Study: Waldorf teachers more satisfied at work than state teachers

January 2013

About 90 percent of teachers in Waldorf schools say they are fulfilled by their job and value the great educational freedom they possess to structure their teaching. Every seventh Waldorf teacher would like to continue teaching after reaching retirement age – that is four times as many as in state schools. Whereas only about 70 percent of teachers in state schools say that they are satisfied with their professional situation, this figure rises to over 90 percent in Waldorf schools.

These are among the findings of a study which Dirk Randoll, professor of empirical social research at Alanus University of Arts and Social Sciences in Alfter near Bonn/Germany, has presented in the volume “Ich bin Waldorflehrer” (I’m a Waldorf teacher) just published by Springer VS Verlag. A third of all German Waldorf teachers took part in the representative study carried out in collaboration with Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf/Germany. Randoll and his team compared selected results with statements from teachers in state schools contained in a survey carried out by the German Institute for International Educational Research (DIPF). The study is the first one worldwide to investigate the work environment of Waldorf teachers in a representative and comprehensive way. 

Great satisfaction through active involvement

“The great job satisfaction is remarkable, particularly when seen against the background of the additional workload resulting from the self-management practiced in Waldorf schools and the relatively low pay,” Randoll said. “We were able to show that active involvement in running the school and the pronounced feeling of self-efficacy this produces are responsible for that feeling of satisfaction,” the professor added. Waldorf schools are organised on the basis of self-management and do not have a principal. Under such “collegial school management” each teacher contributes to the organisation of the school and to shaping school life. Educational decisions are taken jointly by the collegium.

Motivation through Rudolf Steiner’s ideas

According to the study, occupation with anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner’s teaching, also contributed to the satisfaction in Waldorf schools: over 80 percent of teachers felt that Rudolf Steiner’s ideas provided important support and motivation in managing the exacting demands of day-to-day school life. Randoll also revealed challenges and critical aspects. Alongside great creative opportunities, self-management also brought dissatisfaction with inefficient decision-making processes and lack of clarity in lines of communication as well as a greater feeling of stress. He further noted the excessive ageing of collegiums in Waldorf schools but also identified an emerging generational shift towards younger teachers who had a “critically sympathetic” attitude towards anthroposophy and were more open to change.

Teachers sought

This generational change is being speeded up by rising pupil numbers and the resulting growth in demand for teachers. Many Waldorf schools in Germany are recruiting teachers in order to meet this demand. The profession of Waldorf teacher offers teachers in state schools, but also lateral entrants, an alternative occupation. People with a great range of professional qualifications can find scope to work in a Waldorf school: from foreign languages and the sciences through the visual arts and music to sports, eurythmy, gardening, handwork and woodwork. In its part-time Master’s course in education, Alanus University offers the opportunity to obtain a qualification as a class or subject teacher in a Waldorf school. The “art – education – therapy” Bachelor’s course and the Master’s course which builds on it trains the art teachers of the future.

The “Ich bin Waldorflehrer” study was funded by the Software AG Foundation, Hannoversche Kassen as well as the Educational Research Centre of the German Association of Waldorf Schools.

Dirk Randoll (ed.): “Ich bin Waldorflehrer” - Einstellungen, Erfahrungen, Diskussionspunkte – Eine Befragungsstudie. Springer-VS Wiesbaden, 2013, 303 pages. ISBN: 978-3-531-19810-1

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