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The Reggio Emilia and Montessori provide one of the most fascinating and innovative alternatives for the traditional teaching approach. These are philosophies which are centered mainly on the environment and how it affects the learning process of many students. These extraordinary philosophies were coined by two exceptional personalities from Italy. Although Italy is not renowned for its dominance in scientific approaches and innovations, it has been on the forefront in carrying out research on early childhood education and it is by this that these two influential leaders came up with what is now been considered as an influential study and research in the world of early childhood educations. The prominent figures of Maria Montessori and Loris Malaguzzi were one of the most influential and highly innovative leaders in the 20th century.

Both the Montessori approach and Reggio Emilia are often said to provide alternatives to the traditional education model of the classroom. They have over the years been associated with the progressive education inspiration that they have offered to both the US and the world at large. However, the common fact that they seem to share some similarities in their approach in terms of philosophy and also in some sense practice most people do not seem to grasp the idea that they have any significant differences.

This essay highlights an overview, comparison and contrast of the Reggio Emilia and Montessori approach to early education. The essay also takes a look at origins of these philosophical approaches and their fundamental and foundation concepts. We shall also be highlighting what is entailed of them and some of their sharp contrasts in terms of philosophical approach and expected outcome.

Reggio Emilia

The term Reggio Emilia was coined out of a city in the northern parts of Italy. It was at this city that the vision of transforming the way education was viewed came about. The idea was hatched after the 2nd world war when parents, children and a group of volunteers cane together under the watchful eye of Loris Malaguzzi( 1920-1994) in the theme of offering hope to both the society and children alike (Edwards  and Gandini,1998).. The system was timely and the general mood at this period about a better life in education was the main driving force behind its growth and success.

Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori was an influential female personality in Italy.

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She was a renowned Italian physician and actually the first woman physician in Italy. She has been classified among the education philosophers such as Rousseau, Seguin among others whom she shared a common vision with (Edward and Pope, 2003)


Concepts of Montessori

The basic concepts behind this philosophical approach to education is mainly centered around establishing the child's independence while at the same time increasing the self confidence and self esteem at the child 's own pace. This in itself translates to the scenario where the role of the adult is transformed into that of a "guide" rather than a teacher.

Principles governing Montessori approach

One highlights of this system is the social principle that the approach entails. According to its founder the link between the family life and school is very important. It is also through this aspect that the child is advised and taught ways in which they can best become respectable members in the society. The approach seems to emphasize on the need for children to learn by doing.

One of the governing principles in this approach is the fact that the child is taught on ways in which they can independently observe and explore a variety of ideas and question some principles if he is not satisfied. The process mainly has the niche of trying to awaken the child's spirit and imagination and in the process increasing the child's self esteem as well as encouraging the child to gain a sense of independence.

The child also has the duty of learning the various aspects of life such as courtesy, good manners and discipline in order to fit in the society. One of the main advantages of this type of approach is the fact that those kids who have special features such as gifts or needs often perform well in this setup.

One of the greatly emphasized points in the Montessori approach is the environmental factor. Montessori holds the environment with great regard. The appeal and look of the environment is greatly enhanced so as to increase the child's interest in learning. The environment is set up in way that the child is given an array of options in what interests them the most. The children are given a sense of owning the environment and this evokes them not to be afraid of trying new things.

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Most of those who find favor in this setup often attribute the sense of environmental ownership to the responsibility that the kids have on taking care of it. Many of those who are involved in managing this type of approach say that the kids find it not only responsible to clean the environments they learn in but also fun. The principle in one way or another greatly enhances the sense of co-operation as opposed to competition which is a key factor in determining the kid's advancement in school (Edwards and Gandini, 1998).

