What is Waldorf/Steiner Method?
Waldorf Education is also known as Steiner Education, founded by Rudolf Steiner who was an Austrian spiritual-scientist and philosopher in the early 20th century. His philosophy is that a child embodies three parts; spirit, soul and body and there are three stages of educational development: early childhood, elementary and secondary, each stage last approximately seven years. This holistic approach that is integrated into the child’s daily life is intended to develop a child’s intellectual, artistic, practical skills with a focus of using imagination and creativity for means for the child to learn.
Since the death of Steiner in 1925, this method has had a steady growth and spread throughout the world due to his extensive works, lectures, and demonstrations. Over his 40 years of teaching, he created and educated a teaching called ‘Anthroposopy” or path of inner development or spiritual research. This method identifies each child as an individual by supplying a pathway for the child to find personal progression and spiritual freedom. There is not a subject matter Steiner did not touch from art, science, maths, literature, politics, music, no subject was excluded.
This method is open to all children from different academic levels, classes, ethnicity, or religious backgrounds and creates a love for learning for the child using creativity and artistic thinking. When it comes to assessing or evaluating the child, it is discouraged as there’s a belief that it’s not accurate reflection on the child’s academic knowledge or aptitude to learn. Waldorf/Steiner method is not aligned with specific religion, only that there is a spiritual dimension to humans and to all life around us. Children are taught all different world cultures and religions, so they gain a personal development in understanding their spiritual freedom.
As Steiner considered cognitive, emotional, and behavioural development to be interlinked so when children are grouped together in their learning it is not by academic abilities. Steiner used the four temperaments to suggest how a child should be grouped into their learning: melancholic, sanguine (take things lightly), phlegmatic (calm), and risk takers. Educators should differentiate between the children’s temperaments so that a classroom has a positive environment for all children to allow better learning for all. Today educators used these temperaments to design instruction for each child, seating arrangements and class activities.
This is the stage the child’s learning is focused on experimenting and imaginative play. The main goal is to “imbue the child with a sense that the world is good”. Regular daily learning for the child consists of free play, artistic work, song, games, stories, outdoor time, cooking, cleaning, gardening, pretend/role play and music. Rhythm and repetitive patterns are considered important as believed to hold spiritual meaning. The use of natural woods, fibres and materials in a child’s tools or toys should be used as it gives the importance of nature to the child. Therefore, handmade dolls made from wool rather than plastics or manufactured fibres, wooden cars opposed to metal etc. Seasonal festivals and holidays from local cultural backgrounds are included in the child’s learning to bring a sense of community. Media and electronic devices are discouraged due to the belief these conflict with young children’s development needs as media may been seen to hold unwelcomed content to hamper the child’s imagination.
This is the period when a child should be considered ready to read or a formal time to teach. Reading and writing or other subjects don’t happen until this stage around the age of 7 years old. Belief is that engaging a child in intellectual activities prior to this stage can have an adverse effect on their development or creativity.
This stage is when emphasise is on cultivating emotional life and imagination. So, to connect these, subjects are taught through artist works including storytelling, visual arts, drama, movement, music and craft. Core curriculum is language arts, mythology, history, geography, algebra, geometry, mineralogy, biology, astronomy, physic, chemistry, and nutrition.
Typical days starts with a 1 ½ to 2-hour academic lesson (main lesson) that focuses on one topic that is taught over one month. For subject matter to connect more deeply it is presented through artistic forms etc, drama, song, craft. The educator’s role is to support this through role modelling, through stories drawn through a variety of cultures in a loving creative environment.
Children enter secondary education at around the age of 14-year-old, the child will be able to learn through their own thoughts and decisions. They will be able to understand abstract learning concepts with a maturity to form conclusions using their own ideas and judgements. As the finial goal for this method is to create young adults with an ethically accountable individuals for their decisions.
There is a main 2-hour lesson that takes place each morning on one theme that will last one month, this is integrated in multiple grade levels. Curriculum is developed to run around this theme in as many different topics and activities. Over this month the child will revisit the topic in spiral learning as it will increase with difficulty which allow them to develop their skills and cognitive abilities and giving confidence at the same time. Subjects like art, music, gardening and mythology is an integral part of Waldorf education. Children will learn to sing at an early age and learn to play flutes and recorders at an early age and introduced to orchestral instruments in later years. Other subject central to this method is cooking, farming, environment and outdoor/nature lessons. In sciences the approach is inquiry-based learning aiming to reinforce the child’s interest and ability to observe. Computers are viewed as not recommended until teen age years after they have mastered the fundamental ways to learning and process information. Prior to this could damage a child’s creative and imaginative mind.