Over time, education has extended to involve all forms of activities through which people can access information, whether directly or indirectly. As such, while people can pass information within formal environments through active teaching, other cues results in the passage of information. It is in this light that the idea of the hidden curriculum has become prominent.
Precisely, it involves other attitudes and values that teachers and other members of the educational community transfer to students unaware and indirectly. Noteworthy, although unintended, the content of this curriculum has significant effects on students. In light of this, this essay examines the hidden curriculum and its effects on students.
Conceptualizing the Hidden Curriculum
The term hidden curriculum is reported to have been first used by Phillip Jackson in his work, Life in Classrooms, 1968. Therein, he posited that education involved a socialization process where various ideas and information got passed down to the students (Gordon, 2006).
Hence, the hidden curriculum involves various values that members of educational institutions transfer to students unintentionally. In this case, unlike the formal curriculum – otherwise called manifest curriculum – the hidden curriculum is unintended, unwritten, and hardly specified (Gordon, 2006).
Also, it is unacknowledged and unexamined by the educator, the general community, and the students themselves. They are indirectly communicated as the status quo. Usually, students pick up this knowledge from teacher figures' actions and inactions, although not directly communicated to them (Gordon, 2006).
For instance, the concept of obedience delayed gratification, and punctuality is hardly topic-based or subject-based. Instead, students cue them from the characters of teachers within the learning environment and then imbibe them. Exemplifying this, constant admiration of a punctual student by teachers suggest to other students that punctuality is a virtue that student should imbibe. In this instance, there is hardly the need for course content on it as the students realize them (Gordon, 2006).
Similarly, the transfer of the hidden curriculum naturally begins at the early stage of a child's life. They learn to identify what society expects of them. Noteworthy, the concept of hidden curriculum spans across various issues and areas such as morals, social class, cultural expectations, stereotypes, language, and politics (Gordon, 2006).
For instance, at large, teachers and the educational institution instill the concept of gender roles through indirect and unintentional means. A vivid example is the promotion of boys' participation in athletics (Gordon, 2006).
Furthermore, Philip Jackson identified three areas of the hidden curriculum: crowd, power, and praise. According to him, the existence of various performers – the crowd – of an action informs students that the action is most likely right. It informs students that since others, and most people are acting in a way, then it is okay to perform in the same (Gordon, 2006).
Similarly, the existence of influential performers – power – indicates that the action is acceptable. For instance, in instances where power figures like teachers or parents exhibit certain traits, whether negative or positive, it is more likely for students to pick up those traits. Precisely, they believe since those whom they take as the standard perform those actions, their performance of such actions is also acceptable (Gordon, 2006).
Again, Philip Jackson posits that the constant support of action by members of the educational institution through words of affirmation – praise – informs other members that the action is desired (Gordon, 2006).
The Hidden Curriculum and its Effects on Students
Although mostly informal, the hidden curriculum has considerable effects on students by reinforcing the manifest curriculum or contradicting them. However, whether positive or negative, the effects of the hidden curriculum on students are identifiable through the following ideas.
1. Within the Classroom
The hidden curriculum affects the interaction between the students and teachers within the classroom. Noteworthy, hidden curriculum plays a vital role through various interactive metrics (The Glossary of Education Reform 2015).
For instance, it plays an essential role in interpreting directions from the teacher. Exemplifying this, an instruction communicated playfully might leave a hidden curriculum that contradicts the actual message, leading possibly to disobedience (The Glossary of Education Reform 2015).
In the same vein, the hidden curriculum might enable students to identify how best to please their instructors or teachers. Exemplifying this, a student might identify an attitude of admiration or support to fellow students when they perform a particular act – a hidden message. In turn, they replicate the same in a bid to strengthen their interaction with the teacher (The Glossary of Education Reform 2015).
2. Cultural Expectations
One of the significant effects of the hidden curriculum on students is that it enables them to effectively identify cultural expectations. Noteworthy, in most cases, cultural expectations are hardly communicated through the formal curriculum. However, through the hidden curriculum, students can better identify what society expects from them (The Glossary of Education Reform 2015).
For example, the topics identified and taught by the school may give a hint as to the cultural expectations within the society. Putting this into context, sex education within the formal curriculum would pass a hidden curriculum as to the attitude of the community towards sex. In turn, students can identify the general expectation on the subject matter within the society (The Glossary of Education Reform 2015).
3. Cultural Perspectives
Another relevant effect of the hidden curriculum on students is the shaping of their cultural perspectives, which can be positively or negatively. Usually, the recognition, manner of integration, and treatment of multicultural perspectives play an essential role in the way students eventually identify with those various perspectives (The Glossary of Education Reform 2015).
For instance, a hidden curriculum that honors and appreciates diversity will instill in students a cultural perspective that appreciates cultural diversity. On the other hand, a hidden curriculum that aligns with racism, sexism, discrimination, and inequality might institutionalize negative attitudes to cultural diversity (The Glossary of Education Reform 2015).
Exemplifying this, an educational setting that requires immigrant students to imbibe the American culture, such as requiring them to abandon their native language in favor of the English language, passes a message across to students. Noteworthy, in time, students will begin to see other cultures as inferior, thanks to the unintended curriculum (The Glossary of Education Reform 2015).
This paper has identified the common effects of unacknowledged and obscured messages on students' educational setting.
Noteworthy, this concept can pass both positive negative attitudinal information to students. As such, it becomes expedient for educators to pay closer attention to hidden cues, which may influence students and tailor them towards impacting positive attitudinal lessons on these students.
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