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Waldorf Strategies For Enhancing Autonomy, Competence and Relatedness in the High School Classroom

Kristin M. Herrington


Teachers across disciplines and school design are daily challenged with the task of encouraging student motivation, engagement and learning. Some schools and teachers seem more effective than others, even when dealing with similar content and student populations. Some educators become mired down in factors that are beyond their control such as student readiness or attendance. But most educators have control over two key factors in the learning environment, their curriculum and instruction. The question then becomes, how do educators leverage these two key factors into student motivation? Particularly, how do teachers foster the arguably more enduring intrinsic, as opposed to extrinsic, motivation in students using just curriculum and instruction? I argue that the Waldorf way ignites intrinsic motivation and autonomous types of extrinsic motivation.
This research reframes the Waldorf educational tradition within psychology and mainstream educational pedagogy frameworks. The intended audience includes all secondary English teachers while maintaining specific interest for Waldorf Humanities teachers. The capstone project has a twofold purpose; it is a guide for teachers who wish to use the research to inform their own practice as well as a starting place for discussion. It is appropriate for use in Waldorf and public education settings as well as being particularly appropriate for Waldorf inspired public schools as it bridges the gap between the “Waldorf world” and other teaching traditions. The thesis component seeks to articulate how Waldorf education fosters students with exemplary motivation, engagement and learning outcomes. In this way, the thesis informs both those in the Waldorf sphere and those in the public sphere but again, especially those who exist in both. The research is an extension of the Self Determination Theory, which has already been widely applied to the field of education. Further, I will be highlighting the overlap between the existing research and Waldorf pedagogy.