The Transition Experience of Waldorf Elementary Graduates Attending Non-Waldorf High Schools

Peter Lawton

Abstract


This study concerned the transition experiences and subsequent adjustment of Waldorf elementary graduates attending non­Waldorf high schools. Utilizing a qualitative and phenomenological approach, the study examined how 13 Waldorf elementary graduates experienced the academic and social challenges inherent in the transition to non­Waldorf high schools. Participants reported their academic adjustment to high school pertained more to new instructional methods than any academic content itself. New learning styles included a de-emphasis on artistic and experiential modes of learning in favor of more visual approaches. Participants explained the most significant challenge socially across the transition involved breaking into what presented as pre­formed social groups or cliques. Results were interpreted through the lenses of Steiner’s (1996a) developmental profile of adolescence and theories of learning, as well as more mainstream motivational and learning theories including Maslow’s (1943) hierarchy of needs and Bloom’s (1956) cognitive stages of learning. The transition experience included three distinct phases: (1) establishing competence, (2) analyzing and assessing experience, and (3) achieving personal transformation and self-actualization. After learning the „nuts and bolts“ of high school teaching methods and establishing membership in social groups, students analyzed and assessed their initial academic and social experiences in light of their former Waldorf experiences. In the third phase, students developed new academic motivations and established new friendships based on their future college and career aspirations and their emerging senses of self. Strategies to address social and academic challenges during the transition experience included an expanded view of pedagogy and the importance of a classroom community.

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