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Research Bulletin

The Research Bulletin is published by the Research Institute for Waldorf Education, an initiative working on behalf of the Waldorf movement, with the following aims:

  • To serve as a newsletter announcing ongoing research and related activities
  • To carry brief but substantive discussions of fundamental research issues and questions
  • To describe research projects currently underway
  • To provide for the exchange of information and views within a growing body of readers

Contact the Research Institute for subscription information.

The Online Waldorf Library offers articles from all back issues of the Research Bulletin dating from 1996 to the present in pdf format.

An index of the most recent issues can be found on the first page, an index and articles in older issues can be found by scrolling down.

Spring, 2007 Vol. 12 #2: Standing Out without Standing Alone: Profile of Waldorf School Graduates

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Rudolf Steiner did not live to celebrate the first Waldorf school students who, by the early 1930s, had received the full twelve years of Waldorf elementary and high school education, even though several high school classes had graduated from the original Stuttgart school by the time of his death in 1925. He could only imagine how the pupils of the very first grade in 1919 would fare and what they would make of their radically new education.

Since the advent of Waldorf high school education on this continent in the early 1940s, Waldorf teachers and parents have carried the question: What happens to these Waldorf school graduates after they leave high school? To date, most answers to this question have been anecdotal, at least in reference to the North American Waldorf high school movement as a whole, which in this decade has grown to a total of 37 schools. Now, a newly published survey, spanning more than 60 years of Waldorf graduates, provides a detailed picture of where Waldorf students go and what they do.1

The survey describes what Waldorf school graduates most love to study, which professions they select, what they think of their Waldorf education, and what they value as adults. The survey–– the first of its kind in North America––was conducted by the Research Institute for Waldorf Education and parallels a recent study of German and Swiss Waldorf graduates. The North American survey details the college life, job life, and personal life of Waldorf school graduates, starting with the first Waldorf school senior class in 1943 and culminating with the class of 2005.

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Spring, 2007 Vol. 12 #2: Reading in Waldorf Schools, Part III: Beginning in Sound and Form

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Children, and Lessons a Musical or Sculptural Flowforms
Warm flow, movement, and rhythmic circulation are the means by which the human spirit builds and sculpts an embryo and a growing child, washing out unneeded hardening elements. Teachers join in this awe-inspiring work of nature and spirit by meeting a child—who is made up of a much higher percentage of water than an adult—with moving, breathing lessons that embody musical flow and that shape sculptural forms. In almost all of his major lectures on education, Rudolf Steiner speaks of lively new
processes by which to teach writing and reading.1 Each time Steiner approaches the subject, he does so undogmatically and from a new angle. For me, a key to all his suggestions about method is the way in which movement magically congeals into visible form. Both of these elements, movement and form, are accompanied by sound. Steiner’s demonstration to teachers in Switzerland illuminates these three principles using two different approaches:

We must give [the child] an opportunity to give vent to this innate artistic drive by, for example, letting him run a curve (see diagram). When we draw the child’s attention to the fact that his legs have run such a curve on the floor, we lift up his will activity into a semiconscious feeling. The next step would be to ask the child to draw the curve he had run into the air, using his arm and hand. Now another form could be run on the floor, again to be “written” into the air. Thus the form that in the first instance was made by the entire body of the running child is subsequently reproduced merely by the use of his hand. The teacher asking the child to pronounce words beginning with the letter “L”could follow this. (The German word for run, laufen, begins with “L”.) Gradually, under his or her guidance, the child will find the link between the shape he has run and drawn, and the sound of the appropriate letter “L.”

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Spring, 2007 Vol. 12 #2: Living Language in Waldorf Education

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Waldorf education takes place largely through the spoken word. Is this just a low-tech approach to education or is living language called upon to carry and contribute to the process of education? The forms in which this educator—living language—enacts its role vary in the course of a school day. The nature and practice of language also need to change throughout the school years in order to support and further a developing human being in a differentiated, age-appropriate way. Involving students with living language in purposeful, specific ways also furthers and supports them in facing the challenges and overcoming the hurdles of their developmental paths.

