Learning to think in Steiner-Waldorf Schools
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Oberski, I. (2005) Learning to think in Steiner-Waldorf Schools, , , , ,
The Steiner-Waldorf schools, of which there are 29 in the UK, 4 in Scotland and several hundred world-wide, are well known for offering a curriculum infused with creative activities and for introducing cognitive education at a later stage compared to most other schools. In Kindergarten (age three/four to six) children are engaged in a wide range of concrete activities, such as drawing, painting, cleaning, singing, clapping, skipping and so on, which could be argued to prepare them for the more formal approach in the lower school. While there has been a growing concern with the teaching of thinking and thinking skills from the start of primary school, in Waldorf schools the curriculum is based on the development of the imagination through creative and artistic expression, which is thought to lead to healthy thinking later on in life. According to Rudolf Steiner, whose spiritual insights lie at the basis of Waldorf education, the will and feeling, developed through creative activities, gradually transform into thinking. Thus, Steiner essentially saw the developing child as an organic whole becoming transformed through time and space. Therefore what is learned at an early stage, for example to clap and speak a rhyme, is thought to work its way through into thinking at a later stage of the child's life, for example as an ability to remember, participate or count. The mainstream perspective, in contrast, seems to be based on the notion that what is required as 'thinking skill' needs to be taught explicitly as a thinking skill, whether in isolation or infused through curricular subjects. This small study attempts to map out how, according to Waldorf teachers, the will and feeling are thought to transform into thinking.