As the new school year begins, facts and figures are flying through the air and students are immersed in the standard curriculum. But how are your students doing with the hidden curriculum?
This school phenom has a significant impact upon student performance, productivity and attitude, but all too often strategies for mastering the hidden curriculum remain………hidden!
The hidden curriculum consists of the unwritten and unspoken school rules. Unique for every building, it is the culture of the school. While the standard curriculum is presented in handbooks and on websites, the hidden curriculum is not and woe to the student who hasn’t the skills or strategies to uncover and master it.
A University of Wisconsin study of the hidden curriculum identifies the following key factors:
• It is created, maintained and manipulated by students and staff
• It is both destructive and constructive in nature
• It must be taught to socially challenged children
• It can be more important to school success than the standard curriculum
How can you begin to identify the hidden curriculum? One way is to consider the aspects of your school’s physical plant such as:
• Locations of bathrooms and drinking fountains
• Short cuts from wing to wing
• Areas informally designated as gathering spots for certain groups such as the gym hallway for 8th graders or the front memory garden for seniors
• Location of support staff offices such as guidance and counseling office or nurse’s office
Students unaware of these features may run into difficulties. You can help them by pointing out and discussing these aspects of the school setting and culture.
It also helps to draw attention to social cues that some students might miss:
• Mr. James allows gum chewing in class, but Mr. Allen gives detention for it
• Adults respond best when students look at them when they are speaking
• When a teacher is scolding a student it is wise not to laugh, comment or ask questions
• We address people differently, based upon roles – one doesn’t speak to the principal the way she speaks to her friends at lunch
Once you have identified some of the elements of your school’s hidden curriculum, you are ready to share this information with students who are struggling with these unwritten, unspoken but important aspects of the school experience!
For more information and ideas about the hidden curriculum, go to www.cec.sped.org
Beth Sugg, Co-Founder
Literacy Education and Resource Network (LEARN)