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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.

Autumn/Winter 2011, Vol. 16 #2: The Great Rift in Modern Consciousness

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Science and the Humanities

This may at first seem like a strange title.
After all, the curricular division between science and the humanities has long been the basic organizing principle for the main subjects in the whole of modern education. It is an organizing principle that reaches from the university level all the way down. Even if, as we shall see, regard for the distinction has often become in modern education little more than lip service, has not the science/humanities division been, nevertheless, extremely useful, and does it not, in spite of problems, remain so? In fact, is it not a given task of thoughtful educators to wrestle perpetually with the relationship between science and the humanities, and are not the problems thrown up by this wrestling and the need to grapple with them a part of the essential service rendered by the distinction itself? Moreover, is not the suggestion in the title of this essay more than a little overblown; namely, that the science/humanities division is not only an issue for education, but is deeply implicated in a major crisis in the whole of modern culture and consciousness?

Read more: Autumn/Winter 2011, Vol. 16 #2: The Great Rift in Modern Consciousness

Autumn/Winter 2011, Vol. 16 #2: What Stands Behind a Waldorf School

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If we were to ask, “What is this school that we call a Waldorf school,” how would we answer? As is the case with all cultural institutions, the answer lies not with the buildings; schools have many types of buildings, from the gray, sturdy stone building of the Rudolf Steiner School in Manhattan to the breezy grass huts which serve as a school for the children at one of the Waldorf schools in South Africa. It does not lie with the teachers; over the course of time teachers leave an individual school and new ones will replace them. It does not even lie with the children; they too come and go, staying for up to 12 years and then leaving as others take their place. So, what do we mean when we speak about the Waldorf school? If it’s not the building, the teachers, the parents, the children, then what is it? Does it have any reality at all? Is the “Waldorf school” merely the conjunction of two abstract nouns such as we use daily when we speak of “the U.S. Government” or “the World Environment,” or the most unreal of all nouns, “money”? Do the words “Waldorf school” actually label something?

Read more: Autumn/Winter 2011, Vol. 16 #2: What Stands Behind a Waldorf School

Autumn/Winter 2011, Vol. 16 #2: On Earth as It Is in Heaven

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Introduction
At the center of the Waldorf school stands the College of Teachers.1 What is the College? What are its tasks? Who serves on the College? Why is it important for a Waldorf school to have a College? The answers to these questions will help us understand the mission and tasks of the Waldorf school.

In this work, I will address these fundamental questions about the College in light of the founding of the first Waldorf school in 1919. I will also share some ideas about the College that I have developed in nearly three decades of working with Colleges. I hope that my work will inspire others to delve deeply into these questions and to develop their own perspectives.

Read more: Autumn/Winter 2011, Vol. 16 #2: On Earth as It Is in Heaven

Spring 2011, Vol.16 #1: From the Editor

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The sense of thinking has long been one of the most puzzling aspects of Rudolf Steiner's teaching about the senses. Sensory input (or percept) is defined as that which we join with concepts, gained through thinking intuition, in order for full cognition to arise. How is it possible to perceive a thought before thinking? Detlef Hardorp explores this mystery, including a fascinating description of the one instance in which we gain concepts directly from other human beings without needing intuitions to facilitate the acquisition of these concepts. His extended essay offers a significant contribution to the study of the senses and will be of special interest to high school teachers working with the higher, cognitive senses.

A trio of articles explores issues related to health and well being. Philip Incao contemplates the role of warmth in allowing the human being's spiritual essence to take hold of healing processes. He describes a historical progression that has led to a significant decrease in "warm" (fever-inducing, acute, usually infectious) diseases and childhood mortality, but that, having swung the pendulum too far in the other direction, has led to the rise of "cold" (and chronic) conditions such as ADD and asthma. One is left with renewed appreciation for the crucial importance of warmth not only as a physical process but as a pedagogical and social principle as well.

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Spring 2011, Vol.16 #1: Report from the Co-Directors

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With the support of an enthusiastic donor, the Research Institute has posted online a broad range of invaluable yet sometimes inaccessible books on Waldorf education. This collection will be of special interest to researchers and other individuals seeking to gain access and download books for research and study. Through the generosity of the Waldorf Curriculum Fund we have, since November 2010, produced 23 additional electronic books. Together with the 30 e-Books already produced, this represents a significant treasure trove of research material available at our Online Waldorf Library (OWL), www.waldorflibrary.org. This web-based resource is accessible free of charge, and we encourage you to visit it frequently. Our online librarian's regular report of activities appears separately towards the end of this issue.

As Co-Directors we have continued to meet, correspond, and collaborate with the leadership of the Padagogische Forschungsstelle in Stuttgart and the Alanus University in Alfter, outside of Bonn, Germany, as well as research colleagues in Australia and New Zealand. Due to financial constraints we are unable to expand these efforts into a larger scale.

In collaboration with our colleagues at the Padagogische Forschungsstelle in Kassel, Germany, the Research Institute has produced a book Topics in Mathematics for the Waldorf High School: 11th Grade. The English-language edition of this book is available via AWSNA Publications at www. whywaldorfworks.org.

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Spring 2011, Vol.16 #1: Tending the Flame: The Link Between Education and Medicine in Early Childhood

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People are social creatures; just try to remember we need human contact and warmth more than any thing.
- Colorado eighth-grader Kelly Ash, reflecting on the Columbine tragedy.

