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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 2011, Vol.16 #1: Outline of a Study Methodology

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Study is expected of faculty and college work in Waldorf schools. Most schools incorporate studies into various meetings, and it is generally understood that the study is meant to be a tool for ongoing professional development to deepen the faculty's understanding of anthroposophy, of the curriculum, and of children taken individually or as a class. When successful, the study portion of meetings is enlivening and satisfying.

All too often, however, the study can fall short of its promised potential. The reading of texts, in particular, feels like a slog through molasses. The hours following the end of school are not ideal for a first encounter with demanding texts, and the discussions, if they happen at all, may not reach far beyond a surface understanding of the material. An unintended consequence of a poor study may be an aversion to the material among the faculty, particularly those who have not previously experienced a fulfilling study during the course of their teacher preparation.

Over the past few years, I have had the good fortune to lead studies of basic pedagogical texts (such as Rudolf Steiner's Study of Man) and some other anthroposophical literature in various settings. From the successes and failures of these studies, a basic approach has emerged, which I offer here in the spirit of research into effective practices.

Read more: Spring 2011, Vol.16 #1: Outline of a Study Methodology

Spring 2011, Vol.16 #1: The Founding Intentions: Spiritual Leadership, Current Work, and the Goals of the Medical Section

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The tasks of the School of Spiritual Science are rooted in what Rudolf Steiner perceived as a "spiritual influx" into the rising tides of materialism during the last third of the nineteenth century: "A revelation of the spirit was opened up for mankind. Not from any arbitrary earthly consideration but in obedience to a call resounding from the spiritual world; not from any arbitrary earthly consideration but through a vision of the sublime pictures given out of the spiritual world as a modern revelation for the spiritual life of mankind—from this flowed the impulse for the anthroposophical movement. This anthroposophical movement is not an act of service to the earth. This anthroposophical movement in its totality and in all its details is a service to divine beings a service to God. We create the right mood for it when we see it in all its wholeness as a service to God. 1

These words state clearly that the founding of the Goetheanum as an independent school for anthroposophy was an initiative that Rudolf Steiner intended to facilitate practical divine service in daily life. Not only those who practice the vocation of priest but every member of a profession can learn to feel responsible in his or her actions towards a real divine-spiritual world. Spirituality is not just a matter for religion but also for science art and for how people lead their daily lives.

With such an endeavor Steiner harkens back to the most ancient mystery traditions The word mysterium which can be translated as "secret " denotes the search for a spiritual path and a temple that remained secret until one had found what one sought or strove for Steiner and his colleagues conceived of the Goetheanum as a place to facilitate such seeking and finding in contemporary times so that each interested person could find an inner path of development fitting for his profession fruits of work and study within the specialist Sections of the School would address contemporary issues and foster further cultural development of individuals and support could be given to collegiate collaboration and community building.

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Spring 2011, Vol. 16 #1: Attending to Interconnection, Living the Lesson

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How does one see a painting whole? Or the human mind? Or an ecosystem? Or for that matter, the educational project itself? We are well schooled in "seeing them"" into parts-into brushstrokes, neurons, and molecules-or seeing the university apart into departments, disciplines, and specializations. What kind of attentiveness will enable us to see a true whole? What is the pedagogy for beholding interconnectedness as a primary reality and not a derived one? What are the implications of a deep experience of interconnection for knowing, teaching, learning, and life? What would be gained if, as the Dalai Lama says, we were to cultivate "a deep sense of caring for others, based on a profound sense of interconnection?" 1 It is perhaps difficult to appreciate how extensive the changes would be if this integrative viewpoint were fully embraced in higher education. The conventional view that privileges a single reductive perspective is so pervasive that undoing its effects will be difficult, but if we were to succeed, then the fragmentation of our education and our lives would be healed. Simultaneous with our experience of self would be the powerful complementary experience of human interdependence, of what Desmond Tutu calls ubuntu "I exist because of you."

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Spring/Summer 2011, Vol. 16 #1: Work of the Research Fellows

The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes, Reviewed by Dorit Winter
The Age of Wonder
Hardcover: 576 pages
Published by Pantheon
ISBN-13: 978-0375422225

Richard Holmes has written a book that can serve Waldorf teachers as a model for scintillating biography. From it we can learn how to integrate the life of the character into the context of his time  how to find the telling detail, how to stitch the research into a seamless whole, and perhaps most enviably, how to weave the lives of the characters into a fabric that gives rise to the signature pattern of an age. But then, Richard Holmes is a much-lauded biographer. He has taken biography and biographical research to a whole new level. For although his research is academically impeccable, what interests him as biographer is the possibility of making the life of the subject experiential for the reader. Holmes relies on word-picture and story, and he relishes the function of imagination in bringing his subjects to life. He would have made a terrific class teacher.

Read more: Spring/Summer 2011, Vol. 16 #1: Work of the Research Fellows

Spring/Summer 2011, Vol. 16 #1: Reports on Current Projects of the Research Institute

Teaching Sensible Science by Lylli Anthon

This past February marked the beginning of the fourth round of the "Teaching Sensible Science" course. For a week starting on February 18, the Chicago Waldorf School hosted the first of three one-week intensives to explore the richness of the Grades 6-8 Waldorf science curriculum. This course also strives to give teachers a living relationship to the sciences, as its task in this present age of consciousness is to help individuals connect to the world. 

