Date of Award

12-2007

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Advisor

Stegelin, Dolores

Committee Member

Rosenblith , Suzanne

Committee Member

Everett , Gail

Committee Member

Edmondson , Elizabeth

Abstract

Growing numbers of U.S. educators are traveling to the northern Italian town of Reggio Emilia to study the innovative, arts-based approach to early education developed in the town's municipal infant-toddler and pre-primary programs now commonly referred to as the Reggio Emilia Approach. And though there is no way of knowing exactly how many educators and early childhood programs across the U.S. are currently making use of the approach, increasing numbers of U.S. colleges and universities are including the approach in both their ECE teacher preparation as well as campus child development programs, suggesting the Reggio Emilia Approach (REA) is diffusing into mainstream American early education.
A concurrent mixed methods study was used to examine and describe the diffusion of REA among early childhood teacher educators in one southern state relatively late in including the approach in its ECE teacher preparation programs. Data was collected using a Web-based survey and semi-structured interviews and was framed in Rogers' (2003) model of Diffusion of Innovation's theory. Fifty-one early childhood teacher educators in 2- and 4-year post-secondary institutions in the state participated in the survey and eight educators provided interviews.
Adopter distribution frequencies showed a slow but increasing rate of implementation or adoption of the approach in the state's ECE professional preparation programs in both 2- and 4-year institutions, with almost all (90%) survey participants reporting they had knowledge of the approach and about 60% of participants reporting they adopted REA or provided explicit instruction about the principles and practices of REA in their ECE courses. REA was predominantly described as a curriculum model, included in ECE curriculum courses, and presented to students through formal lectures, textbook reading assignments, and class discussions. Qualitative findings showed participants who stated they were nonadopters or did not did not implement REA in their courses, included at least some information about REA in their courses even though nonadopters also reported having the least amount of knowledge about the approach, suggesting some prospective early childhood educators may be getting little or misinformation about REA in their teacher preparation programs.
Further, chi-square tests of independence showed two professional development experiences, namely attending conferences about REA and taking tours of REA programs, were each significant in influencing participants' decisions to adopt the approach for use in their work. Also investigated were participants' perceptions of the approach as suggested by diffusion of innovations theory (Rogers, 2003). Participants perceived potential advantages as well as high costs were associated with implementing the approach in both teacher education and early education programs. They also perceived REA as highly incompatible with the current structure and direction of education in the state and that the approach was complex, difficult to understand, and difficult to observe because too few REA programs exist in the state.

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