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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 2010, Vol.15 #1: Combined Grades in Waldorf Schools: Creating Classrooms Teachers Can Feel Good About

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In Waldorf schools, combining grades is a concession, not a design choice. Low or decreased enrollment
is often the cause for combining grades. Lower birthrates, limited population, geography, economy, and attrition can lead to decreased enrollment. Regardless of the causes, however, a school may continue a given class for many reasons, including responsibility for and loyalty to students and parents.

This study, a look at combined grades classrooms in Waldorf schools, necessarily takes into account that Rudolf Steiner’s indications for teaching were made regarding an educational system of age-based grade levels and that most Waldorf schools are designed on this principle. Thus, most of the educational literature available on the topic is not based in the literature of Waldorf education. I used educational literature, interviews with teachers, questionnaires, and classroom observation to gain an improved understanding of combined grade classrooms both in general and specifically with regard to using Steiner’s educational ideas in circumstances that differ from those in which the first Waldorf schools took root.

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Spring 2010, Vol.15 #1: Educating Gifted Students in Waldorf Schools

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Gifted children pose deep riddles for their teachers, including those who work in Waldorf schools. Perhaps it is time that we think differently or improve our understanding of the needs of these children. Investigations reveal that on average two per cent of a class may consist of pupils we may call gifted.1 There are more than 200,000 students in Waldorf schools worldwide,2 so we may expect to find about
4,000 gifted students in Waldorf schools. Also, according to Michaela Glöckler, “since highly gifted pupils are rarely ‘easy’ ones, but tend to be more unique, also perhaps appearing to be socially ‘difficult,’ our first task must be to take a clear look at the phenomenon of giftedness itself.”3

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Spring 2010, Vol.15 #1: How Do Teachers Learn with Teachers?

Download the article: How Do Teachers Learn with Teachers? Understanding Child Study as a Case for Professional Learning Communities

In the the wide world of educational research, the hopeful concept of teacher as learner has gained currency among a number of authors and provoked useful questions about the nature of professional
development for teachers.2 Called by different names, collaborative professional development and professional learning community (PLC) both refer to a way in which teachers learn with teachers to become better teachers. These kinds of initiative recognize that collaboration is a demanding, uncomfortable, participatory process in which teachers may ultimately be required to take responsibility for each other’s learning.3 This image of what we expect from our teachers may look exactly like what we expect from our students. The rewards are potentially profound, although they are not easy to measure.

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Spring 2010, Vol.15 #1: Does Our Educational System Contribute to Attentional and Learning Difficulties in Our Children?

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I have great concerns about teaching preschool and kindergarten children to read and write. Developmentally and neurologically it doesn’t make sense. There is a developmental progression of sensory-motor skills that a young child needs to master in the first seven years of life. Despite what we think, learning is not “all from our head.” The movements of our body in utero, through infancy and childhood, and even in adulthood form the neural pathways in our mind that we later use to read, write, spell, do math, and think in an imaginative and creative way. I see countless numbers of children in my practice who have been diagnosed with “ADD” or “learning disabilities” who miraculously improve when they are taken out of an “academic” kindergarten or given an extra year in a developmental kindergarten that emphasizes movement and the integration of their sensory-motor systems.

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Spring 2010, Vol.15 #1: Survey on Waldorf School Trustee Education

Download the article: Survey on Waldorf School Trustee Education

Over the past 15 years a heightened degree of interest has been devoted to Waldorf school organizational life, and deservedly so. This interest has prompted a widening circle of Waldorf schools to recognize the need for greater professionalism and a spiritual approach to administration. At the same time, many have expressed the idea that school boards of trustees have received insufficient attention. Questions of board function—including the delicate issue of what to do when boards don’t function well—are a lingering source of puzzlement and frustration. We hope that our research will contribute to a better understanding of Waldorf school boards and help to raise the level of discussion of questions of board function.

