Children’s views of the learning environment: a study exploring the Reggio Emilia principle of the environment as the third teacher
Master of Education
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The purpose of this research study was to explore the concept of the environment as the third teacher and how students in a Reggio Emilia inspired school view their classroom and its ability to help them learn. The research design chosen for this study was a qualitative phenomenological approach and was chosen to give power to the participant’s voice—namely the child. The participants in the study were sixteen students from a senior kindergarten classroom. Data were collected using observational field notes, photo elicitation, and photo interviewing analysis with the children. The children served as both researchers and participants in this study as they selected what is deemed valuable and necessary in the environment to help them learn. Data analysis was done using inductive reasoning through photo interviewing analysis in small focus groups. After careful analysis of the research data, it is evident that the children in this study perceive that their environment helps them learn and therefore acts as a third teacher in the classroom. Twenty of the 85 photographs in the study were taken in the math center, this tells us that there was a strong association with the group that the math center helps them to learn followed by 15 of the photos taken of the communication and building centers, 11 of the art center, 10 of the light and lastly 6 of the drama center. The remaining 8 photos were taken of other areas of the room that did not fit into the pre-existing centers and include: the nature center, the resting center, the office, and reading. The children described that within the centers they were able to learn by using the materials provided, engaging in imaginative or pretend play, making real-life connections, communicating with their peers, and by exploring the documentation on the walls of their classroom.