Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

In a report, based on the PISA study in 2006, the Austrian Bundesinstitut for Educational Research Innovation and Development (BIFIE) recommends Steiner Waldorf schools as models for teaching in the sciences. According to the PISA study, Austrian Steiner Waldorf schools are better at teaching the sciences than schools in OECD countries and Austrian schools in general. The report writes:

The results of pupils at Waldorf schools in the sciences are better than the average for pupils in OECD countries with 524 points and 500 points respectively and are also higher than the average for Austrian schools. In comparison, the average results in this area lie between the two higher school types (AHS, BHS) and the occupational middle schools. The difference in results is smallest in the sciences in relation to the AHS with 50 test points and to the BHS with 30 test points in comparison to the two other areas of competence (reading and mathematics)

It also writes

Recommendations for educational policies based on the PISA results can be made especially for the teaching of natural science. Based on the relatively high competence of Waldorf pupils in natural science, combined with exceptionally high indicators of motivation and reflective cognition in these subjects as well as the different pedagogical principles, it is reasonable to conclude that public education can learn from the Steiner Waldorf schools, in particular with regard to being able to concretely apply knowledge in natural science.

(In the original:

Die Schüler/innen der Waldorfschulen liegen in Naturwissenschaft mit 524 Testpunkten über dem OECD-Mittelwert von 500 und auch über dem österreichischen Mittelwert. Im Vergleich zeigt sich bei diesem Kompetenzbereich, dass die durchschnittlichen Leistungen der Waldorfschulen zwischen den beiden höheren Schulsparten (AHS, BHS) und den Berufsbildenden Mittleren Schulen (BMS) liegen. Die Leistungsdifferenz zur AHS mit gut 50 Testpunkten und zur BHS mit gut 30 Testpunkten ist im Vergleich zu den anderen beiden Kompetenzbereichen (Lesen und Mathematik) am geringsten.


Bildungspolitische Empfehlungen auf Basis dieser Ergebnisse lassen sich vor allem für den Unterricht in naturwissenschaftlichen Fächern ableiten. Auf Grund der relativ hohen Naturwissenschafts-Kompetenz der Waldorfschüler/innen in Kombination mit äußerst hohen motivationalen Merkmalen und selbstbezogenen Kognitionen in diesen Fächern sowie den unterschiedlichen didaktischen Prinzipien liegt der Schluss nahe, dass die Regelschule von der Waldorfschule lernen kann, insbesondere was den konkreten Anwendungsbezug in der Naturwissenschaft betrifft

For the full  report by the research institute,  see

”Kompetenzen und individuelle Merkmale der Waldorfschüler/innen im Vergleich” by Christina Wallner-Paschon

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One of the many myths about Rudolf Steiner and anthroposophy, cultivated by anti-Steiner ”rationalists” crusaders is

”Steiner’s theory of reincarnation states that souls travel an upward path of consciousness, beginning with the ‘sub-races’ (Africans) and ending with Aryans — the most ‘enlightened’ race.”

The myth is a typical distorted misconstruction.

Steiner’s ”theory of reincarnation” does not state that ”souls travel an upward path of consciousness, beginning with the ‘sub-races’ (Africans)”. It was his much more radical view that we as humans in the early stages of our development started our ”upward path of consciousness” long before there was something that could be called human ”races” on Earth, and long before the time for which fossil remains can be found.

For more on this, see here and here.

Rudolf Steiner did not consider Africans to be, or describe them as a ”sub-race” as sometimes stated. Instead he considered both Caucasians and Africans, as well as the three other of the ”five main races of humanity” (a term commonly used at the beginning of the 20th century), to constitute an abnormal differentiation of humanity. In Steiner’s view, these ”main races” arose before the end of the last glacial age, but started to lose their reality and significance after that, and today constitute only vestiges of the past, which will disappear in the future (1).

Closer reading of Steiner also tells us that he was of the view that intermarriage, the breaking down of the tribal principle, was a natural step in the history of every race and people, and considered the beginning of intermarriage between people of different ethnic backgrounds to have constituted an important step in the development of mankind.

The reason was that, in Steiner’s view, intermarriage contributed to the disappearance of an instinctual clairvoyance and wisdom of the past and to the development of the waking consciousness of the present day, bringing humanity to a higher stage of development (2).

He also considered it to be one of the central tasks of anthroposophy to work especially in support of overcoming that which relates to ‘racial character’ and to support that which is individual in each of us as human beings (3), independent of our ”race”, gender and other temporal, external characteristics we happen to have.

For more on Steiner’s view on the relation between us as individuals, and the ”race” or other temporal external qualities we might have, see here.

Steiner’s ”theory of reincarnation” also does not state that our ”upward path of consciousness” ends with ”Aryans — the most ‘enlightened’ race” as the article states.

