Waldorf methodology: advantages and disadvantages

UDC 371
Publication date: 22.04.2024
International Journal of Professional Science №4-1-2024

Waldorf methodology: advantages and disadvantages

Lashina Ekaterina N.
Senior Lecturer of the Department of Foreign Languages,
St. Petersburg State University of Industrial Technology and Design.
Higher School of Technology and Energy
Abstract: The article discusses the Waldorf methodology used in an alternative education system. The Waldorf methodology is the best way to develop a child's individuality. Opponents of the methodology criticize the principles of anthroposophy used in such education.
Keywords: Waldorf methodology, education system, advantages, disadvantages, development, personality, anthroposophy.

The Waldorf methodology is one of the most famous alternative pedagogical systems. The first Waldorf school was opened in 1919 thanks to Emil Molt, the owner of a tobacco factory, and Rudolf Steiner, who, in fact, should be given credit for developing this system. A few years later, when the technique proved itself and received well-deserved recognition among both parents and scientists [1].

Before choosing one or another educational system, it is necessary to familiarize yourself with it from different sides and study both the advantages of the pedagogical system and its disadvantages.

Observation of the organization of the educational process in a Waldorf school allows us to characterize the following positive features of this methodology.

The Waldorf school unites teachers and parents for whom the main value is the harmonious, holistic development of the child. The focus here is on the natural abilities of each student, strengthening his belief in his own strength. Education in such a school covers the whole person – his physical health, the development of feelings and spirituality. The main efforts are aimed at developing thinking, feeling and will.

Waldorf schools use an interdisciplinary approach to the study of subjects from first grade to graduation, taking into account the age characteristics of children. This helps students master different areas of knowledge and independently establish complex connections between phenomena.

Science teaching in Waldorf schools is based on personal lived experience. The starting point is experiment and observation: sounds, prismatic colors – in physics, combustion – in chemistry, observation of plants and animals – in biology, sensation of one’s own body – in physiology and anatomy.

The curriculum carefully maintains a balance between obtaining practical skills in gardening, agriculture, craft workshops and various types of arts: music, rhythm, theater, painting.

Each of us is endowed by nature with such qualities as trust, empathy, and the ability to distinguish between good and evil. Waldorf schools, through collaboration with parents, consciously cultivate these values. The learning process is aimed at ensuring that the child gets to know and love this world and all its inhabitants, and receive a holistic view of life in all its diversity.

By inviting the child to explore the world, feeling his involvement in what is happening, the Waldorf school raises an internally free person, capable of responsible, conscious choice, self-determination and self-realization, a friendly and open attitude towards the world.

The presence of a specially trained classroom teacher is the main and necessary condition of a Waldorf school. The class teacher here is one of the main figures, a teacher who, first of all, takes into account the individuality of the student. He teaches all the main subjects from first to seventh grade: Russian language, mathematics, the environment, handicrafts, outdoor games, painting. To this, as a rule, history and a number of natural science subjects are added in grades 5-6. A modern Waldorf school teacher is comprehensively developed – he has knowledge of all the basic subjects of general education and the artistic and aesthetic cycle, as well as the skills of a variety of practical crafts.

This practice has been a long-standing tradition of Waldorf schools. It is also due to the fact that at this age, the main thing for children is the personal qualities of the teacher, which influence emotional development and motivation to study, and not just his level of special knowledge in a specific subject. On the one hand, the level and quality of the student’s basic knowledge depends on the classroom teacher, and on the other, his social, moral, and universal qualities.

Traditional teacher training provides theoretical knowledge of psychology, pedagogy, and methods of teaching subjects, but there is a special program for teaching and training a Waldorf school classroom teacher. It assumes that a person already has a basic higher education and requires the main thing from him – deep penetration into the method, talent, creativity, responsibility for the fate of the child, understanding of a growing person, the ability to cooperate with him, the ability to interact correctly with parents.

Having been close to his students for many years, the classroom teacher knows perfectly well the peculiarities of perception of each of them, and has the opportunity to observe his class in different settings and in different areas of activity. All this gives an important effect of connecting the child, the teacher and the subject being studied.

A peculiarity of the organization of the educational process of Waldorf schools is the teaching in educational eras (immersion cycles), each of which lasts from one to four weeks. A number of general education subjects: history, biology, geography, mathematics, Russian language and literature are studied in a concentrated manner in the form of certain cycles. This is learning through immersion in the material instead of simply demonstrating knowledge. Over the course of a year, eras replace each other, for example, mathematics is followed by Russian, then mathematics again, etc.

This frequency of studying subjects helps to deepen the understanding of the topics studied in the eras and gives the child more solid knowledge. Teaching over time allows the student to immerse himself in the subject and makes the knowledge gained felt and meaningful.

