Recognizing the notable failures of the public school systems of the time, educational forerunner Rudolf Steiner developed the Waldorf Educational Method in the early 20th century. Steiner’s method centered on developing children into self reliant individuals by strengthening their skills and working on improving their weaknesses. Steiner believed that teaching children based on their individual needs in a warm, non-judgmental or noncompetitive, homelike environment would help them to develop more proficient skills as the appropriate developmental stage.
The Waldorf method features a curriculum which adheres to a child’s behavioral and developmental stages. For example, in early childhood, curriculums are centered on acquiring skills such as communication primarily through imitation. During adolescence, however, curriculums are more centered on complex material focusing on ethical themes such as social responsibility, which is more manageable by teenagers who have already developed the ability to think abstractly and conceptually, thereby increasing their chances of efficiently integrating new knowledge into their already formed schemas and facilitating later retention.
Additionally, instructors who use the Waldorf educational method typically classify their pupils into one of four predetermined temperaments including choleric, phlegmatic, melancholic, and sanguine, which are based on Steiner’s perceptions of the four basic personality types. These classifications are intended to help teachers understand an individual student’s behaviors and tailor their teaching strategies to the child’s unique learning style based on his or her personality.
Although classifying children may successfully assist some teachers, there are many drawbacks to the Waldorf methods policies and procedures The idea that the method is based predominantly on the assumption that a child will learn at his or her own “pace” when he/she is ready to, completely disregards the incidence of learning disabled children in classes. These children are sometimes not able to verbally communicate their needs and may consequentially internalize their problems and any resulting feelings which may have many negative results. These children need to be taught how to communicate by their instructors, and while the Waldorf method may allow for a non-critical environment which will allow children to do this, instructors should not waste valuable time waiting for children to “come around” before actively engaging in teaching them how to communicate and develop other necessary life skills.