Particularly in connection with the founding of the first Waldorf school, and throughout the early years of this educational movement for cultural renewal, Rudolf Steiner repeatedly focused on the need to foster and develop the artistic elements of speech. Michaela Glöckler points out that Rudolf Steiner’s pedagogical works contain more references to speech than to any other subject. 1

Through the artistic renewal of speech—usually referred to as speech formation, creative speech, or the art of the spoken word—we gain the possibility, out of inner activity, to enable speech to be filled with life. We discover the qualities of speech beyond its informational character alone. The more abstract speech becomes, the more human souls become separated from each other. The healing forces of process-filled speaking, speaking that carries warmth and light, allow us to be more fully present in meeting the world, each other, and ourselves.

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Spring, 2007 Vol. 12 #2: Anthroposophy and the Riddle of the Soul

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The following is an excerpt of a chapter entitled “Anthroposophy and the Riddle of the Soul” from Rudolf Steiner’s previously untranslated book, Education, Teaching, and Practical Life, edited by David Mitchell, AWSNA Publications, available in Spring 2007.

Human beings confront the riddles of existence only once we have developed a certain level of consciousness about life, when we feel the urge to formulate representations, sentiments, and feelings about their relationship with the world. But once we get there, these riddles truly represent what one might call a vital question, for they are not just the expression of theoretical longings, purely external cultural questions. Indeed, they affect our entire stance in the world, the manner in which we find our way in life, the level of inner security and steadiness with which we go through
life. Everything depends on the solution to these riddles.

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Spring, 2007 Vol. 12 #2: Playing “Steiner Says”: Twenty Myths about Waldorf Education

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Because of his role as Editor of the Research Bulletin, we wish to state that the following article represents Dr. Sagarin’s research and opinions and not necessarily those of the Research Institute.

During my first year or two of teaching, we enjoyed the presence of two eminent European Waldorf teachers at our faculty meeting. My recollection is that one came from the U.K. and one from Germany, but that doesn’t matter. One
appeared in the fall and one in the spring. The first, answering a colleague’s question, said, “You should never use tongue-twisters; they trivialize language.”1 Heads nodded. The second, also in response to a colleague’s question, replied, “Of course, the best possible thing for that is to recite tongue twisters with your class.” Heads nodded again. And there we were, back where we belonged, on our own recognizance. Two experts, two apparently contradictory points of view. Presumably, both were based on considered interpretations of Steiner’s work.

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Spring, 2007 Vol. 12 #2: Work of the Research Fellows

New Research on the Power of Play by Susan Howard
Early Childhood Educational Reform in the Past Twenty-Five Years

In 2003, Sharna Olfman, clinical psychologist and associate professor of psychology at Point Park College in Pittsburgh, published All Work and No Play…How Educational Reforms Are Harming Our Preschoolers.1 Olfman describes the dramatic reform in education and in the lives of children that has taken place in North America in recent decades: “Its guiding mantra is ‘Standards, Accountability, Testing, and Technology,’” she writes.
This wave of reform began with the publication in 1983 of “A Nation at Risk,” a report issued by President Reagan’s National Commission on Excellence. The Commission concluded that “if only to keep and improve on the slim competitive edge we still retain in world markets, we must dedicate ourselves to the reform of our educational system.”2 The U.S. embarked upon “standards based education,” including the introduction of early academic learning, mediated experiences (computer-based instruction), and high-stakes testing.

High Stakes Testing by Eugene Schwartz
The educational opportunities of millions of American children have already been compromised by high-stakes tests, and the likelihood is that, no matter who wins the next presidential election, millions more will suffer. Waldorf education, at its truest and best, has a viable alternative to present to the American mainstream, but that viability is weakened when we ourselves are uncertain about our goals and assessment methods. We must seriously consider convening a national gathering on the subject of testing with presentations from those willing to take a stand, pro or con.

Rethinking the Waldorf High School: Two European Examples by David Mitchell
Educational ideas and practices evolve as new priorities emerge. Similarly, Rudolf Steiner’s original insights concerning the education of adolescents need to be studied, restudied, and understood in regard to the spiritual and societal needs of today’s youth. In such a vein, active thoughts made manifest can be found in the Regionalen Oberstufe Jurasüdfuss (Regional High School of Jurasudfuss)1 in Switzerland and the Oslo City High School in Oslo, Norway.2

Spring, 2007 Vol.12 #2: Other Items of Interest from the Research Institute

Schools of the Future: Meeting the Needs of the Children in the New Millennium by Michael Mancini
A recent leadership council at the Harvard Graduate School of Education addressed “leading and managing the independent school of the future.” In an opening keynote address, Patrick Bassett, president of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), commented on the emerging 21st century curriculum compiled by NAIS and a Harvard education research group. He discussed the need for an ethical grounding in our schools. Parents need to shift, for instance, from wanting their children to be happy to wanting them to be good and virtuous.

