What Is a Hidden Curriculum?
A hidden curriculum is a term used to describe the unspoken expectations and norms that a school or institution teaches students through its everyday practices, policies, and procedures. These are lessons that young people learn without realizing it — but can have a huge impact on their identities and future experiences.
For example, if a teacher tells a student that he or she has done something wrong, the student will likely feel ashamed even though the teacher may not intend this feeling. The student may also believe that he or she should not make mistakes or ask questions in class because doing so might lead other students to think poorly of him or her.
The hidden curriculum is usually unintentional; educators simply do not realize they are teaching certain things along with the content they cover. However, this does not mean that educators should ignore their role in teaching students about social norms, values, and expectations. By making these lessons more explicit, educators can help students understand how they fit into their communities and prepare them for future experiences at home and work.
Are Hidden Curriculums Bad?
It is somewhat true: hidden curriculums are not the best. Sometimes, the rules established in a hidden curriculum can be positive — for example, if schools teach students to be respectful of one another, or how to work together as a team.
But sometimes they can be harmful. For example, if schools teach students that they should only be interested in science if it relates to sports or business — or that there is only one way to succeed in life (for example, by studying hard).
The hidden curriculum can be good or bad depending on how it is taught. If the hidden curriculum teaches students about positive relationships, respect for others and themselves, civic responsibility, and so on then it is a good thing. But if it teaches students that certain groups are better than others or that they are only worthy if they perform well academically then it is bad.
How Should Educators Acknowledge Hidden Curriculums?
Educators can acknowledge the hidden curriculum by making sure they are consistent in their treatment of students, from the first day of class all the way through graduation. They should also make sure that what they say matches what they do so that students do not get mixed messages about what is acceptable behavior.
Educators must be aware of what is going on in their classrooms. They should ask themselves questions such as:
- What values do I want my students to take away from this experience?
- What expectations do I have for them?
- How can I support students who do not fit into these expectations?