Teacher as Researcher, a concept found within the preschool-based philosophy of Reggio Emilia, explores the idea that we, as teachers, play a crucial role in understanding our students and designing meaningful learning experiences that reflect their needs and interests.
The teacher’s role within the Reggio Emilia approach is to be first and foremost a learner alongside the children. We are co-researchers and guides whose primary responsibilities are to carefully observe our students, listen to their questions and their stories, scaffold their learning, find what interests them and then provide them with meaningful opportunities to explore these interests further. In the corresponding photo of a classroom at our Infant Toddler Center, children expand their recent study of rocks by making predictions about what they will observe when they break open a geode.
How do young children learn? From navigating social dynamics, to constructing letter knowledge, to delving into the history of our country, children look to their teachers not only for guidance, but to respond to their unique needs as individual learners. This is our responsibility.
As we continue in our own pursuit of knowledge as educators and researchers, we wish not only to accompany our students on their educational journey, but also seek to hone our craft; learning ever more about the ways in which children acquire information and understand their world. At the Preschool, this often means getting down on the floor with students and following their lines of thought as they construct knowledge of the world around them.
As children age into our Lower School program, our goal is twofold – to truly understand our students as unique individuals, full of tremendous social and academic potential and secondly, to recognize the vastly changing landscape of education and the ever-evolving demands of the global world. We strive to prepare our students for this world, equipped with the skills and talent to enter a global playing field with confidence, resilience, and compassion – part of Northside’s Core Values. Thus, as educators, we are really researchers, forever engaged in a process of inquiry that calls upon us to best understand the individual child, their learning strengths and needs, their passions, interests, and ideas.
Simultaneously, it requires of us a deep understanding of academic standards across all subjects so that we may carefully design the learning experience in a manner that produces academic success, tapping into each child’s potential. In the childhood and middle school years our pedagogical practices are greatly informed by various philosophies, such as constructivism, balanced literacy, project-based learning, and growth-mindset, as well as by thought-leading organizations – The Reading and Writing Project of Teachers College, Teaching Tolerance-Diversity, Equity, and Justice, The Framework for 21st Century Learning, Common Sense Media, and so many more. As Teacher as Researcher, we strive to inform our pedagogy with the best and most relevant theories that guide us to design a learning environment that is challenging, exciting, and a place that engages and invests students in their own learning.