Friday, August 02, 2013

Comparing Educational Philosophies: Montessori and Reggio Emilia

namc montessori comparing montessori and reggio

In our final blog of the series that compares Montessori with other educational methods, we examine the Reggio Emilia method. The method was created after World War II, when the parents of the town of Reggio Emilia wanted something different for their children than the state-run education system. The method was established by local teacher Loris Malaguzzi and actually attributes its educational foundation to Maria Montessori. In fact, of the three methods we have examined — Waldorf, Charlotte Mason, and Reggio Emilia – Reggio, as it is called, is mostly closely aligned with the Montessori method and philosophy.

The Montessori Method and Reggio Emilia - Comparing Alternative Educational Philosophies

Both Montessori and Reggio believe children to be competent, resourceful, and independent. However, Montessori encourages individual work with built-in controls of error, leaving the child free to work without needing to constantly check with a teacher. On the other hand, Reggio focuses on collaborative small-group work where learning is supported by others. Reggio Emilia offers a social-constructivist philosophy of education, whereby students construct their own meaning within a social context and environment.

Another difference between Montessori and Reggio Emilia is observation versus documentation. Montessori teachers observe like scientists, carefully recording the work and progress of the child. These observations are intended to lead the teacher to understand what lessons or materials to present next. In contrast, Reggio’s documentation is a way of recording not only the work but the words of the child. Using everything from pencil and paper to audio and video equipment, Reggio teachers transcribe the words and interpret the work of the child, documenting both academic and social progress. Where the observations done by Montessori teachers are considered private, Reggio documentation is often carefully displayed for the community to view.

Other differences can be seen here:


  • Created for parents
  • Montessori believed in the Universal Child, or Child of the World
  • Strict developmental stages

  • Prepared environment

  • Meets the needs of the child
  • Materials designed for particular concepts
  • Teacher as link between child and environment
  • Personality formed by experience
  • Focus on autonomy and independence
  • Based on freedom
  • Observation
  • Observes to see what happens next

Malaguzzi (Reggio)

  • Created by parents
  • Malaguzzi believed children were deeply embedded in a particular culture
  • Belief that using developmental stages is limiting, even damaging to children
  • “Amiable” environment (the whole building and grounds form the environment)
  • Meets the needs of the family
  • Materials are part of the environment — natural items, art supplies, etc.
  • Teacher as co-learner
  • Personality formed by social context
  • Focus on connection between child and environment (interdependent)
  • Based on communication and relationships
  • Documentation
  • Listens to learn what happens next
namc montessori comparing montessori and reggio playing with blocks

Dr. Montessori believed that children around the world learn the same way. She created her teacher training so that her methods could be implemented regardless of the children’s geographical location. It should not matter whether you are in a Montessori classroom in Italy, the United States, or Bangladesh, it should be instantly recognizable because of Montessori’s universal design. The Reggio Emilia philosophy sees children as being products of their culture. Therefore, what works in one geographic area will not work in another, and what is learned through Reggio teacher training in one location will not necessarily work at any other school. The teachers must adapt their philosophy to the culture in which they find themselves.

Read the other two posts in this series here:

As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Friday, August 2, 2013.


  1. Thank you so much for this article. I have always been confused on how the 2 philosophies are different.

  2. Thanks heaps. This article is really helpful in comparing and contrasting the two approaches.


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