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Spring 2009

Spring 2009, Volume 14, Number 1

Articles in this issue include:

Report from the Co-Directors by David Mitchell and Douglas Gerwin
From the Editor by Stephen Sagarin
Sleeping on It: The Most Important Activity of the School Day by Arthur Auer
Advantages and Disadvantages of Brain Research for Education by Christian Rittelmeyer
What Makes Waldorf, Waldorf? by Stephen Sagarin
Love and Knowledge: Recovering the Heart of Learning through Contemplation by Arthur Zajonc
Teachers' Self Development as a Mirror of Children's Incarnation, Part 1 by Renate Long-Breipohl
Of Seeds and Continents: Reliability, Predictability, and Scientific Knowing by Michael D'Aleo
Honest, Complete Assessment and Social Renewal: A Revolution by Patrice Maynard
Crises in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School by Joan Almon
Henry Barnes and Waldorf Education: A Personal Tribute by Douglas Sloan
Teaching Sensible Science, A Letter by Calisa O'Keefe,
Report on the Online Waldorf Library by Marianne Alsop

 

Spring 2009, Volume 14 #1: Report from the Co-Directors

Download the article: Report from the Co-Directors

Each year seems to be a bit busier than the last for the Research Institute, and the following
tally of our recent, ongoing, and projected work supports this hypothesis.


Wide Reading for Work on Alternative Assessment
We have joined the debate on educational assessment and testing by presenting papers and information to the transition team of President Barack Obama. Also, the AWSNA outreach office has sent our paper, “Assessment without High- Stakes Testing: Protecting Childhood and the Purpose of School” (Research Bulletin Vol. XIII no. 2, Autumn/Winter 2008), to members of the congressional sub-committee on education. The paper will also be printed in the Pacifica Journal from Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii. It has been translated into German for Swiss and German periodicals, and has been posted on the web pages of the European Council of Waldorf Schools and the Freunde der Erziehunskunst. It is also slated to appear in the winter edition of Independent Education magazine. The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) has placed the paper on its website, and a Russian translation will appear in the Pedagogical Journal of Bashkortostan. David Mitchell will travel to Moscow in late spring to speak about this research.

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Spring 2009, Volume 14 #1: From the Editor

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Teaching is so much more complex than I thought it would be,” said a friend, a writer and journalist who had guest-taught a course at a local college. He has children in school, he is a Steiner school trustee, and he has many friends who are teachers. He knows the value of good teaching, but he had not fully appreciated the many, many executive decisions that a teacher makes each day, the organization, preparation, negotiation, and decision-making that go into teaching.

Given, then, the even more complex job of a Waldorf school teacher—continual meetings, coming to terms with anthroposophy and Waldorf education, facing a different curriculum year after year—it may be easy to get lost in the details. We may feel we are dealing well with parents, faculty meetings, study, preparation, and our students. After the mononucleosis-inducing first year, we settle down, find a rhythm, and, possibly, begin to take our lives as teachers somewhat for granted. The pace of our work and its rewards may be enough to distract us from too much reflection. But the big questions—what is education, at root, and how and why do we do it?—don’t go away, and answers that may have satisfied us in our twenties may not satisfy us any longer. As more mature persons, we may seek more deeply for what it means to teach.

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Spring 2009, Volume 14 #1: Sleeping on It: The Most Important Activity of a School Day

Download the article: Sleeping on It: The Most Important Activity of a School Day

Sleep is such a regular and familiar activity that we can easily overlook its powerful presence and influence. When we examine it, however, sleep strikes us as mysterious. Picture us changing into special nightclothes. It is dark outside and we lie down on specially padded platforms. Many of us face heavenward with eyelids shut. In horizontal positions such as this, we spend roughly a third of every day—more when we are young or old, perhaps less in between— unconscious. Our breathing is altered and we pass through rhythmic periods of rapid eye movement. The realm of sleep sits like an enormous, mostly unnoticed elephant in the room of our lives. It has a huge impact on everything we do in our waking hours. In Waldorf schools, which have taken sleep into account since their inception, sleep is more than just resting for the next day; it is a matrix of all learning and teaching.

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Spring 2009, Volume 14 #1: Advantages and Disadvantages of Brain Research for Education

Download the article: Advantages and Disadvantages of Brain Research for Education

Brain research has brought us some useful insights and a deeper understanding of teaching and learning. Some research results, however, only confirm what we already know or believe we know about education. These results are important because they provide a necessary background for educational policy and because they deepen our knowledge. Other research opens new and sometimes surprising insights into the organic basis of human development.

One of the most important insights is discovery of the environment-dependent plasticity of the human brain. Brain structure may change continually, particularly during childhood, but also in adults, dependent on experience and the spiritual activity of the individual.1 To some degree, human beings continue to develop new brain structures as they stimulate some areas and neglect others, depending on their activities and interests. This development relates not only to the renewal of synaptic connections between brain cells and those areas that are particularly stimulated (e.g., through skilled occupation), but, as new research suggests, to experiences that encourage a regeneration of cells, at least in some areas of the brain (this is called neurogenesis, and occurs, for example, when olfactory neurons react to a new scent).

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