Stanford University Conducted a Rigorous Analysis of Waldorf Education

With over 1,500 schools operating around the world and a 102-year track record, Waldorf Education has stood the test of time.

It is the world’s largest and fastest-growing educational movement, formed by thousands of Waldorf schools and educational organizations in over 85 countries, with a global reputation for confident graduates skilled in creative problem-solving and collaboration.

Each Waldorf school is governed entirely independently and each is unique, but they share essential educational principles and methods.

Waldorf education aims to:

  • Integrate hands-on, creative collaboration into every aspect of the curriculum, working with “head, heart, and hands” at all ages.
  • Celebrate all the world’s cultures and histories as the context for each individual life, and direct experience of the natural world as the foundation of scientific knowledge.
  • Support healthy human development as “a journey, not a race”—a natural process facilitated by a low-stress, unhurried approach.
  • Introduce concepts and technologies in a developmental progression, at age-appropriate times.
  • Place the non-sectarian spiritual qualities of “truth, beauty, and goodness” at the center of every young person’s educational experience.
  • Learn together in socioeconomically and culturally diverse groups, with an explicit sense of responsibility for schools as agents of positive social change.

But what do the experts say? Let’s find out.
Stanford University conducted a multi-year, rigorous analysis of Waldorf education that resulted in a 139-page report (December 2015).

What information did Stanford look at?
Stanford reviewed Waldorf student performance on standardised tests, engagement (love of learning) and rates of problematic behaviour. Stanford used quantitative (or rigorous statistical) methods on a large dataset of more than 118,000 students, consisting of 23,000-24,000 students from 3rd to 8th grade over a five-year period.

What did Stanford find?
Stanford found significantly higher positive student achievement outcomes on standardised state assessments by Waldorf students, greater engagement and significantly lower disciplinary action.

What did they see?
“There was such a sweetness—there was a garden, children were singing, and I was taken by that. We visited every classroom and ended up staying longer. We were impressed by the physical setup of the classrooms, curriculum drawings on the Black boards, children’s paintings on the pin-up boards, the calm demeanour of the teachers and the students, the children’s respectful attitudes; by eurythmy, music, singing and art classes. This was a school where students, staff, and parents were happy. We liked that.”

Why does happiness matter?
We all want our children to be happy but too often, we assume that “sweetness” or “being happy” means weakness or is a barrier to performance. As the Stanford study shows, that’s incorrect, at least for Waldorf Schools, where a better environment translates directly to children, who outperform their peers, not only in creativity but also academics.

The Stanford University published a study on Waldorf schools. The surveys, led by neuroscientist Larrison, not only found that Waldorf students significantly outperform their peers on standardised tests at the end of their middle school curriculum (8th grade), they emphasise that Waldorf students’ superior performance occurs even though the students do not have a history of taking the rigorous standardised tests. These scientists also highlighted the need to correct the misperception that Waldorf education is somehow less rigorous, because it is more responsive to children at their developmental stage and holistic. The scientists also noted that some of the Waldorf school skill sets in the middle grades, including high achievement in arts and music, simply do not exist in a way that would allow comparison to non-Waldorf schools.

“What every parent would wish as the best for his or her children, Waldorf education provides. The fullest development of intelligent, imaginative, self-confident, and caring persons is the aim of Waldorf education. The aim is solidly grounded in a comprehensive view of human development, in an intellectually and culturally rich curriculum, and in the presence of knowledgeable, caring human beings at every stage of the child’s education.”
— Douglas Sloan, Professor Emeritus, Columbia University.