Using the Reggio Exhibit to Enrich Teacher Candidates' Perceptions of How Children Construct and Represent Knowledge

From Section:
Instruction in Teacher Training
Jul. 30, 2010

Source: Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, Volume 31, Issue 3, 2010, P. 222 – 231. (Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this study was to qualitatively analyze changes in teacher candidates' perceptions about how children construct and represent knowledge following repeated visits to “The Wonder of Learning: the Hundred Languages of Children” exhibit.

When the renowned exhibit from Reggio Emilia was housed on the study participants' campus for 6 months, a unique opportunity was afforded area educators and future teachers interested in gaining a deeper appreciation of the many facets of this exhibit.

The authors used qualitative narrative response analysis to focus on the ways in which early childhood teacher candidates' perceptions related to children's construction and representation of knowledge changed following repeated visits to " the Hundred Languages of Children” exhibit.

Four sets of narrative responses, in the form of one-minute papers, were used to collect data. Over the course of 16-week semester, four responses were written in reply to three prompts. Student responses were read and analyzed by both researchers for emergent themes and patterns using a constant comparative method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967).

The participants in this study were 37 early childhood majors in their junior or senior year.
They were enrolled in two required courses taught by the researchers: 14 students were enrolled to the course Cognitive Development of Young Children and 23 students were enrolled to the course Integrated Curriculum and Creative Expressions for Early Childhood. The participant group was comprised entirely of females and largely made up of European Americans, while a small number of students were Native American and even fewer were African American.
Many participants were considerably older than traditional college students and had additional responsibilities such as spouses, children, and full-or-part-time jobs.

Results indicated a notable expansion of teacher candidates' understanding of the multiple ways children can express and make visible their learning.


A direct result of the exhibit, the authors have found new opportunities to stress the importance of being adventurous when representing one's learning and advocate for the inclusion of forms of representation such as poetry and constructions. When implementing the Project Approach (Helm & Katz, 2001), students are urged to provide multiple opportunities for children to represent their understanding. During field trips to Reggio-inspired school, teacher candidates list the various ways children represent their evolving comprehension of phenomena.

Closing Thoughts

On the one hand, the powerful message inherent in "the Hundred Languages of Children” exhibit was clearly received, given the changes that took place in many of the teacher candidates' perceptions about how children represent what they know and learn.
On the other hand, some teacher candidates simply considered the exhibit interesting at best, unaware of the unique opportunity afforded them. The "Hundred Languages of Children” exhibit continues to travel, leaving a growing cadre of educators who are inspired into action.

Glaser, B.G. & Strauss A.L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Chicago, IL: Aldine.
Helm, J. H. & Katz, L. (2001). Young investigators: The project approach in the early years. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Updated: Jan. 17, 2017
Concept formation | Early childhood education | Preservice teachers | Reflection | Student teacher attitudes | Students' evaluation