Education is to light a fire, not to fill a bucket.
-    Heraclitus

A social issue is essentially an educational issue and this in turn is essentially a medical issue, but only if medicine is fertilized with spiritual knowledge.
-    Rudolf Steiner

Fever is the purifying flame which renews the body.
-    Hippocrates

The Tragedy of Hospitalism
I once had a medical consultation with an eight-year-old Waldorf student who had been adopted by her American mother from a Romanian orphanage. The mother recounted to me the intensely moving story of their first encounter. She entered a room full of children and her eyes rested on a tiny waif in a crib who looked to be about eight months old, with no teeth and as yet unable to stand or talk. Their eyes met, the child laughed, and in that moment the mother knew that “this was my child.” Then to her shock she learned that the child was over two years old! “I just took her home and loved her,” she told me, “and all her teeth started coming in and she began standing, walking, and talking!”

What an amazing demonstration of the power of human caring, of human warmth, and of the human spirit itself, I thought at the time. I’ve since learned more fully that this was by no means an isolated example.

Read more: Spring 2011, Vol.16 #1: Tending the Flame: The Link Between Education and Medicine in Early...

Spring 2011, Vol.16 #1: Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby's Brain

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The case that I want to make is that babyhood is much more important to our lives than many people realize. A lot of the behavior that worries us in later childhood, such as aggression, hyperactivity, obesity, depression, and poor school performance, has already been shaped by children’s experiences in babyhood. For those of you who have not studied the scientific literature, this might seem a bit farfetched. I was rather amazed at just how significant babyhood is when I first undertook the research for my book Why Love Matters.

But over and over again, as people look into it, they discover that this really is the case. Just to take one recent example, the World Health Organisation recently published a report from their Commission on the social determinants of health which stated: “Research now shows that many challenges in adult society—mental health problems, obesity/ stunting, heart disease, criminality, competence in literacy and numeracy—have their roots in early childhood.” They went on to say: “Economists now assert on the basis of the available evidence that investment in early childhood is the most powerful investment a country can make, with returns over the life course many times the amount of the original investment.”

Read more: Spring 2011, Vol.16 #1: Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby's Brain

Spring 2011, Vol.16 #1: Research into Resilience

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Research into Resilience
Disturbing reports are circulating around the world, always in the murky twilight of so-called “facts.” According to the rumors, or indeed facts, that we are dealing with, a disproportionate number of war veterans are committing suicide on their return to the USA from their tour in Iraq. After the Vietnam War, accounts came in from various sides of soldiers who were able to reenter everyday civilian life only with great effort. People in Europe are also worried about the NATO soldiers’ ability to deal with trauma after they have been deployed on peace-keeping missions abroad.

The question is, how does an individual cope with traumatic or otherwise shattering events in his or her life? This question is just as valid for children as for adults.

Read more: Spring 2011, Vol.16 #1: Research into Resilience 

Spring 2011, Vol.16 #1: Reading Research Supports the Waldorf Approach

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About four years ago  I approached my to-be Ph.D. supervisors with an idea: Would they be willing to supervise a quantitative research project investigating whether the earlier-reading state school pupils maintained an advantage in reading over their Rudolf Steiner/Waldorf school peers? To my delight  both Dr. Elizabeth Schaughency and Associate Professor Elaine Reese agreed. The research initially began with three ages of children (in their first third and fifth years of school)  in three state  and in three Rudolf Steiner schools in the South Island  New Zealand. After months of working with children in both types of schools  I was frequently struck by the way in which the young five- and six-year-old state school children could work their way through texts  usually quite fluently  whereas the Rudolf Steiner school pupils showed very little interest in doing so. I often wondered how such an initial gap in reading could ever be closed. After the beginning phases of visiting schools and working with the children and teachers  we had collected enough data for reliable preliminary analyses (this particular study was conducted over two full school years thus the complete findings were some time away). At that early stage in the project it was still possible to observe that the reading achievement of the Rudolf Steiner school pupils on average  seemed to "take off" somewhere between grades III and V. I began to second-guess the patterns emerging from the results. Was the sample of Rudolf Steiner school pupils going to be large enough to trust the findings? Or was perhaps one of the classes in the study a "freak" class (e.g.  particularly intelligent)  skewing the data?

Read more: Spring 2011, Vol.16 #1: Reading Research Supports the Waldorf Approach 

Spring 2011, Vol.16 #1: Thinking and the Sense of Thinking: How We Perceive Thoughts

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Concepts, thoughts can be perceived only where they actually occur, where they are brought forth; otherwise they are not present. And that is through current thinking by a human being.
- Dietrich Rapp1

How Does Reality Arise?
Reality is supposed to exist somewhere beyond the realm of human cognition. We are said to take cognizance of this reality through sense perception only. Our cognition is said merely to mirror this sense world. In modern times, the tendency has developed to view cognition in this way. How do human cognition and reality relate for Rudolf Steiner? Of what significance is this for us today?

In his foundational works, Rudolf Steiner intensively pursued the question of how reality arises in the process of cognition. Rather than devising erudite academic theories, he breached a willed pathway into thinking, from which he sensitively observed the activity of cognition, exploring the role of thinking in the process of cognition through introspective (soul) observation. He describes the process of acquiring concepts through intuitive thinking in his Philosophy of Freedom from increasingly comprehensive vantage points, only to concede one exception on the next to last page of the last chapter in which we "bring concepts over into our own spirit in a pure form," unmixed with conceptual content won through intuition.

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