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Waldorf Journal Project

The Waldorf Journal Project, sponsored by the Waldorf Curriculum Fund and published by AWSNA Publications, brings to English-speaking audiences translations from essays, magazines, and specialized studies from around the world.

Journals are published twice a year and all articles in issues from 2002 to the present are available on the Online Waldorf Library.

Waldorf Journal Project 6: Memories of a Former Waldorf Student in German

Download the article in German: Memories of a Former Waldorf Student (Biographien ehemaliger Waldorfschüler)
by Margarethe Mehren

Waldorf Journal Project #5: Evaluation, Homework and Teacher Support

All articles from this issue in one file, click to download

The Quest for Wholeness in the Waldorf Curriculum by Erhard Fucke
What Wants to Emerge? by Claus-Peter Röh
Evaluating, Judging, Testing, and Learning by Robert Thomas
The Role of Evaluation and Examinations within Waldorf Education within Different Age Groups by Martyn Rawson
Endings or Openings? Graduating or Launching? by Rüdiger Iwan
Learning Autonomously, Disinterest Instead of a Thirst for Knowledge by Thomas Jachmann
How Meaningful Is Homework? by Telse Kardel
When Is Homework Necessary? by Walter Kraul
Homework – Obligation or Free Task by Dietrich Wessel
The Art of Conversation: Speaking, and Silence by Heinz Zimmermann
Saint Michael in the Midst of Everyday Life an interview with Gudrun Koller by Thomas Stockli.
Angels and Star Children: An Excursion to Their Workshop by Thomas Stockli
Examples of Children’s Tapestries by Gudrun Koller

All individual articles from this issue can be found below

Waldorf Journal Project 5: The Quest for Wholeness in the Waldorf Curriculum

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by Erhard Fucke
Translated by Karin DiGiacomo

With puberty starts a process which leads the adolescent more and more into aloneness. The human being stands alone, separated from the world, and faces it. This process allows the adolescent to see the world with new eyes – parents and teachers and most of all one’s own self. One’s own abilities are recognized but also – and with particular accuracy – the limits of one’s abilities. Having to deal alone with these new experiences is a deeply painful fundamental experience. Without help one has to establish the personal relationship with the world and with human beings. There are no up-front guarantees. It remains to be seen if and how this endeavor succeeds.

In this time it is particularly important in the development of the curriculum to recognize a particular need determining the soul life of an adolescent: The quest for wholeness. What does that mean? First, this striving manifests in the youth’s wish to experience the multitude of possible soul stirrings. On all levels the adolescent pushes for primary experience in all areas of life. He or she seeks out even extreme life experiences. But the quest for wholeness has yet another face. Thinking, feeling and willing are often in conflict with each other. Is there a balance possible between the different poles of soul life? How can it be achieved?

Read more: Waldorf Journal Project 5: The Quest for Wholeness in the Waldorf Curriculum

Waldorf Journal Project 5: What Wants to Emerge?

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Claus-Peter Röh
Translated by Karen DiGiacomo

Every once in a while a young person speaks up with a special interest or a hard-won, individual contribution that has emerged from his or her inner core, transcending the outer circumstances and routines of the class. This is a moving moment in the educational everyday life of a teacher. Such a ‘pedagogic resonance’ between outer stimuli and inner engagement often immediately enlivens the subject matter and intensifies the interactive dialogue. Also, when a child or adolescent is going through times of developmental crisis, it is often very important that the attending parents and teachers firmly focus their consciousness on the image of that student’s inner, human personality core, in spite of all outer difficulties. If such an image is supported, all those involved can develop alternative perspectives in their search for a path that leads forward.
Rudolf Steiner describes the discrepancy between the outer appearance and the innermost core of a young person as follows: “No longer does the inner person fully express itself in the outer, and we can observe that first in a child. The child today often is something quite different from what it portrays to the outer world. We can even have extreme cases. To the world, children can look like the most impertinent urchins, and there is such a good core hidden in them that later they become most valuable human beings.”1 These thoughts evoke the connection between the polarities Inside/Outside with the time coordinates Present/Future:

This connectedness of the poles brings up the question: Is it possible for me as an educator and teacher to become more and more aware of the inner essence of a child? This would allow me to tailor future instruction closer to the child’s needs. Issues of karma and fate come up immediately: What does the young being bring into the manifest presence of his life, for example, in terms of physical constitution, tendencies or talents. Where does the direction, the innermost purpose of this individuality’s development, really point? What wants to become, to emerge?