Mathematics and Memory by Lori MacKinder
An all too common scene in the home during the evening: a child sits at the kitchen table, staring at math pages with her head held in her hands. Time ticks by. Sometimes tears are involved in the scene, sometimes anger or rage, but the scene does not change. As parents, we long to help our children, yet we often feel inept or too far removed from mathematics or teaching.

Excerpts from "Tilling the Soil of the European Higher Education Area” by John Burnett
The following excerpts describe an ongoing effort in Europe to create a trans-national Master’s program
in Waldorf education. The author, John Burnett, is a member of the Faculty of Education, University of
Plymouth, U.K. References to the “Bologna Declaration” and the “Lisbon Process” concern larger attempts to ease transfer of credits and in other ways support higher education across European national boundaries.


Spring, 2007 Vol. 12 #2: Reports from Current Projects of the Research Institute

Teaching Science through Experience and Discernment: Teaching Sensible Science
An Interview with Michael D'Aleo by Bob Amis
Bob Amis: How would you explain the Waldorf school approach to teaching science?
Michael D’Aleo: As science is too often taught, a textbook describes a “natural law,” usually one that was discovered some time ago. Teachers then conduct demonstrations to show that this law is valid. Teachers are able, in this way, to show that there is a relationship between demonstration and textbook explanation, but they do not ask students to enter into a scientific process.

News from the Online Waldorf Library by Marianne Alsop


Autumn 2006, Vol. 12 #1

Included in this issue are:

Report from the Co-Directors by David Mitchell and Douglas Gerwin
From the Editor by Stephen Keith Sagarin
Reading in Waldorf Schools, Part II: Beginning in Flow and Warmth by Arthur Auer
Rudolf Steiner on Teaching Left-Handed Children by Daniel Hindes
The Tricky Triangle:
Children, Parents, and Teachers
by Dorit Winter
Healing Children Who Have Attentional, Emotional, and Learning Challenges by Susan R. Johnson, M.D
What Will Today’s Children Need for Financial Success in Tomorrow’s Economy? by Judy Lubin
The Development of the Hand in the Young Child by Jane Swain
On Spiritual Research by Rudolf Steiner
Work of the Research Fellows:
Do the Festivals Have a Future?
—Eugene Schwartz
Spirituality in Higher Education: A UCLA Study —Arthur Zajonc
Quicksand and Quagmires of the Soul: The Subconscious Stimulation of Youth through Media —David Mitchell
Reports from Current Projects of the Research Institute:
Waldorf Graduate Research, Phase II Update
—Arthur M. Pittis
Teaching Sensible Science—Bob Amis
Working with Slower-Paced Math Students—Lori MacKinder
Report on the Online Waldorf Library—Marianne Alsop

Autumn 2006, Vol. 12 #1: Report from the Co-Directors

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During his closing address to the International Kolisko Conference this past summer in Sweden, Christof Wiechert, Leader of the Pedagogical Section at the Goetheanum, divided the first century of Waldorf education into three distinct periods.1

The first phase began with the original Waldorf School in 1919 and lasted some 30 years into the early 1950s; he characterized this period as “the descent of the Waldorf pedagogical impulse into the world.” During this time Waldorf education took root, first in Germany, then spread to other parts of Europe and, gradually, to other continents, starting with the United States in the 1920s.

Then came a second phase, which Wiechert characterized as the “age of pedagogical heroes.” During this time a gradually increasing number of Waldorf schools were shepherded by strong and often beloved individuals, who served essentially as self-reliant leaders surrounded by dedicated circles of teachers and parents. This phase, lasting somewhat more than 30 years, carried Waldorf education into the late 1980s.

Now, we have entered into a third and final phase of Waldorf education in this century in which individual heroes have either passed away or, at least, handed on the leadership of their schools to a new generation of teachers—and to a growing number of administrators. These groups face the task of leading their schools, not simply as single individuals, but in strong circles of collaboration. The key to success in this third phase, according to Wiechert, is that all of the colleagues in a school, not only those designated as its leaders, feel part of this circle of leadership. Otherwise, there is the risk that schools will
attempt to hearken back to earlier—but by now outdated—forms of governance, or that the impulse of Waldorf education will simply withdraw from the field of education altogether and await another century and a new set of impulses.

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