The February session--the largest ever cycle of this course--was filled to the brim with 27 earnest participants, mostly from the Midwestern states, but also from schools as far away as San Francisco, New York, and three in Canada. The members of the group were class teachers ranging from Grade 3 to Grade 8, several with many years of experience. 

Michael D'Aleo, an engineer and high school science teacher at the Waldorf School of Saratoga Springs, along with the Research Institute, organized this course with the help of the Chicago Waldorf School and a grant secured by AWSNA from the Waldorf Educational Foundation.

Read more: Spring/Summer 2011, Vol. 16 #1: Reports on Current Projects of the Research Institute

Autumn/Winter 2010, Vol. 15 #2: Report from the Co-Directors

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A new round of electronic books and progress on the creation of a source book on sexuality curriculum top the agenda of current activity at the Research Institute for Waldorf Education.

Electronic Books:An enthusiastic donor has provided financial resources to post online a broad range of invaluable and yet sometimes inaccessible books on Waldorf education. This collection will be of special interest to researchers and other individuals seeking to print portions of books for study purposes. A new collection of these e-Books posted on the website of the Research Institute’s Online Waldorf Library (OWL) at can be downloaded gratis anywhere in the world. They are also available on disks through the Institute. Plans are underway for at least twelve new disks, each with three or more books. We invite our readers to write to us at the Research Institute with further suggested titles of books and articles no longer in print.

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Autumn/Winter 2010, Vol. 15 #2: The Inner Life and Work of the Teacher

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What the adult does, feels, and thinks are all imitated by the child under seven years, so complete attention to the task in hand, with a care, love, and joy in the doing actually helps in the formation of the child’s physical body.

Again and again, the question came: “What is the difference between State education and Steiner education?” How often, as I have been working in Steiner education, usually in a conversation on a bus, or during a walk, or in a new group of people, or a new group of students, I had to try to find an essence, to create a nutshell picture, to make sense of something vast in just a few moments.

Now, through twenty-five years of struggling with this, and finding in these years that gateways have been opening in the souls of many, I have found personally that I can speak, at such times, as also with students and new teachers, of the truly holistic nature of Steiner education: that we are working with every aspect of the child, which can be termed body, soul, and spirit. So we try consciously to work with many levels, from the most physical to the most mysterious.
A conversation can often lead to the question of the inner work of the teacher. Sensing what is appropriate for each occasion is vitally important.

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Autumn/Winter 2010, Vol. 15 #2: The Human Body as a Resonance Organ

A Sketch of an Anthropology of the Senses

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What happens in us when we look at a face such as the one in the first illustration? How does
it come about that we perceive in this face an expression of the soul? Several brain researchers inform us that when we observe a face with an expression suggestive of laughter or of anger, the very same brain cells are active in us which guide the actual mimicking gesture of the observed face. They are called “mirror neurons,” because the person doing the perceiving inwardly mirrors or simulates the observed face. This neuronal mirroring makes it possible for us to feel empathy with another human being. Therefore, it forms the basis of our empathic capacity.

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Autumn/Winter 2010, Vol. 15 #2: Aesthetic Knowledge as a Source for the Main Lesson

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The main lesson of the Waldorf school is different from a double period. It is a unity of three parts, composed like a sonata.

The classical sonata form is comprised of three movements. The first movement, the “head movement,” presents the theme, lays it out, turns it around or mirrors it, submits it to many dismemberments and distortions (Verrückungen), and through the variations makes the listener once more aware of the drama of these transformations. The second movement brings a totally new atmosphere, in a slower tempo and a changed key, however, still totally related with the musical “substance” of the first movement. Here,
the task is less a working through of the theme and more a direct touching of the inner space of the soul. Finally, in the third movement, the restrained drive for movement is released. Quickly, the rhythmically
accentuated, thematically light-footed final movement plays itself out. Here, too, it arises from what was laid down in the first movement, but it still has something of its own. Just as something freshening,
the playful scherzo (joke) often slips into this movement; likewise no main lesson should come to an end
without the weight of its content at least once being lightened and relaxed by laughter.

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Autumn/Winter 2010, Vol. 15 #2: The Work of Emmi Pikler

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Emmi Pikler (1902–1984) was a Hungarian physician who observed, studied, and practiced the art of being with infants and very young children. She was an astute phenomenological observer and meticulous researcher who brought her observations into a continuously evolving practice. Pikler spent the years from 1930 into the 1940s as a family pediatrician in Budapest. Her devotion to the very young child led her to support parents intimately. She made daily home visits for the first ten days after a baby’s birth, continuing with weekly visits over the early months. Her guidance in child rearing with these first 100 children gave her confidence that her insights were accurate.

In 1946 she was invited by the Hungarian government to create a residential nursery home for children in the first three years of life to care for the World War II orphans as well as children whose mothers had died in childbirth or from tuberculosis. The 70 children at the National Methodological Institute, or more familiarly “Loczy,” named after the street on which it was located, were cared for by caregivers trained by Dr. Pikler to carry forth the ideas she had developed out of her family pediatrics work. Over the next twenty years more than 700 children lived at Loczy, where their growth and development were documented meticulously by a team of not only their caregivers but also the doctors and other professionals on the staff.

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