What Is Steiner Waldorf Education?

“The need for imagination, a sense of truth and a feeling of responsibility – these are the three forces which are the very nerve of education.” – Rudolf Steiner. But have you ever wondered, what is Steiner Waldorf education?

Steiner education stands as a significant approach to learning that stands on the principle of nurturing the expansive needs of children in their quest to develop and grow into well-rounded individuals.

What is Steiner Waldorf education?

Steiner education, also known as Waldorf school, is increasingly growing in popularity as a successful approach to educational pedagogy. 

The principles of Steiner education are growing and becoming an accepted approach to education that embraces just academic development.

This post will give an insight into the principles of Steiner Waldorf, delving into what Steiner education actually is.

What Is Steiner Waldorf Education? 

Steiner Waldorf education is centered around creating a learning environment that meets the needs of children and strives to offer children the opportunity to develop their creativity by being immersed in enriched academic learning integrated with art and creativity. 

It stands to be a unique educational approach that focuses on the goal of helping children to develop their unique capacities as all children thrive in different areas of life and not just academically. 

Who Is Rudolf Steiner? 

Born in 1861, Rudolf Steiner was an Austrian academic and philosopher. Living during the First World War, Steiner witnessed the effects of the war.

He strove to find a solution that would enable people to live in harmony to create a new and happier world. He coined the term anthroposophy which characterizes the integration of humanity and the universe as a single entity. 

He progressed to applying this idea to areas of education which led to Steiner Waldorf education. Hence, Waldorf schools were built on the founding principles of anthroposophy. The first Steiner school opened in 1919 in Stuttgart, Germany. 

The History Of Steiner Education

Steiner  Waldorf education was founded in the early 20th century by the philosopher Rudolf Steiner. Steiner created a principle approach to educational pedagogy that centered around providing an environment where children could become fully rounded and true individuals. 

He recognized that children learn differently and hence the principle approach of integrating academic learning with holistic learning and play. He also recognized that different learning approaches were required for different age groups.

To meet the needs of different age groups he established four stages of development which are characterized as the Early Years (aged 3-6), Lower School (aged 6-11), Middle School (aged 11-14), and Upper School (aged 16-18). 

Steiner Waldorf education strives to create a space for learning that nurtures all parts of a child’s development. Hence, curriculums are flexible and set around the students.

Unlike the traditional educational approach, Steiner Waldorf education is centered around incorporating educational methods that involve meeting the needs and requirements of children’s physical, emotional, intellectual, and cultural needs. 

Classes are of mixed abilities and lessons are taught in a variety of formats to nurture development.

Steiner education does away with a centralized focus on academic development and achievement, instead, it adopts an unhurried approach that enables students to navigate and figure out the world around them.

Growing and developing isn’t a race. Hence, Steiner Waldorf education is becoming increasingly recognized as the natural approach to learning that works to nurture all areas of a child’s development rather than purely academic achievement.

This alternative approach to education has been shown to hold significant benefits in helping children to become well-rounded adults. 

Steiner Waldorf Education Principles  

Steiner Waldorf Education Principles

Image Of The Human Being

Steiner Waldorf education adopts a holistic approach that centers on the idea of nurturing the whole person which is characterized as the spirit, body, and soul as the essence of a person.

Steiner Waldorf education holds the principle of nurturing children on a journey of discovering themselves as human beings rather than just thinking beings.

Hence, Waldorf schools are non-selective. Waldorf schools also create an environment that doesn’t pressure students to succeed academically.

Instead, the free and open atmosphere encourages children to relax and develop at their own pace and pursue what appeals to them. 

Additionally, in line with principle, Waldorf schools do away with exams and set textbooks as they are not focused on test scores. 

Phases Of Child Development 

The focus on teaching within Waldorf schools rests on the foundations of understanding and implementing an educational program that works to cultivate and nurture the human capacity for critical thinking, strength of will, and motivation. 

