Pedagogical documentation in the Reggio Emilia education project: values, quality and community in early childhood setting

Stefania Giamminuti

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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[Truncated abstract] This study engages with questions of quality, values and relationships in early childhood education and starts from the premise of infant-toddler centres and schools being places of culture, in dialogue with the surrounding cultural context. The study investigates the question of how infant-toddler centres and schools become places of culture and how they develop relationships with the surrounding culture. Quality is viewed as a process of "meaning-making" in mutual communities of learners, and pedagogical documentation is considered a tool for meaning making. Pedagogical documentation is a process of making learning visible; this thesis engages with the potential of documentation to make values visible and build learning communities in early childhood settings internationally. The context of the qualitative, ethnographic case study is the educational project of the city of Reggio Emilia, Italy. The research framework innovatively combines perspectives of several disciplines: Educational Connoisseurship and Criticism; Social Semiotics and Semiotics of the Built Environment/ Semiotics and 3D Space; and "Ways of Knowing, Being, and Doing". In an effort to honour the voices of all participants in the Reggio Emilia educational project, participants in the study include educators, families, and children that were part of the learning communities of Arcobaleno Infant-toddler Centre and Pablo Neruda School at the time of the case study in 2006. Data collection methods include: extended direct observation and participant observation which is recorded through observation notes and photographs; both focus-group and individual open-ended interviews with educators, children, and families; numerous informal conversations with educators, children and families; internal school documents; documentation such as wall panels, school publications, in-progress documentation folders in the classrooms, presentations to families, educator notes; physical artefacts such as children’s work; archives in schools and in the Centre for Documentation and Educational Research in Reggio Emilia. The case study is presented through themes which have emerged through data collection and analysis: "distillations of what has been encountered" which give sense and meaning to experience and organize that meaning for readers to gain a sense of the "pervasive qualities" of the case. Martin (2003) defines a thematic analysis as endeavouring "to uncover the perceptions, relationships, activities, strategies, and processes as these relate to the research questions" (p. 213) . Rich description within an artistic approach to research is an identifying feature of the analysis and case study narrative. Themes emerging from the case study in Reggio Emilia are conceptualised as Interdependent Values and include: Rich Normality: The Extraordinary in the Ordinary; Narrative; Memory; Locality; Identity/Relationship; Transparency/Democracy; Language; Beauty/Aesthetics...
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
  • Chapman, Anne, Supervisor
  • Fletcher, Janet, Supervisor
  • O'Neill, Marnie, Supervisor
  • Cadwell, Louise, Supervisor, External person
Publication statusUnpublished - 2009


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