Concepts of Reggio Emilia

This approach has over the years received wide acclamations for its exemplary results which it helps bring about on the life of a child. The system is centered on assisting the child to develop exceptionally strong skills in thinking through the surrounding environment. This system seems to entail the need to enhance the child's thinking capability mainly through creating learning environments that ensure the child develops exceptional thinking skills. This is mainly achieved by exposing the child to learning experiences that enhance their thinking capabilities (Roopnarine and Johnson, 1993).

Principles behind Reggio Emilia

The philosophical approach guiding this type of thinking is mainly derived from four guiding principles that are jointly employed so as to meet certain stipulated objectives.

One of the major governing principles behind this approach is the development of an emergent curriculum. This involves the careful selection of topics for study which the children will be interested in. teachers have the task of observing and deciding the type of topics that most fascinates the children then using this as a way in which they can best decide on how to involve the community as a large as a basis for educating the child.

Another major principle entailed in this approach is use of projects. It involves in depth analysis and study of various concepts and ideas that are of interest to the child. The gist of this principle is to make the projects interesting to the kids and they mainly view them as "adventures" which are more fun than class work (Evans, 1971). Teachers in this case take the role of advisors and they are tasked with providing directions on how the research should proceed in terms of directions and results obtained.

Another form of guiding principle is using representational developments to enhance the child's thinking capabilities. This involves coming up with ideas that are diverse in nature in order to give the child an array of choices in which they can grasp the different concepts entailed in the curriculum.

The fourth principle that is used is that of collaboration. This encourages the use of groups no matter the size to solve various problems. The methods used by the groups may vary from using dialogue to comparisons and at even times using negotiations. This type of principles mainly tries to use the kids interpersonal and communication skills in order to learn what they are best in. it is often emphasized that the thoughts and ideas of each child be taken into consideration. This goes a long way in assisting the children to have diverse thinking capabilities rather than thinking in certain ways.

According to the Reggio Emilio philosophical approach, teachers often act as researchers in the class setup. The notion of being an adult is done away with and the teacher has the task of learning alongside the child. The teacher also has the task of acting as the resource in the learning experiences of the child and in some way they can be viewed as a catalyst to enhance the thinking capabilities of the child. The teacher's role is dynamic and this is greatly emphasized since various children think differently and so the teacher must always be very observant and decide the best way the child can learn.

On her principles, Reggio Maria greatly entails the need to put these observations into recordings for both the students and children in order to plan effectively how and what needs to be done for the child to improve their education. The teaching setup according to this philosophical approach is usually referred to as being the "third teacher" and so the environment in which the child is learning in has to be very accommodative for all their individual needs (Evans, 1971).

Similarities between the two approaches

One of the striking similarities between the Reggio Emilia and the Montessori approach is their need to transform the way education is viewed and also provide an alternative to the traditional classroom approach. Both of these philosophical approaches tend to give the child the upper hand and thus the child is the centre of focus in determining the end results.


Another similarity that is clearly highlighted by these two philosophical approaches is the fact that both of them view the effects of the environment as a major player in the development of the child. Although the principles that govern the two types of approaches may be different, the results that are likely to be obtained are practically the same.

Both the Reggio Emilia and Montessori theories greatly emphasize on the need of teachers not to impose the learning experience on the kids but rather to let the learning experience grow on them. The teacher may have an upper hand in making key decision but both these approaches tend to give the kids the impressions that what they are doing are their own ideas rather than the teachers.

Differences between the Reggio Emilia and Montessori

One of the clearly visible differences between these two approaches is the concepts behind the principles involved. Although the Montessori way of thinking was well after half a century after Reggio Emilia's great works, sharp contrasts emerge through the principles used. The Reggio Emilia's concept is hailed as being one of the perfect models. This is because it analyzes carefully the needs of the child and through giving the child a variety of options the thinking capacity is greatly enhanced. 

One of the highlights of the Reggio Emilia approach is its ability to produce exceptional results no matter the type of child involved unlike the Montessori approach which have varying results. The Montessori approach gives desired exceptional results mainly on kids who either have special talents or those who have slow thinking capabilities.


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