Instead, Steiner’s ”theory of reincarnation” states that our reincarnations during the cultural development of humanity, since the last glacial age, will ”end” with something quite else. This ”end” in his view will be a culture thousands of years in the future, developing as what he called a global ”American cultural epoch”. The history of this culture so far indicates that one of its main characteristics will be that it will develop out of a mixing of people of all ”races”. In Steiner’s view, the time in question will lead finally to the end of the meaning of the concept ”race” as we understand it.

The concept ”Aryans”, controversial today because of the way it was misused by the Nazis, in its original sense does not refer to white Europeans, as is often thought, but to a little known and little understood group of people, whose descendants, according to a commonly held historical theory, invaded the Indian subcontinent some 1500-1800 years B.C. along the river valleys of the Indus and Ganges. Among those who have the most right to call themselves ”Aryans” in the West today, would be the ”Roma” or gypsies.

In the theosophical tradition, in which Steiner worked for some years at the beginning of the 20th century, the cultural development of humanity from the end of the glacial ages and far into the future, was referred to with the misnomer ”the Aryan root race”, a concept that Steiner early on criticized as an expression of a childhood illness of the theosophical movement (4). Steiner did not use this concept when developing anthroposophy separate from theosophy.

This misnomer came from the assumption that the main post-glacial cultures originated in the previously mentioned, little understood Asian cultural-linguistic group, which called itself the ”Aryans”, which was considered by historians to be the origin of the so-called Indo-European cultures and languages.

Later however, this original cultural-linguistic concept was distorted into a racial concept by people of the 19th and early 20th century who were obsessed with the concept of ”race”. The term ”Aryan” was used by the Nazis in a way which today understandably evokes an almost instinctual aversion.

Steiner’s view on the issue is quite different from what the theosophical misnomer ”Aryan root race” may seem to indicate.

The main post-glacial development of humanity, in Steiner’s view, began in this mythical Indian ”Aryan” culture. This culture was however — in the unexpected view of Steiner — initially led by Noah, in Indian mythology referred to as ”Manu”. In Steiner’s view, the ”Aryans” in question in turn had their origin in a group of ”original Semites” from the time preceding the end of the glacial ages, a group which Steiner considered to have been the most developed group before the end of the glacial ages.

He also considered the essence of the myth of the Flood, as described by the Torah, to be a reflection of the transition from the time preceding the end of the glacial ages to the following time.

This shows that Steiner’s view of the actual meaning of the misleading theosophical concept ”Aryan root race” differs radically from the associations generally evoked by the term today.

In Steiner’s view, the original postdiluvian ”Aryan” (meaning ”noble”) high culture, under the leadership of Noah, was later followed by a mythical Persian culture, also occurring far in the past. Like the preceding mythical original Indian culture, the original Persian culture developed, in Steiner’s view, before the more well-documented cultures of historical time, starting out later as river cultures in China, India and the fertile crescent of the Middle East from around 3,000 B.C.

As to the time up to the future “American cultural epoch”, predicted by Steiner, which in his view will mean the end of the meaning of the concept “race” as we still experience it as a vestige of the past,

Steiner described in 1924 (5) what he considered increasingly in the future will characterize people who, in the spirit of our time, make themselves free of their bonds to nationality and ”race”.

”It will be said: Where does that person come from? He does not belong to one people, he is not from one race. He is as if he had grown out of all races and peoples.”

It shows the degree to which the typical misconstruction  by Steiner critics distort and misrepresent the views of Steiner, as the founder of Waldorf education.

For more, see
Myth: ”Anthroposophy and Rudolf Steiner are racist”
Myth: ”Anthroposophy and Rudolf Steiner are anti-Semitic”


(1) Rudolf Steiner: Lecture December 4, 1909. In: The Deeper Secrets of Human Evolution in the Light of the Gospels (GA 117).
(2) Rudolf Steiner: Lecture October 25, 1906. In: Supersensible Knowledge (in Our Time, and its Significance for Life Today) (GA 55).
(3) Rudolf Steiner: Lecture December 4, 1909. In: The Deeper Secrets of Human Evolution in the Light of the Gospels (GA 117).
(4) Ibid.
(5) Rudolf Steiner: Lecture August 3, 1924. In Karmic relationships (GA 237).

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According to statistics for 2009/2010 published by the national School Board, Waldorf parents in Sweden have a higher education than parents at other (primary) schools.

