It seems to me that speaking and listening skills in English are today often perceived as an essential part of a pupil’s basic final competences but these competences are seldom applied in real situations. In this respect, I have focused on the Waldorf educational system and the attitude of its English teachers to development of learner’s speaking and listening competences in English.
Approach of teachers
The pedagogical approach of English teachers in Waldorf lower-primary schools provides a solid foundation for the natural development of pupils’ speaking and listening skills in English. This approach is based on anthroposophy, which is the basic concept of Waldorf schools. Its philosophical-pedagogical ideas were established by the Austrian philosopher and pedagogue Rudolf Steiner, who stressed the teacher’s holistic approach to pupils and consideration of developmental stages of childhood. Even today, the study of anthroposophical principles is increasingly important for a Waldorf English teacher’s development. It contributes to their inner training and improvement of their pedagogical skills and abilities because it teaches them tolerance, a spiritual attitude, respect and understanding for their pupils (Carlgren 102).
The aim of a Waldorf education is encouragement of a pupil’s individuality, spirit and development of their own life in sympathy with moral principles, which are often forgotten in the traditional educational system, in which the emphasis tends to be put solely on the academic skills of a pupil (Dvořáková 22). The result of this educational influence is ideally free, morally responsible, self-confident individuals with a high degree of social competence and tolerance (Carlgren 102).
In Waldorf lower-primary schools teachers and pupils often grow very close to one another. The authority of a Waldorf teacher results from a mutual relationship full of respect, trust and confidence in the teacher (Carlgren 111). The Waldorf methodology is based on the equal treatment of all pupils, which establishes and maintains a rapport with them. In addition to this, pupils are respected and viewed in a positive light. Correction of mistakes is conducted objectively in a tactful, discreet way, and the reason for a correction is explained to the learner. The evaluation of pupils is conducted with the assistance of a work portfolio. The learning process is assessed and evaluated effectively and in a child-friendly way. Furthermore, teaching methods like choral recitation, songs and drama, often used in Waldorf lower-primary schools, contribute to the development of a pupil’s self-confidence to use English in public.
In my research, I have focused on five dimensions which could play a crucial role in encouraging development of a pupil’s competences in speaking and listening in English. The aim of the research is to investigate, analyse and evaluate data and reach a conclusion answering the research question concerning the influence and the effect the Waldorf English teacher has on improvement of a learner’s speaking and listening competences in English. I have analysed the teacher’s respect for learners, the teacher’s consideration of learner’s individuality, motivation and creativity, the way error correction is conducted and finally how class cooperation functions. I have applied as research tools class observation, teacher’s interview and learner’s questionnaire. Based on the objectives of my research, I decided to focus on two experienced Waldorf English teachers. The observations were conducted in the 2nd and 3th classes of the Waldorf lower-primary school in Ostrava-Poruba.
The results of my research led me to the conclusion that the pedagogical and methodological principles used by the English teachers under observation at the Waldorf lower-primary school in Ostrava-Poruba are largely identical with the Waldorf educational concept resulting from the ideology of anthroposophy. Furthermore, the teachers have a significant influence on their learner’s identity and self-confidence in expressing themselves freely in front of others. This may be affected by the fact that Waldorf English teachers emphasize collective cooperation, solidarity, tolerance and respect for individual needs as well as different learning strategies for different pupils within the class (Carlgren 113).
As I said at the beginning of this article, the skills of speaking and listening in English are today often perceived as essential parts of a pupil’s basic final competences but these competences are seldom applied in real situations. The question raised here was not concerned with the problem of insufficient knowledge of English but with the lack of confidence to present these skills in public. It seems to me that the key to success may be found in the holistic approach of Waldorf schools, which encourage a pupil’s individuality and therefore have a positive effect on the development of a learner’s speaking and listening competences in English, together with the ability to use them effectively in real situations beyond the classroom.
Carlgren, Frans and Anne Klingborg. Education Towards Freedom: Rudolf Steiner education. A survey of the work of Waldorf schools throughout the world. 3th ed. Floris Books: Edinburgh, 2008. Print
Dvořáková, Kateřina. Výuka cizích jazyků v pojetí waldorfské pedagogiky. Nakladatelství Karolinum: Praha, 2011. Print.