Staff Development in Reggio Emilia
by Carlina Rinaldi

In schools like ours in Reggio Emilia, which consider relationships and interaction as the nuclei of the education of young children and propose research as a permanent learning strategy for both children and adults, we must ask ourselves: What new meanings does the term Staff Development take on? This term, like many others, must be redefined to distinguish it from old stereotypes that derive from pedagogical practices dating back to old courses of study. These courses, in spite of their various differences, often attempted to pour ideas into teachers, to shape them, so that they could in turn shape the children according to prespecified objectives. In this way, everything seemed clear-cut, clean, predictable, and prepackaged. The results were guaranteed or at least they were thought to be. But this method had little to do with research, reflection, observation, documentation, doubt, uncertainty, or true education. Above all, it didn't consider the most important aspect of education, the child, as much as we believe it should.

Good staff development is not something that is undertaken every now and then, reflecting only on the words of someone else. Instead, it is a vital and daily aspect of our work, of our personal and professional identities. Staff development is seen above all as change, as renewal, and as an indispensable vehicle by which to make stronger the quality of our INTERACTION with children and among ourselves.

Staff development then becomes seen as a right of each individual teacher and of all teachers within the school. In fact, it is the right of every individual within a group and of the group as a whole working together.

To be in a group creates a new collegial dimension in the school. This colleagueship of teachers as a cohesive unit creates a new subject, a new protagonist and, as a unit, has a right to particular working conditions: the right to think, to plan, to work, and to interpret together. In fact, a new concept of didactic freedom emerges as the right to discuss and challenge ideas, to have an interactive collegial relationship.

The group is not characterized simply by the sum of individual thoughts of individual people or as a game between minority and majority thinking. Instead, it is a new way of thinking, it is a co-construction together towards a common interpretation of educational goals. Each teacher, therefore, has individual rights, but also rights pertaining to the group. The most important right is to be able to work closely with children, colleagues, and parents on the practical and organizational level.

In our view, staff development as both an individual and a group right assumes the following dimensions.

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