A first dawning of awareness in class
It began with a main lesson in the second grade: As usual the ‘Friday children’ lined up in front of the blackboard to assume a geometric formation for the recitations. Between recitations they moved on this pattern, the one in the middle reciting. Now it is the turn of the student Daniel.

Read more: Waldorf Journal Project 5: What Wants to Emerge? 

Waldorf Journal Project 5: The Role of Evaluation and Examinations within Waldorf Education within Different Age Groups

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by Martyn Rawson
Translated by John O’Brien

This working paper deals with the question of examinations, but first it is necessary to place the subject in the wider context of pedagogical examination.

What is evaluation?

Evaluation means knowing, establishing, making visible, comparing and assessing the value of something. These are quite different activities. Knowing means seeking the essential quality of something in its context. Establishing the value of something requires an analysis that identifies the relevant aspects since not all aspects are equally important even when we try to look at the situation in a holistic way. We set priorities in the form of value-systems. Assessing implies weighing the value of something, comparing it with other similar objects and at the same time valuing it, that is, appreciating its unique qualities. In order to know the essence of something we must approach it with well-intentioned, loving interest. Well-meaning interest is the starting point of any real evaluation.

Evaluation also has to do with testing. We are constantly being tested by life. In all social situations we are constantly being tested and questioned. In the past each culture has had its own form of ritual testing. The essential phases of life were marked by various forms of trial. At puberty and later on reaching adult maturity, young people were admitted into their society as full adults by way of ceremonies and initiations trials. Today we have mostly only bourgeois remainders of these rituals. They have been replaced by school exams. Yet the need that young people have to be challenged and tested is not met through forms. Rather they seek their trials through all manner of risk-taking activities.

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Keywords: testing, Waldorf school exams, evaluation in Waldorf schools, standards, child study, school reports, portfolios, Waldorf graduation requirements

Waldorf Journal Project 5: Endings or Openings? Graduating or Launching?

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A few years ago I found an article by Bruno Sandkühler, teacher at theMichael Bauer School in Stuttgart, Germany, in which he argued against graduation at the end of the twelfth grade. He undoubtedly made an excellent argument. However, the printing press imp played a trick on him in one place. Sandkühler demanded, “. . . in the future, each school must have its own Abschüsse [This typing error changes the meaning of the German word “Abschlüsse,” which means graduations, to signify “launchings” as in launching a missile.] It evokes the image of students shooting out into life. However the contrasting term “Abschlüsse,” meaning “graduations” or “endings,” is equally ill-fitting, and the question really is what should we be dealing with – maybe we should talk about openings. This play on words may indicate that we should change the final exams leading to graduation into an examination process which is commensurate with the individual development of the student. We teachers are all-too familiar with these exams and have in vain been hoping for their demise. [The German graduation called the “Abitur” is earned by passing a huge battery of written and verbal tests in which the student has to prove his/her knowledge of all subject areas which he/she studied during the entire senior year. These tests extend over several weeks and are usually experienced as a great burden to teachers and students alike.]
A small number of schools are already making efforts in that direction.

The Freie Waldorfschule in Backnang, for example, has taken this question as the starting point for designing its high school curricula. At the Freie Waldorfschule in Potsdam the director, Thilo Koch, is actually working with the public education department on this question. I will now cite a few examples of the situation in Schwäbisch Hall, the school where I teach.

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Keywords: Waldorf graduate requirements, exams, testing

Waldorf Journal Project 5: Learning Autonomously, Disinterest Instead of a Thirst for Knowledge

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It is a known phenomenon that some students lose their enthusiasm for school. Ernst Michael Kranich writes, “The relationship that the young person has with the school becomes progressively problematic. In the first four classes of elementary school about one third of the students feel that school impacts them negatively; during middle school more than two thirds (sixty-nine percent) of the students; and in high school – particularly in the highest grade – nearly eighty percent experience school as a negative factor in their lives.”1 He admits that this situation today is to a certain degree also true for Waldorf schools.