The School Board:

Föräldrar till elever i fristående skolor har högre utbildning

Hälften av eleverna i grundskolan har minst en förälder med högskoleutbildning och på fristående skolor uppgår denna andel till över 60 procent. I waldorfskolor uppgår andelen till drygt 70 procent tätt följt av riksinternatskolor där 68 procent av eleverna har minst en förälder med högskoleutbildning. ”

Parents of pupils at independent schools have higher education

Half of the pupils at primary schools have at least one parent with higher education and at independent schools the corresponding proportion is over 60%. At Waldorf schools, the proportion is slightly over 70%, followed by boarding schools, where 68% of the pupils have at least one parent with higher education.

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Since the beginning of the year, the Rudolf Steiner University College in Oslo, Norway and the Alanus University of Arts and Social Sciences in Alfter, Germany publish a research journal on Steiner Waldorf education.

The journal, RoSE: Research on Steiner Education is an on-line, bilingual (English and German) peer-reviewed academic journal with the purpose of serving the theoretical and practical development of Steiner Waldorf education in ways that are relevant to our contemporary globalising world.

RoSE wishes to establish links and dialogues between Steiner education and other alternative as well as mainstream educational discourses and practices. The journal publishes articles based on empirical as well as on theoretical or philosophical research.

Reviews of books, Doctoral and Master’s Theses are also part of the journal. The journal welcomes both critical and appreciative approaches to Steiner education, as long as they adhere to general academic standards. While the journal finds references to Rudolf Steiner’s works natural considering the purpose of the journal, the journal also welcomes papers that do not refer to Steiner as long as they are otherwise relevant to the journal’s purpose.

Articles that engage in rigorous dialogue between Steiner philosophy/pedagogy and other, particularly contemporary, pedagogical, psychological or philosophical approaches are especially welcome. The journal publishes two issues per year. Submitted papers will be anonymously peer-reviewed by two members of the editorial board, or by academic colleagues especially chosen by these members.

The first issue of the journal was published in January 2010. The second issue will be published in November 2010.

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According to an independent study in 2005, Waldorf pupils are least hostile to foreigners of all German pupils.

The study that was done by the Criminological Research Institute in Niedersachsen, was made at the request of the Greens in the German parliament, to investigate the extent of right wing extremism and hostility to foreigners among pupils at German schools.

Hostility to non-Germans

Acording to the study, of German pupils with two German parents, 24.7 % of the pupils at ”Hauptschulen” (main schools) expressed hostility to non-Germans.

The same holds for 20.2 % of the pupils at ”Realschulen”, 16.3 % of the pupils at ”Gesamtschulen” and 8.4 % of the pupils at ”Gymnasien” (High Schools).

Among pupils at Waldorf schools, the percentage of pupils who expressed hostility to non-Germans was lowest among all German pupils, 2.4%.

Right wing extremist views

The results were similar with regard to extremist right wing views.

The percentage of pupils who expressed extremist right wing attitudes was 9.5 % at ”Hauptschulen” (main schools), 6.0 % for pupils at ”Realschulen”, 4.8 % at ”Gesamtschulen”, and 2.8 % for pupils at ”Gymnasien” (High Schools).

The corresponding figure for pupils at Waldorf schools was 1.2 %.

Dirk Baier, Susann Rabold, Christian Pfeiffer (Kriminologisches Forschungsinstitut Niedersachsen): Ausmaß, Ursachen und Entwicklung von fremdenfeindlichen und rechtsextremen Einstellungen bei deutschen Jugendlichen. Stellungnahme zum Antrag der Fraktion Bündnis 90/Die Grünen betreffend der Bekämpfung des Rechtsextremismus in Hessen (Drucksache 16/6708)

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A US dissertation in 2001 on the moral reasoning of high school seniors from diverse educational settings found that Waldorf-educated students scored significantly higher on a test of moral reasoning than students in public high schools and students in a religiously-affiliated high school. Waldorf students were also far more likely to volunteer opinions about the survey and research in general, suggesting possible improvements in the survey technique and offering new possibilities to resolve the moral dilemmas raised in the survey.

Hether, Christine Anne, The moral reasoning of high school seniors from diverse educational settings, Ph.D. dissertation, Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center, 2001, 209 pages; AAT 3044032

Source: Waldorf education article at Wikipedia

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A british study comparing the drawing ability of children in Steiner/Waldorf, Montessori and traditional schools has concluded that

”the approach to art education in Steiner schools is conducive not only to more highly rated imaginative drawings in terms of general drawing ability and use of color but also to more accurate and detailed observational drawings,”

while another, international study has found that Waldorf pupils average higher scores on the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking Ability than state-school students.

According to the study, this

”suggested that Waldorf students were more creative than their state school peers. Particular credit for this was given to the maturational-readiness and nurturing curriculum of the Waldorf Schools, which includes: having the same teacher follow students from grades 1 to 8; de-emphasis on academic performance in early grades; use of art in instruction; and other teaching and curriculum considerations.

Source: Waldorf education article at Wikipedia

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