CEO Blog: What drives the Steiner education approach?

CEO Blog

What drives the Steiner education approach?

Steiner Education Australia ‘owns’ the only government recognised national Steiner curriculum in the world – the Australian Steiner Curriculum Framework (ASCF)[1]. We are very proud of this achievement which has enabled the ACARA[2] recognised Steiner curriculum to be delivered nationally since 2012[3].  All Steiner schools in Australia are members of SEA and can gain access to the ASCF as part of membership.

Underpinning the curriculum is a strong, cohesive purpose of education: for children to become healthy, purposeful, and creative adults who can do the good of fostering a healthy society. 

Now, more than ever before, Steiner education is recognised as a highly valued approach to developing flexible and agile thinking and an ability to collaborate and thrive in a 21st Century world. Countless global and national reports[4] highlight the need for a contemporary education to emphasise critical and creative thinking, social skills, and problem solving – delivering a deep sense of purpose, connectivity and agency to enact change. These are the hallmarks of a Steiner education.

There is so much talk about creativity, student agency, and well-being in education globally but doubt about how to develop a curriculum and pedagogical practices that develop these skills, capacities, and dispositions in young people. The difference in the Steiner approach is that the curriculum and how we teach for creativity, independent thinking, and agency are purposefully integrated and scaffolded.

The integrated approach in the ASCF is solidly based on core pedagogical values of life, love, wisdom, and voice. These core values were distilled from the extensive research by Dr Jennifer Gidley on what is needed for a wise, caring, ‘post-formal’ education which is critical for our times. During 2009-2012 Dr Gidley worked as a research consultant to support the development of the Steiner curriculum and the incorporation of these evidence-informed, pedagogical values.

The core pedagogical values of life, love, wisdom, and voice are apparent in day to day practices in Steiner schools. The significance of pedagogical love is seen in the care and compassion for the whole child; the integration of head and heart in teaching and learning; the long-term relationship between teacher and child; developing in children a connection to self, others, and the world.

The significance of a pedagogy of life is found in the prime focus on the development of imaginative capacity in the primary years which is the foundation of a living, mobile thinking. The focus on ecological awareness, process, movement, and discovery also lays the groundwork for bringing learning to life. Cultivating imagination involves students actively engaging with many kinds of artistic and problem-solving activities. Several modalities are used such as experimentation, creative writing, speech, drama, movement, music, drawing, painting, modelling, and sculpture.

The pedagogical value of wisdom is enacted through the focus on multi-modal learning, including the arts; development of creativity and aesthetic sensibilities; and on the conscious approach to developing complex, agile thinking and discernment in young people – crucial in a post-truth world.  

The significance of the pedagogical value of voice is that teachers authentically voice their living presence and young people are empowered through an aesthetic and artistic education that foregrounds the development of students’ agency. The human voice is strengthened through the narrative-based curriculum, music, rich dialogue, and encouraging reflective views within a curriculum that values diversity and inclusion. Never before has it been more important to prioritise the human voice in our technology-mediated society.

The further significance of these core pedagogical values is that they cohere with the holistic and integrated nature of the curriculum (often thought of as ‘head, heart and hands’) to develop in our young people a sense of purpose and social consciousness and, within all this, a capacity to imagine what can be. This is truly an education for the future.

Dr Gidley has recently given a keynote address about these ‘transdisciplinary pedagogies’ to enable young people to meet complex futures, and we are pleased to be able to share the link here.

 (Note: Dr Gidley’s presentation begins at 7.16 and finishes at 44.35)


[1] An overview of the ASCF is available from the SEA website

[2] Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority

[3] Whilst ACARA has recognised the ASCF, schools also need to comply with state-based requirements for registration.

[4]   For example: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (2018). Position Paper: Learning Framework 2030.The future of education and skills, Education 2030: The future we want.


17 February, 2021