What do the LPA and Reggio Emilia Have in Common?

Earlier this year, I decided to take a big leap of faith by changing careers. Transitioning out of the classroom was an exciting experience filled with all sorts of feelings. I was extremely excited, curious and intrigued to explore all of the opportunities that awaited me in the wider world of education. But I was also experiencing another feeling: anxiety! Now that I would no longer be working in a school, I was scared to miss out on so many things: working with children, brainstorming with colleagues, professional learning opportunities..the list went on. Learning Pioneers helped me vanquish these fears. As soon as I joined the community, I found myself connected to a global community of empowered educators committed to lifelong learning. It was everything I could have hoped for and more!

When I first heard about the Learning Power Approach, which is a key learning focus in Learning Pioneers, however, I was perplexed in every sense of the word. My mind was racing with all types of thoughts

  • What were these “Design Principles” that everyone kept referring to during Masterminds? 
  • What was the Learning Pit and did I need to be wary of it? 
  • What in the world was “Learnish”?...and why couldn’t I find it on DuoLingo? 
  • What was psychological safety, where was this Learning River and who in the world was Guy Claxton?!

Fast forward a few months later and I’m happy to report that all of my questions have been answered. After reading “Powering Up Children” and helping to build LP’s new #guyondemand space, I am up to speed with the LPA and I have found myself rapidly becoming Guy Claxton’s #1 fan. Along the way, I was also lucky enough to make an enchanting discovery: there are other pedagogical approaches that share a number of fundamental similarities with the LPA…. and I happened to be quite well-acquainted with one of them!

The Reggio Emilia Approach

I was first introduced to the Reggio Emilia approach back in 2016 when I started working at a Reggio-inspired international school. Set against the backdrop of a diverse, international context, our school’s rendition of the Reggio approach was  implemented in a very unique and thoughtful manner. My experience at this school was unforgettable and I am forever grateful for the knowledge I gained and the rich relationships I was able to build during my time there. It was the perfect launching point for my journey as an educator committed to powerful learning.

As I continue to immerse myself deeper and deeper into the Learning Power Approach, I am constantly making connections to my own experiences both inside and outside the classroom. I also find myself often drawing parallels between the LPA and the Reggio Emilia Approach. While the two have very distinct differences, they also share a number of key ideas. There are a few specific connections that have caused me to stretch my own learning muscles particularly strongly.

Links between the Reggio Emilia Approach and the LPA

1) Image of the Child and the Powerful Learner

“A good activity starts where the children are and moves them on”

This fundamental notion from Powering Up Children is strongly echoed in Reggio. The cornerstone of the Reggio Emilia approach is the concept of the image of the child, which conceptualises all learners as:

  • competent, 
  • creative and 
  • full of potential

Empowering the student is embedded into every aspect of our teaching practice as we work to create conditions for children to express their thinking and celebrate their learning in a multitude of ways. Our ultimate job as educators is to help learners develop an image of themselves as powerful learners. We achieve this by listening carefully and facilitating meaningful opportunities that enable them to access the power within. 

(You can read more about the LPA and Empowerment in Australian practitioner, Amy Kirk’s reflections on the essence of the LPA - see here.)

2) The Third and Fourth Teachers

The Reggio approach places a strong emphasis on the role of the environment as the “third teacher”. Everything in a Reggio or Reggio-inspired environment is intentional. From the way furniture is arranged to the ways that materials are organised, curating a Reggio-inspired space is a very meticulous process. The underlying idea behind this is that aesthetics evokes creativity and wonder. While the LPA also places an emphasis on the physical environment, it goes even further by focusing on a fourth teacher, one that transcends the physical. The LPA places a very strong emphasis on the culture and atmosphere that we create in the classroom. Although these forces are technically “invisible”, the culture of an empowered classroom creates a ripple effect, supporting learners to become more independent and inquisitive, taking charge of their own learning and more willing to dig deep.

(You can check out one of our explorations from Learning Pioneers of developing the learning environment with children in this powerful YouTube clip from our interview with Kath Murdoch and Anne van Dam on "Habitats for Learning":

3) Learning Muscles

Noticing, wondering and exploring are huge parts of the Reggio Emilia approach. As a matter of fact, this is how most Project Learning Journeys (year long collective inquiries) begin. Learning Muscles are constantly being stretched and strengthened in a Reggio Emilia environment as we seek to build opportunities for learners to co-construct knowledge with one another. 

As teachers, we need to actively use our own learning muscles as we model collaboration, imagination and perseverance on a daily basis. Between setting up enticing provocations, posing intentional questions, listening to children’s ideas and documenting their experiences, the teaching and learning that occurs in a Reggio classroom are powerful social processes that never stop!

There are some great videos from Becky’s other learning community, PressPlay, on setting up provocations and being intentional with language on the PressPlay YouTube channel. Here is one of Anne van Dam talking about the difference between provocations and invitations:

Looking Forward

As I reflect upon my experience with the Reggio Emilia approach and immerse myself deeper into Learning Power, I am very keen to dive into my own personal inquiry - adult learning! Just as we empower children, we also need to empower the adults in their lives, teachers, parents and administrators alike. Everyone has a role to play in shaping cultures conducive to empowered learning. Teachers should strive to create classroom cultures that empower children to untap their full potential. Teams should support parents to engage in meaningful conversations and facilitate rich learning opportunities at home. And leadership should focus on the importance of creating cultures in which everyone is constantly keen to improve. Wouldn’t it be cool to create an education system where all of these pieces could work together synergistically? Just as we work to cultivate the image of the child, I think it’s time we also work on the image of the ADULT!

Our current inquiry in Learning Pioneers is on "Who we Aspire to be as Leaders". This inquiry is furthering all of our thoughts about how to show up consciously as lead adults.

My experience in the classroom has propelled me on a quest to support other adults as they seek to nurture their own personal and professional growth…and Learning Pioneers is the place to be! With its commitment to both personal and professional growth, educator mindfulness and making the unconscious conscious as we work to become the best versions of ourselves, I know I am in the right spot. As a Learning Pioneers Advocate, I am gaining all of the knowledge, skills, connections, support and energy I need to begin this exciting new chapter!

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Post written by:

Tara Kher

My name is Tara and I am an educator who has recently made the leap outside the classroom. For the past ten years, I have been living abroad and teaching at a Reggio Emilia-inspired international school in Bangkok, Thailand. Growing up was a very colourful experience for me that occurred in a number of different places. I have always found that it was my unique and diverse schooling experiences that were the most defining, and these are what helped set me on my journey to becoming a professional educator.


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