Written by Kepler Academy
In the realm of alternative schooling, the Waldorf method of education is one of the most well regarded approaches to learning. Founded in 1919 in Germany, the Waldorf method has done more than simply catch on here and there.
At this point in time there are over 1,000 Waldorf schools running across the globe. Based on the philosophies of Rudolf Steiner, Waldorf schools place a major emphasis on the developmental needs of children on a case-by-case basis. Forgoing the idea of a one-size-fits-all curriculum, the syllabi are grounded in individualized student learning needs and interests.
Fortunately, Stanford University conducted a multi-year robust exploration of the Waldorf Educational method at the Alice Birney Waldorf-inspired School. The school existed in the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD),and the study highlighted a wide variety of proven benefits that children who attended the Waldorf school receivedcompared to their standard-education SCUSD peers.
Allow us to break down the top 6 reasons why the Waldorf Method is great, according to the study.
1. Lower Disciplinary Action Rates
Since the early 1990s in the U.S. where the study was conducted, “zero tolerance” policies have led to an increase in disciplinary actions, including suspension.
In the school year of 2009-10, 2.4% of standard elementary school students and 11.3% of standard secondary school students were suspended. The rates in the SCUSD district were more than double these averages.
However, Stanford’s research showed that the suspension rates of Waldorf school students were two-thirds lower than those in the city studied as a whole. In fact, the suspension rates for the school for African American and Latino students were just 0.7%, as opposed to the rest of the SCUSD, where the rates were 10 times higher!
Qualitative data found in the study illustrated that Waldorf’s positive approach to student discipline, where there are no point or reward systems for compliance, and classroom unity is encouraged, is the reason for these conclusions.
2. Higher Test Scores
Across standardized state assessments, Stanford was able to conclude that Waldorf students scored significantly higher than students of other schools in the district where the study took place.
3. Greater Engagement in School
A school is nothing without the involved engagement of its students. Therefore, the study thoroughly analyzed student experience and engagement at Waldorf compared to the rest of the SCUSD. Stanford found that Waldorf Students experienced increased engagement in school.
Waldorf teachers confirmed these findings anecdotally, reporting that they benefitted from high engagement levels within their classrooms.
4. Strong Student-Teacher Relationships
At Waldorf schools, teachers engage in sustained relationships with their students, ideally committing to staying with the same cohort of children from first to eighth grade. This constant relationship is the perfect foundation for deep and lasting bonds to be formed between students and teachers.
Furthermore, this curricular freedom allows teachers to pace their lessons in a way that prioritizes student learning, as they don’t need to rush lessons to ensure that their students are adequately prepared and proficient for when their next teacher takes over.
This supportive student-teacher relationship model is based on the Waldorf-inspired classroom ideas of:
- The teacher teaches the child rather than the subject
- Every child develops at his or her own pace
- Children move through different developmental stages in which they need different learning environments to thrive
- Children will access learning through multiple learning modalities: art, music, handwork, movement, speech, reading, storytelling, hands-on experimentation, practical life skills, and connection to nature. These modalities are taught both discretely and through an interdisciplinary approach
- Teachers monitor and respond to children’s developmental stages and optimal learning modalities by adjusting their instruction, including the needs of special education students and English Language Learners
- Long-term relations with teachers support students’ development
5. Higher Graduation Rates
In an effort to see how well the Waldorf school prepared students for high school, Stanford tracked two eighth-grade cohorts by their four-year high school enrollment and completion status with data made available by SCUSD. For the first cohort of students who went to the Waldorf school, the high school graduation rate was 94%, and for the second cohort, 100%.
Contrastingly, the overall high school graduation rate of SCUSD students in those two years was 85%, leaving Waldorf educated students more likely to complete their post-secondary schooling.
6. Holistic Approach
The Waldorf model focuses heavily on providing a holistic approach of teaching to the student, preparing them to thrive across their whole lives, not just in school.
Researchers found that this worked, as the schools’ focus on emotional development and connections formed with peers and teachers left students feeling empowered that their voices were respected and worth hearing. Waldorf teachers taught that failure and confusion is part of being a lifelong learner, encouraging students to not hesitate to ask for help when they required it.
In fact, it was observed that entering classroom discussions was not a barrier to students, and neither was taking a contrarian or unconventional stance in their essays or debates. It was concluded that this confidence was spurred by the mindful nurturing they received in their elementary and middle schooling.
Overall, the findings from Stanford did an optimal job of providing the public with an in-depth analysis of why the Waldorf approach truly works as an educational model.