Martyn Rawson


Learning to become a subject: A hermeneutic phenomenological study of students in a Waldorf (Steiner) school in Germany The centrals aim of Steiner pedagogy include enabling young people to develop as persons, to become socially responsible subjects capable of contributing constructively to society Steiner (1985) and the curriculum used in Waldorf (Steiner) schools is designed to support this process (Richter, 2016). This study focuses on the first of these aims, which I refer to as learning to become a subject, drawing on Biesta’s notion of subjectification. This inquiry seeks to understand how a group of a dozen nineteen-year-old students in a Waldorf school in Germany actually experience this. The study is set against the background of my concern that this aspect of learning is being marginalized in the upper school (age 14 to 19) by an increasingly one-sided focus on learning to pass exams. In this study I seek to interpret representations of the lived experiences of some students at the school in which I teach. These accounts were co-constructed through interaction with me as researcher. The students were asked to represent their experiences of learning and personal development in and through school-related learning situations. Qualitative, non-verbal, artistic methods (Leitch, 2006) and open interviewssemi-structured interviews (Kvale and Brinkman, 2008) were used, as well as some texts the students had previously written as reflections. The data were analyzed as individual cases using a phenomenological hermeneutic approach inspired by Gadamer (Gadamer, 2013) and van Manen (van Manen, 1990) and then a grounded approach (Corbin and Holt, 2011) was used to construct common themes across the cases. Samples of the translations were judged as reliable and the data analysis as plausible by two appropriately qualified external academics. The study takes a constructionist perspective and draws on social practice theory (Holland and Lave, 2009), subject-scientific theory (Grotlüschen, 2014) and current phenomenological perspectives on Bildung (Faulstich, 2013, Rittelmeyer, 2012). The findings highlight the importance of non-formal learning spaces such as work experience practicals, projects and drama productions, especially when these are supported by scaffolded reflection, for processes that can be described using the metaphor learning to become a subject. I account for this by using the theoretical construct of sojourning (learning as guided apprenticeship in landscapes of practice) (Fenton-O'Creevy et al., 2015, Rogoff, 1995). I also explore ways in which formal learning situations can also afford learning to become a subject.

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