At the same time, material that requires constant exercise – spelling in Russian, counting skills and solving examples in mathematics, foreign languages (English and German in Waldorf schools begin in the first grade), arts and crafts subjects, physical education and eurythmy – are taught in weekly lessons throughout the year [2].

But today, there are many opponents of the Waldorf methodology. Like any alternative pedagogical system, it is very different from traditional teaching. In a Waldorf school, there are a number of points that you should pay special attention to when choosing an education system for your child.

One of the aspects is that teacher training for a Waldorf school is very specific. The methodology of cognition characteristic of the characterized school is strikingly different from the materialist one, and students study it at Waldorf seminars along with didactics. All this is extremely unusual for rationally thinking people. It is quite difficult to talk about the essence of Waldorf methodology, since the principles of its construction are never named, but rather implied. They can be understood and felt by studying the works of R. Steiner, the founder of this pedagogy, and by observing how they work with children in a Waldorf school.

The disadvantages include the fact that previously the bulk of students were children of parents who were keen on the principles of anthroposophy. Today, children are sent there for whom they want to create comfortable, non-conflict learning conditions. This sometimes results in the inability of children to join another, more “down-to-earth”, “yard”, “ordinary” team. Often for this reason, the Waldorf methodology is chosen by parents of problem children. And it is clear that with problem children it is easier to achieve positive results. If a school does not conduct selection, naturally, many problem children come there, and for many parents there is already such a stereotype that a Waldorf school accepts children who cannot study in public schools. This also happens in other non-state schools, when they take children who cannot study in a regular school. On the one hand, this is a noble function, but on the other hand, it is dangerous. There may be an opinion that Waldorf pedagogy is good pedagogy for “bad” children, but this is a hopeless endeavor. The lack of competition is quite capable of reducing the desire to learn and do at least something. It is important for some children to see the results of their work, and healthy competition pushes them to move forward. Equalizing the class under one common friendly company is quite capable of provoking the neutralization of the conflict instead of a healthy revelation of the problem and fair punishment of the culprit.

In this case, another problem arises: either the Waldorf school will be a full-fledged and alternative school, or it will be an auxiliary school [3].

There are also certain features of teaching subjects that are not suitable for all students. Children up to second grade write in block letters. There is an opinion that neglecting writing slows down the rate of development of children. Children are not required to be able to read. It is believed that it is normal not to read before the age of 7-8 years. New technologies, computers and other gadgets are not welcome in training. During the lessons of burning, labor and sculpting, the child will not learn about robotics or programming. Therefore, it is quite possible for children with high intellectual abilities in such a school to bury their talent deep into the ground.

 In addition, most of these schools are private, and they are not cheap [4].

Most often, Waldorf pedagogy is blamed for the low quality of education. Some scientists note that in these schools there is often a substitution of concepts, and parents lose sight of sectarian signs because they are fascinated by beautiful advertising and teachers who carefully care about their children. According to them, even if Waldorf schools treat students really well, they lack the most important thing — the actual education and development of children [5].

However, other studies have not revealed that Waldorf pedagogy has any critical effect on academic results – it only improves the student’s emotional state and boosts his interest in learning. Thus, it contributes to the harmonious development of the child’s creative abilities and the independent formation of his intellect. It is worth noting that educational institutions will greatly influence the child’s thinking. Such children grow up calm, reasonable, able to listen and understand. To ensure that the work of educators is not in vain, one should learn to see the child as an individual and take into account his interests and needs. The Steiner system can undoubtedly be considered as an alternative teaching method.

This methodology has its pros and cons, so only parents can decide which educational institution to give preference to.


1. Waldorf teaching method: [Electronic resource]. – Access mode: https://kidsmi.ru/valdorfskaya-sistema-obucheniya-i-vospitaniya/
2. Features of the Waldorf school: [Electronic resource]. – Access mode: https://www.putzerna.ru/pedagogika/osobennosti-valdorfskoy-shkoly/
3. Pinsky, A. A. Waldorf school: traditional and modern / A. A. Pinsky. – World of Education. – 1997. – No. 1. – P. 23.
4. Volodina, E. S. Problems of Waldorf pedagogy in Russia / E. S. Volodina. – Series: Humanities. – 2023. – No. 2-2. – P. 46-52. – [Electronic resource]. – Access mode: http://www.nauteh-journal.ru/files/794a3d3e-26a9-4972-851c-034df6df6f5f
5. Waldorf pedagogy: is it really pedagogy or sectarianism? [Electronic resource]. – Access mode: https://skillbox.ru/media/education/valdorfskaya-pedagogika-eto-deystvitelno-pedagogika-ili-sektantstvo/