Waldorf education (also known as Steiner or Steiner-Waldorf education) is a pedagogy based upon the educational philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy. Learning is interdisciplinary, integrates practical, artistic, and intellectual elements, and is coordinated with "natural rhythms of everyday life". The Waldorf approach emphasizes the role of the imagination in learning, developing thinking that includes a creative as well as an analytic component. Studies of the education describe its overarching goal as providing young people the basis on which to develop into free, moral and integrated individuals, and to help every child fulfill his or her unique destiny (the existence of which anthroposophy posits). Schools and teachers are given considerable freedom to define curricula within collegial structures.
There are widely-agreed guidelines for the Waldorf curriculum, supported by the schools' common principles; nevertheless, independent Waldorf schools are autonomous institutions not required to follow a prescribed curriculum. Government-funded Waldorf-method schools may be required to incorporate aspects of state curricula.
There are a few subjects largely unique to the Waldorf schools. Foremost among these is Eurythmy, a movement art usually accompanying spoken texts or music which includes elements of role play and dance and is designed to provide individuals and classes with a "sense of integration and harmony".
Waldorf schools generally introduce computers into the curriculum in the teenage years.
- U.S. Waldorf schools survey
A 1995 survey of U.S. Waldorf schools found that parents overall experienced the Waldorf schools as achieving their major aims for students, and described the education as one that "integrates the aesthetic, spiritual and interpersonal development of the child with rigorous intellectual development", preserving students' enthusiasm for learning so that they develop a better sense of self-confidence and self-direction. Some parents described upper grades teachers as overextended, without sufficient time to relate to parental needs and input, and wished for more open and reciprocal parent-school support. Both parents and students sometimes described colleges of teachers as being insular and unresponsive. The students overall were positive about the school and its differences; experienced the school as a "community of friends"; and spoke of the opportunity to grow and develop through the broad range of activities offered, to learn when they were ready to learn, to develop imagination, and to come to understand the world as well as oneself. Many students spoke of the kindness of their peers and of learning to think things through clearly for themselves, not to jump to conclusions, and to remain positive in the face of problems and independent of pressure from others to think as they do. Improvements the students suggested included more after-school sports programs, more physical education classes, more preparation for standardized testing, a class in world politics and computer classes. Faculty, parents and students were united in expressing a desire to improve the diversity of the student body, especially by increasing representation of minority groups such as African-Americans and Hispanic Americans.
- Standardized testing: USA and Germany
Despite their lessened exposure to standardized testing (especially in the elementary school years), U.S. Waldorf pupils' SAT scores have usually come above the national average, especially on verbal measures. Studies comparing students' performance on college-entrance examinations in Germany found that as a group, Waldorf graduates passed the exam at double to triple the rate of students graduating from the state education system, and that students who had attended Waldorf schools for their entire education passed at a much higher rate (40% vs. 26%) than those who only had part of their education at a Waldorf school. Educational successes of private Waldorf schools may partially reflect the social status of their students.