The 'Atelier' is a concept central to Reggio pedagogy. It is a learning space. A place of research, invention and empathy expressed through a number of symbolic languages. A shared environment, in which students engage with varied materials in ways designed to provoke creativity and discovery. The provocations usually take the form of project based learning experiences or play based learning experiences. They are closely linked to classroom learning and curricular outcomes within any number of key learning areas, pastoral care or education support services.
The Role of Atelierista
The 'Atelierista' is an individual with a background in education and creative arts. He or she works directly with classroom teachers, and also simultaneously with teachers and students, devising and facilitating learning experiences that compliment classroom curricular learning. Central to the role of Atelierista is ongoing documentation of student learning and communication of that data in different forms for both the professional benefit of teachers and the relational benefit of the wider school community.
How it Works in Practice
To better understand the relationship between the Atelierista, classroom teachers, and students, consider the following example of a day in the life of a Primary School Atelierista (adapted from this interview with EY Atelierista Lella Gandini):
- In the morning the Atelierista visits classrooms to talk briefly with teachers about what to anticipate in terms of student learning. During this time teachers may also arrange to talk in more detail about larger projects and possible lines of direction.
- A morning session in the Atelier will see a class visit. Students will engage with a learning experience that links to their curricular learning in one or across key learning areas. This may be the start of a large learning project, continued work along an existing line of direction or an opportunity for play based exploration. These sessions will involve a variety of mediums and materials to allow students to express and experience their learning in varied ways.
- During these sessions the Atelierista will document communication from and among students, to discover threads of interest, develop an understanding of individual students and to ensure future direction is in line with student voice.
- Before the morning is over the Atelierista will visit classrooms of particular interest where large projects are underway to document and discuss their ongoing development with teachers and students.
- An afternoon learning session with another classroom group will then be followed by time spent collating collected documentation and producing outward facing documentation.
- Some time will also be spent setting up learning spaces with provocations that echo the interests of the students and the anticipated learning that will be happening in the classroom.
This structure provides students with an active and participatory mode of learning in a purposeful environment that motivates them to express creativity and develop skills in research, design and reflection.
It provides educators with ongoing data relevant to a critical understanding of individual students, learning processes and the effectiveness of teaching methods.
By connecting ideas, students and teachers across age groups and subject areas, this approach realises a more dynamic and interconnected learning environment. Teachers become aware of links to learning in other disciplines, benefit from engaging reflections of learning through intentionally produced documentation and offer their students varied ways to engage with content.
This last point is especially important. The Atelier represents a place where students engage with content through a variety of mediums and materials. Whatever the language in which a student is comfortable expressing themselves, they will find a rich vocabulary of learning in the Atelier.