Waldorf school education: main features
Immersions as the basic feature of the Waldorf learning process
A feature of the teaching process in Waldorf pedagogy is the method of immersion. Given the specifics of the subject, "epochs", time periods where pupils are paying attention to the one single thema, can last from 1 to 4 weeks, during which the child "immerses" in the content of the studied material. This allows children to concentrate their attention. Due to the length of epoche, children get sense of achievement and progress, and this motivates them further to continue their studies. During the academic year, the "epochs" replace each other - for example, mathematics is replaced by the foreign language, then physics, then again mathematics and so on.
Epochs - Waldorf schoole alternative to traditional lessons
The curriculum is managed in that way, so children don't forget at the end of year, what they study in-depth in early September. In the elementary school "epochs" is taught a small number of subjects: mathematics, mother tongue, drawing forms, so "epochs" in these subjects pass every quarter. In addition, in mathematics and mother tongue there are weekly lessons where the material is "fixed", as well as daily homework for learning the acquired skills.
The number of "epochs" in the school year depends on the number of hours allocated to a particular subject. For example, if, according to the curriculum, there are 2 hours a week for a subject, then in the year there will be two "epochs" on this subject. If there are more than 4 hours, then only 4 epochs are carried out - one in a quarter, and the rest of the hours on the subject are given weekly.
In high school, not all subjects are "epochs". Basically it's mother tongue and mathematics. Other subjects for "epoch-making" teaching each school determines independently in accordance with its capabilities and the desicion makes the counsil of teachers and parents.
The curriculum includes additional lessons of music, art, foreign languages (from the first grade children study at least two foreign languages), various crafts. Therefore it seems that the child should spend a lot of time in school. Some not enough informed sources repeat, that a number of subjects in the Waldorf school schedule would be not included in the curriculum of the traditional school - this isn't fully true. The educational programs of the Waldorf schools differ from traditional school only through two additional subjects: eurythmy and a second foreign language.
In general, the pupils at Waldorf schools do not spend more time, than in any traditional school, but their results of education are above average.
Waldorf leartning way: no textbooks, but many handwritten notices
There are no approved textbooks during the study period at the classical Steiner Waldorf school, but in some countries is the use of the textbook a prerequisite for accreditation. There is a certain methodology for the work of the teacher and student with a notebook-textbook. All that the student writes down on his own, he does on a draft and passes it on to the teacher for verification. These can be abstracts of the topics covered, independent work, various tables, descriptions of experiments, essays, essays, etc. The teacher checks the work and, if necessary, asks for something to be corrected or supplemented. The older the student becomes, the more he must work with educational literature and primary sources. In the junior school the abstract of the topic is compiled by the teacher.
No grading, no marks at Waldorf schools
It is a known fact, that Waldorf schools don't grade their pupils. Monitoring and evaluation of educational achievements is an important part of the educational process. Evaluation of the student's work is present throughout his time at the school in different forms, including in the five-ball (in the middle and high school). But aside from grading with marks, there are many other forms of evaluation. This is a verbal assessment of the teacher, and a review of the work, and comments and recommendations in notebooks, a conversation about successes and difficulties, a joint examination with students of their creative work, which are hung out on a special stand in the classroom. There are detailed characteristics of educational achievements for each subject at the end of the school year or quarters, half-year.
Teachers at Waldorf school talk a lot with pupils about themselves, and about their academic achievements. The main thing is that the evaluation and feedback should help pupils learn, while grading at traditional schools sometimes turn into a kind of punitive tool. The "assessment form" changes as the pupils grows up. In high school, much attention is paid to the development of self-esteem, self-organization and self-control. As some survey results of children at traditional schools show, the school marks tend to simplify children's self-understanding. Not so at Waldorf schools: at the mark-less school environment children learn to do work not for a mark, but to develop some new qualities. This ability is quite difficult and important for the further life.
Now in education there is a lot of talk about "formative" evaluation. Evaluation, which helps the student to set goals and achieve them.
Development of children's competitiveness at Waldorf school
A common opinion is that the Waldorf school would not develop children's competitiveness. To clarify this it is important to understand what a "competitive" student is. Competitiveness of a person is his ability to invest his time, resources, attention and will in such a way as to provide himself with a position in the labor market, in business or in a social group adequate to his own expectations, ambitions and means. This is the ability to establish real cause-effect relationships and make choices within the framework of objectively existing restrictions. A five-point mark-up system of traditional schools doesn't really contributes to the development of all these qualities and skills.
Teachers at Waldorf school: education, hiring and teaching
All classes in the pre-school period are conducted by the same teacher, and from 6 to 14 years old the same class teacher works with him. Under such conditions, the teacher must be fully developed, because he needs to teach various subjects. All Waldorf teachers have a pedagogical or university education. In addition, the teacher must pass the promotion courses at the Waldorf pedagogical seminar, where he studies Waldorf education theory and technique.
To get to the school, each candidate is interviewed with a personnel commission, which takes into account his education, teaching experience, vital interests and hobbies. The first year is considered as a trial, to let a teacher a time to look, whether Waldorf education system makes comfortable feeling at work. In the meantime the teaching counsil together with parents looks, whether children and the new teacher are able to conflict-free, productively and easy work together. Are both party happy together, the teacher remains at Waldorf school.
How long and which subjects would a class teacher teach, determines the teacher's counsil of the school together with the teacher himself. It depends on the abilities of the teacher, his erudition, education and the desire to work creatively with children. A modern teacher with a higher education can quite master the knowledge of basic subjects at the level of secondary school (grades 6-7) to become an inspiring example for his pupils.