Current topics – Inclusion

By Maud Beckers, October 2018

Monday morning. Start of the mathematics main lesson in class 12 – twenty-five pupils with a great range of abilities. The classroom has been transformed into a workshop: everything has been taken out, the blackboard is blank and black sticky tape has been used to cover the floor with a grid of one-metre squares. Confusion among the pupils: is this how a main lesson starts? There is nowhere to sit down. The morning verse is spoken standing in a circle, imagination exercises are done in moving over the grid. Then the pupils are given a question which they investigate in groups using the given subject matter and from which they develop a hypothesis which is to become visible in the jointly produced “product”: “How can a person precisely determine the position of two pearls hanging in the box?”

In this phase they are “empowered” to take ownership of the learning process. The subject and inclusion teachers deliberately withdraw. They do not intervene but observe both the work and social processes in the groups. They want to discover whether interest has been roused and everyone can connect with the content. That will become evident, at the latest, in the product.

Waldorf education attempts to enable every pupil to connect with the age-specific content and thereby to develop. Development takes place not just on a cognitive level but always also comprises the whole human being. In inclusive education these principle gain in importance: the more heterogeneous the groups of pupils are, the more intensively we have to penetrate the motifs in our understanding of the human being. The one-sidedly highly-gifted individual must be able to develop through the content just as much as the person with Down syndrome. This is about more than the question of differentiation!

Methodological training occupies a central position in inclusive Waldorf education. It is based on three basic ideas:

• All people want and are able to learn.

• Everyone is right in how they are.

• The barrier never lies in the person.

Working with these apparently simple ideas leads to questions which directly touch on our inner attitude and thus our educational action. Do I act out of habit? To what extent do my ideas shape the lesson? Do I – also subconsciously – aim for cognitive performance and fitting in with norms?

Training in inclusive methods can help us to differentiate between traditional and inclusive motives and to see our role as teachers in a new way. The basic thought that all people want to learn starts from a basic trust that the interest exists in the pupils and can encourage us to give up the teacher-centeredness of the learning processes so that pupils and teachers together teach and learn. It helps us to reflect on our own processes, train our observation, in order then to develop the next steps out of such reflection. If we succeed in doing that, we will experience our practice in an increasingly relaxed and creative way as supporting development.

The anthroposophical understanding of the human being, deepened with Rudolf Steiner’s Education for Special Needs course, can become a productive source on which we can continuously draw in order to implement an inclusive Waldorf education also on a methodological basis. For that we do not need more staff but above all the will and courage to think and act in a new way.

Yes, inclusive Waldorf education can succeed!

About the author: Maud Beckers is an inclusion teacher and lecturer at the Hamburg Teacher Training Seminar, director of the “Inclusive Waldorf education in training and advanced training” project.

Note: The Hamburg Teacher Training Seminar will integrate inclusive Waldorf education into its training from 2018 and offer the supplementary qualification of inclusion teacher: