey & Noula Berdoussis (2011) Learning to Document in Reggio-inspired Education in ECRP (Early Childhood Research & Practice) 13(2) online journal