This negative development especially impacts the enthusiasm for learning. The joy in coming to know and understand the world is part of the general joy in life and the basis for self-realization. This joy should under normal circumstances last throughout one’s life.

Does not the young child have endless questions which we are supposed to answer, hopefully all at once? Naturally, the young child brings all these questions along to school. But over time this thirst for knowledge disappears and boredom and disinterest increasingly take its place. How does that shift come to pass? Is it possibly schooling itself which drives out the enthusiasm for learning? Many children and parents make that claim. Are they right?

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Waldorf Journal Project 5: How Meaningful Is Homework?

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“People often complain that the Waldorf school is quite stingy when it comes to homework. There are good reasons for this. An education that strives to remain true to the realities of life cannot afford to focus itself on abstractions, even those that are common in the mainstream. It has to take into account everything that is at work in human development. That means, more than anything else, that we cannot be loading down our children with homework. Homework is often a hidden cause of poor digestion. These things may only show themselves later in life, but they are nonetheless present.”1 This statement, which Rudolf Steiner made in a talk to doctors, is something I stumbled across a number of years ago. Since then I have paid more attention to the question of homework. How meaningful is it? What forms should it take? How should it evolve during the course of a child’s development?

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Waldorf Journal Project 5: When Is Homework Necessary?

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Homework is as controversial as it is unwanted, but is it really necessary? This is a never-ending story, it seems, which is again and again subject to debate and discussion. Our magazine, Erziehungskunst, dealt the last time with this topic was in an article by Diedrich Wessel in vol. 9, 2002. We are resuming this discussion now with the following article by a very experienced Waldorf teacher.

In my opinion, the issue of homework still presents problems and lacks solutions. This author has arrived at the conclusion that there should be no mandatory homework. This viewpoint is supported by manifold comments of Rudolf Steiner. So far so good.

We can draw two conclusions here. The first one: I will not assign obligatory homework. I merely will inspire the children by suggesting what they could do at home to complement the class work at school – provided they want to do that. That way I am being a good Waldorf teacher and, on top of it, I avoid trouble. As a teacher one can indeed try to create homework assignments which the students will complete joyfully and out of their own free will. For that we need skillfulness and educational artistry.

The ideal case: The children come home and are on fire to record, repeat, expand or practice what they have absorbed in school. In the approach outlined above, we find only indirect hints about how to accomplish this feat. The question is: which homework assignments are fun, and how must they be formatted to be enjoyable? Here I would like to insert a few more or less poignant examples from my past experience.

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Waldorf Journal Project 5: Homework – Obligation or Free Task

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How do we stand on freedom in education? One point comes immediately to our attention. Young people of all age levels today demonstrate a high degree of self assuredness and independence that would have been unthinkable even a few years ago. We support them in this quite a bit – for various reasons. But every so often a ‘little dictator’ awakens in us when the adolescent stands opposite us and does not share our wishes and ideas. A general reason for that is parental concern that the children might not be able to stand their ground in the competition of life if they have not passed certain school exams. Accordingly, they exert pressure. The parents themselves yield to this pressure; it prevents them from considering that there may be individual difficulties that indicate an alternative path for their child. Essentially their trust for the child’s destiny is shaken.

Rudolf Steiner notes in the introduction to the second edition of The Philosophy of Freedom: “No longer should our scientific teachings be formulated as if their acceptance were a matter of irrefutable necessity. Nowadays, nobody would like to give a scientific treatise a title like Fichte once did: ‘Crystal clear report to the wider public about the intrinsic essence of the new philosophy. An attempt to compel the reader to understand.’

“Today, nobody is supposed to be forced to understand. We no longer want to stuff insights down anyone’s throat – even if they are still immature or childlike; rather, we try to develop their abilities so that they no longer need to be forced to understand, but want to understand” [emphasis by Steiner]. Here is the first mention of themes that would later be integrated extensively into Waldorf education. This leads us to the question of trust.

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