Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Exploring Things Seen and Unseen: Students Speak of Waldorf Education
by Beaven, Elizabeth King, Ed.D., University of California, Davis, 2011, 260; 3474344
Abstract (Summary)

This study attempts to develop a new understanding of Waldorf education, an enduring system of alternative education. Specifically, it explores how a sample of twelfth grade students at an established Waldorf school interpret and define their school experience, where their experience is congruent with or divergent from core principles of Waldorf education, and what the implications of these student perspectives might be for practice in Waldorf or Waldorf-methods schools.

Drawing from principles of student voice research, participants were invited to explore their understanding of their education through open-ended interviews, focus groups, and observations. Their perspectives offer fresh insights into a distinctive educational setting. These insights are primarily reported from their point of view and in their authentic voices.

Overall, students reported a high level of agreement between their experience and the core philosophy and principles of Waldorf education that were identified from the literature. They described the power of the arts as experience and a path to knowing, their engagement with a developmentally based curriculum, the impact of the school’s environment and ethos, the important role of rhythm, ritual, and tradition, and the value of relationships, teachers, and community. They also reported their experience of more conventional aspects of school grammar such as grading, levels of interest and engagement, boredom and motivation, and the pressures of senior year and plans for the future. Finally, they sought to address underlying factors, including their knowledge of the school’s philosophy, the impact of underlying beliefs, their interest in spiritual topics, an overall sense of meaningfulness, and the potential importance of such less visible factors in their lives.

The study points to the importance of coherence and purpose in students’ lives. The study attempts to directly engage several core Waldorf principles including the use of the arts as a lens for discovery, the power of narrative and the human voice, an emphasis on the individual, and the centrality of relationships. Researched within an independent school setting, it also raises questions of access and equity in education, the role of parental choice, and issues of compromise and fidelity that arise when an alternative system of education becomes increasingly visible.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Rodriguez, Gloria M.
Commitee: Kurlaender, Michal, Porter, Paul
School: University of California, Davis
Department: Educational Leadership
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 73/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Pedagogy, Secondary education
Keywords: Arts, Developmentally based curriculum, Meaning, Purpose, Students, Voice, Waldorf education
Publication Number: 3474344
ISBN: 9781124906485
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