Developmental Curriculum

Steiner Waldorf education is centered around development. The process of childhood development is associated with multiple stages.

The first stage is characterized as the physical stage which represents the early year stages which are development stages where children learn through imitation and develop skills such as gross motor skills and coordination. 

The second stage is associated with emotional progression which marks the development of problem solving and cognitive development.

The third stage is associated with cognitive dimensions with a focus on nurturing children in the stages of adolescence where they begin to navigate who they are as a person and begin to develop independent judgment. 

There are approximately seven stages of development that are used to inform the educational program of Waldorf schools; these stages are characterized as physical, emotional, cognitive, spiritual, academic, artistic, and transformational. 

Freedom In Teaching 

The role of the teacher is required to fulfill the needs and exceptions of the children in their class. Guided by the foundations of Steiner Waldorf education, they are expected to invest their time in nurturing the development of each child in their class in line with Waldorf pedagogy.

In practice, a Waldorf school should consist of classrooms that are big enough to accommodate everything the children require for development. 

Methodology Of Teaching 

There are significant methodologies of teaching that are in place to guide teachers. This principle is centered around Steiner’s approach to education that strives to promote educating instead of instructing.

Educating effectively using different methods will ensure that children develop the intellectual, emotional, and moral capacity required to thrive in society. The four methods of teaching are characterized as: 

  • Artistic metamorphosis
  • Teaching through image
  • Teaching through concept 
  • The holistic process of teaching 
  • Teaching through rhythm and repetition


Human development and interaction are at the forefront of the principles of Steiner Waldorf education. As stated, teachers are expected to support the development of each individual within their class to grow both socially and intellectually.

To do so, they are responsible for cultivating healthy relationships with their students, other teachers, and the parents of their students.

In doing so, teachers may successfully create an environment where children feel free and safe to develop. Additionally, students stay with the same teacher throughout the school years in order to establish a secure relationship.  

Spiritual Orientation 

It’s the responsibility of the institute’s community to cultivate an environment of collaboration that encourages and promotes spiritual and intellectual development, enhances creativity, and nurtures growth. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

How Is Steiner Waldorf Education Different? 

Steiner Waldorf schools incorporate a unique approach to education that differs from the traditional educational approach.

Steiner Waldorf education does away with competitive measurement and purely academic learning and instead strives to develop the learning principles that work to nurture all areas of a child’s development including physical, emotional, academic, and spiritual. 

In a Waldorf school, there is a combination of academic learning and a holistic approach to learning that is centered around nurturing children’s individual abilities through providing an enjoyable learning environment that encourages rounded development. 

What Is The Goal Of Steiner Waldorf Education? 

The goal of Steiner education is to create an educational environment that works to nurture every aspect of a child’s development and not just their academics as some children shine in other areas of life.

A well-rounded person is not represented by someone who is excellent at algebra, someone who represents a well-rounded personality holds the right morals and values, can express themselves and engage with others.

 The aim of Steiner Waldorf education is to help children to develop and recognize their creativity, self-belief, drive, and purpose. 

What Is Montessori Education? 

Montessori education differs from Steiner Waldorf education in that it involves the interaction of different aged children in the same class to encourage them to learn from one another.

Montessori education is centered around encouraging children to play by creating a free space where they can play with open-ended toys. 


If you have ever wondered what is Steiner Waldorf education, and how it works, then hopefully we have covered all of your questions in this article.

Steiner Waldorf education stands to a growing approach to education as Waldorf pedagogy becomes widespread. The educational principles behind Steiner education serve to nurture and support children in all areas of their development. 

The approach to education stands out for its expansive approach that strives to develop an individual’s identity beyond academic achievement.

Whilst the approach recognizes the importance of academic achievement, it places its focus on developing the core skills and values that make up a whole human. 

Hence, Waldorf schools aim to create an environment where children are free to learn and grow into well-rounded individuals by guiding their intellectual, physical, and emotional development. 

Joyce Bailey
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