‘Children learning to live together in a diverse community: Culturally Responsive Pedagogy in Reggio Emilia Inspired Early Learning Settings’ research project

In May 2018, The South Australian Collaborative Childhood Project accepted the proposal by Professor Lester- Irabinna Rigney to undertake a research project that would examine how educators enact culturally responsive pedagogy in South Australian early learning settings, engaging the Reggio Emilia educational principles within their local context. The research project brings together dedicated early learning services and will develop an Australian theory for early childhood culturally responsive pedagogy that draws on International and Australian Indigenous Studies, Reggio Emilia Studies, New Pedagogy Studies, and new empirical work in education settings.

The research is led by Professor Lester-Irabinna Rigney and his research team from the University of South Australia.

In pursuing this research project, the research project will:

  • establish and sustain a collaborative research community across a cluster of early learning settings to produce new professional and scholarly knowledge about culturally responsive pedagogical practice imbued with Reggio Emilia educational principles
  • review the archive of educational research in settler colonial countries for rationales, theories, and descriptions of practice, for culturally responsive pedagogy
  • analyse Australian federal and state policy texts in the area of Indigenous schooling, particularly in the early years, to ascertain how problems are named and how solutions are proposed
  • develop an augmented approach to action research that brings together data sets from classroom action research over 1.5 years, with data about structures and service culture in various early learning settings
  • advance descriptions and theorisations of an Australian culturally responsive pedagogy in early learning settings that are aligned with the Reggio Emilia educational principles in order to inform teacher education, site-based professional development, and education and Indigenous policy in different Australian jurisdictions.

Professor Lester-Irabinna Rigney is a research fellow at Kings College, London and a Professor of Education in the Centre for Research in Educational and Social Inclusion, University of South Australia. One of Australia’s most respected Aboriginal educationalists, Professor Rigney is a descendant of the Narungga, Kaurna and Ngarrindjeri peoples of South Australia. He is an expert on Aboriginal Minority Education and over the past decade has been a member of several high profile expert committees.


‘The Language of Taste: Halifax Street Children’s Centre and Preschool, The Foundation Reggio Children – Centro Loris Malaguzzi and PAUSE – Atelier Dei Sapori’ research project

During the Scientific Committee meeting held in November 2017, Halifax Street Children’s Centre and Preschool were identified by the committee as a quality South Australian model that showcased institutional food practices influenced by the Reggio Emilia educational principles. The committee proposed a research project to commence in 2018 between The Foundation Reggio Children – Centro Loris Malaguzzi, Halifax Street Children’s Centre and Preschool and PAUSE – Atelier Dei Sapori which would focus on the rights of children from birth to age 5, food practices, participation and building connections between home cultures and institutional practices.

The research project will include:

  • The creation of a professional learning community involving teachers and kitchen staff of the Halifax Street Children’s Centre and PAUSE – Atelier Dei Sapori at the Loris Malaguzzi International Center (permanent research laboratory on food for the Foundation) in collaboration with Pantarei schools, through face-to-face meetings, online collaboration, sharing of documentation and regular meetings on Skype.
  • A report of the project’s findings, outcomes and recommendations will identify the coherence between the Reggio Emilia education principles, the National Quality Standard and the Early Years Learning Framework. The report will be published by The South Australian Collaborative Childhood Project and offered to the state, the Foundation Reggio Children – Centro Loris Malaguzzi and the City of Reggio Emilia.


‘Investigating the Reconceptualising of Early Childhood Education in South Australia’ research project

Led by the University of South Australia, this research project aligns with the South Australian Priority: Every Chance for Every Child – to improve the quality of our children’s formative experiences.

Research suggests that educators’ capacity to enact change is often confined to their own teaching spaces (Sisson, 2016). If South Australia is to be recognised as an innovative state in the area of early childhood it is essential to investigate strategies being used to realise Professor Carla Rinaldis’ recommendations within the broader context and the experiences of those impacted by this re-imagined and reconceptualised practice.

The research project is based on generating new knowledge that will serve to inform policy and practice in early childhood education in South Australia through an informed and thoughtful research plan. It will draw on cultural models theory (Holland et al., 1998) to understand how cultural influences come together to shape policy, practice and experience in reconceptualising early childhood education in South Australia across the state’s three education sectors (State, Catholic and Independent).

The An Investigation of the Re-imagining of Early Childhood Education in South Australia report is now available to download.

The South Australian Collaborative Childhood Project congratulates Dr Jamie Sisson, Associate Professor Victoria Whitington and Ms Anne-Marie Shin from the University of South Australia along with all who participated in this project. 

Related Research

Download a copy of the ‘Re-imagining Childhood: The inspiration of Reggio Emilia education principles in South Australia’ report