Reggio Emilia vs Montessori
Choosing your child’s preschool and early learning centre is a big decision and it’s important you have all the information you need to make the right choice. If you’re on this page, chances are you’ve narrowed it down to centres using either the Reggio Emilia or Montessori approaches.
Both approaches are similar in that they’re child-centric and nurturing but different in terms of the methodologies used. So, in this blog we’re going to break down the differences for you.
Following WW2, Europe was in shambles. So in 1945, a teacher by the name of Lori Malaguzzi collaborated with local parents in Reggio Emilia (a city in Northern Italy) to develop a new form of childcare. Essentially, this generation of children were born into war and their lives needed to be enriched whilst being taught to be responsible and respectful citizens. At the same time, parents needed assistance as they were re-entering the workforce. This is what gave birth to Reggio Emilia.
The Montessori method was also founded in Italy by Dr Maria Montsessori. In 1907 she opened her first school in Rome where she was a proponent of the idea that children absorb knowledge from their surroundings and are capable of self-directing their education through exploration.
Both approaches seek to educate the child by providing the right environment and community. Below, we’ll look at the differences between the two by looking at:
- Self-Directed Child Experience
- Classroom Design
- Learning Tools
The Role of the Child and Teachers
In the Reggio Emilia approach, the children are the centre of their own learning and the initiators of the learning process. As a result, they’re viewed as an active component of their learning and do not follow a strict curriculum. Teachers are thus seen as partners and guides who help children explore their interests and learn.
With Montessori, on the other hand, children play a less active role in their learning and are subject to a general curriculum which revolves around math, language, practical skills, geography, cultural studies, science and music. As a result of the curriculum, teachers play a director role when it comes to education.
Self Directed Learning and Collaboration
Both approaches utilize the child’s senses to explore and direct their educational experience.
Montessori children and provided the freedom to select from pre-prepared activities, work independently and employ movement. The extended periods and independence allow children to set their own pace and decide when to break, snack or play. Because of the independent work, you’ll find that children also have individual areas and are thus required to move between different spaces for different activities.
Under Reggio Emilia, teachers plan the lessons but adapt in real time. This is a luxury afforded to the philosophy due to the lack of a curriculum. Because of the focus on collaboration, classroom learning and projects are typically completed as a group. Similarly, this collaboration is also seen between the teacher and student where children are encouraged to steer towards learning and about whatever piques their interest.
In Reggio Emilia schools, classrooms are a key component of the child’s learning as the child’s environment is seen as the third teacher. Teachers set up spaces for different projects and sized groups of children. Because of the focus on hands-on exploration, teachers pay close attention to details such as textures and colours to inspire a child’s interest. Documentation is also a huge part of Reggio Emilia and is displayed around the classroom. This portfolio of artwork, writing and objects helps inspire the children and help them understand that their work is of importance.
Montessori classrooms are structured similarly with specific materials and spaces setup by teachers to accommodate the different choices for children. There are no desks but only tables and the floor with all furniture appropriately sized for children (just like Reggio Emilia). The key difference in design is that Reggio Emilia schools are focused more on fostering collaboration and community so you’re more likely to find private stations for children at a Montessori school.
Another key aspect is how children of different ages are integrated. Reggio Emilia classrooms are grouped traditionally based on age with teachers taking on groups for one year. For Montessori, however, different age groups are grouped together (for example, three, four and five year olds will be in one classroom together).
In Montessori classrooms, children use tools that are self-corrective. In other words, if a child attempts a puzzle but fails, they’re able to try again and correct the mistake. These tools are designed specifically for Montessori schools and cannot be found elsewhere.
In contrast, because Reggio Emilia children learn from their environment, the classroom is built to be an extension of their world and thus its complexity is meant to reflect the culture in which the children actually live.
Both approaches do not utilize formal assessments to grade and test children. Instead, it’s through documentation and portfolio building that a child’s progress is used to observe rates of success, development and participation.
So to summarise the above:
- Both approaches come from taly
- Both promote self-guided learning
- Reggio Emilia focuses more on collaborative learning whereas Montessori focuses on independent learning
- Reggio Emilia classrooms are more flexible and open-ended whereas Montessori areas are more structured
- Reggio Emilia teachers are seen as partners and guides whereas Montessori teachers are seen as directors
- Reggio Emilia groups children by traditional age ranges whereas Montessori groups multiple ages together
Choosing between the two approaches is no easy feat. To help you make a decision, feel free to give us a call on 02 9891 2222 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more or book a tour. We have centres in Parramatta, Pagewood, Dee Why and Tempe (2021) where you can learn more about our centres and get a first-hand look.