Observation and documentation, OR… User Research
When the school year begins in a Reggio Emilia inspired classroom, teachers are buzzing with curiosities about their children. To an extent, baseline assumptions have already been made, naturally, in the way that the teacher has designed and stocked their classroom. Assumptions that children of this age can use these materials, assumptions that children of this age enjoy these experiences, etc.
But for the most part, the teacher has left enough of the design open-ended so that the children can leave their own impression on the space, take from it what they need to further their goals of experimenting, learning, growing, and playing (This is the work of children, after all). Knowing this delicate line between just enough intentionality/control, and open-endedness, is a tough job, but one that comes naturally to passionate teachers.
I find parallels in this balancing act to the way designers say good UX Design is invisible. When your classroom is designed well, intentional but also open-ended, the children do not need rigorous supervision, discipline, and to be “taught” (in a traditional sense) — the learning happens seamlessly as they manipulate and interact with their environment and their peers.
The real fun begins once the children are in their classroom for a few weeks or months, and teachers are able to observe how children use their space and things. Teachers collect data on their observations of the children: notes, quotes, photos, videos, and artifacts in the form of the children’s creations.
This is the data that accumulates in the process of research as a Reggio teacher.
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