Waldorf Education and the neurodevelopment of intelligence: An integrative review

Steven Edward Prouty (2008)

Recent advancements in the field of neuroscience are teaching us much about the organic and neuronal sources of children's ongoing cognitive, affective, behavioral, and interpersonal development. Research is also pointing to identifiable relationships and influences of environment and experience on the developing brains of children. At the core of these findings is exciting new evidence of neuroplasticity, or the propensity of certain brain structures to be altered and/or developed via experience throughout the lifespan. This study utilizes a qualitative, integrative review of neuroscientific and Waldorf Education literature to draw correlations between the findings of developmental cognitive neuroscience and the teaching/learning environments found in the early grades of Waldorf schools, and is informed by the author's experiences and observations as a teaching assistant for first and second grade classes at a Waldorf school. Based on a philosophy of education outlined by Austrian theorist Rudolf Steiner in the early twentieth century, Waldorf schools strive to facilitate developmentally based, age-appropriate learning through the active engagement of the imagination, movement, artistic and musical development, social/cultural awareness, respect for the world of nature, intellectual discovery, and effective student/teacher relationships. The study also seeks to identify the relevant practical and empirical implications of these correlations to other educational and/or clinical settings.