Unhiding the Hidden Curriculum

Reflective writing assignment for PIDP 3210

This paper explores the hidden or implied curriculum we encounter any time we are teaching. I believe that conveying values and methods that go beyond the written, explicit job skills that our programs focus on is important. While we can’t avoid our own beliefs and biases flowing into our teaching, I believe it is important to become mindful of them and to tell our students about these additional skills and explain why they are important.

Every educational course has a stated syllabus. The goals and outcomes are clearly stated and usually are part of a greater framework of courses (for example, PIDP). This is called the “explicit curriculum”. The “implicit or hidden curriculum” refers to any implied norms or standards that are not clearly stated. From an early age, we are exposed to these standards in school.

Examples

  • Sit still
  • Be quiet and not distracting
  • Raise your hand before speaking

But some norms are hidden even deeper. Some are implied by societal norms and some by the institution.

One example is the way our society views the different gender roles. Male students are often seen as more technical, more assertive and in some cases smarter. In trades education, context male students are often assumed to be more skilled (despite evidence to the contrary).

In his article “The Interaction Between Hidden Curriculum and Culture” (Flowjame, 2021) Flowjame points out how students from differing backgrounds that are taught a different implied curriculum in different societies display different behaviour in class.

As the word “hidden” implies, some sources see the unspoken and underlying curriculum as largely a negative result of our biases.

Even if they are not explicitly spelled out, some of the norms make teaching work. Without basic rules like respect, listening, timeliness etc. our current systems of instructions would not be able to function.

In his article “What Is Hidden Curriculum? – Examples, Pros & Cons” (Drew & PhD, 2021) Chris Drew includes an interesting table with some more examples:

AdvantagesDisadvantages
1. Helps prepare us for life in a society beyond school.1. Reproduces social class inequalities
2. Teaches children to obey elders.2. Outdated social roles are reinforced
3. Helps maintain law and order3. Minorities are expected to assimilate to the majority culture (see also: Cultural Capital)
https://helpfulprofessor.com/hidden-curriculum/#1

Reading about the implied curriculum surprised me because it seems so automatic to me. As someone that grew up in the strict implied rules of German society and school system, I know that I assume a lot of behaviours and norms that are important to me and I tend to expect them from others.

I believe that anyone that teaches in any context should work towards educational goals that go beyond the explicit curriculum. As we see unfolding in our Canadian society right now, many have failed to learn critical thinking skills and fall prey to extreme right demagogues.

Learning and thinking about the implicit curriculum has caused me to think about my own biases.

At the very core of our trades education is the goal to train future tradespeople to perform tasks to the standards set by the curriculum. We are also expected to train people to be productive employees and in most cases work as a team as well as continue to learn new skills.

In traditional indigenous culture, absorbing explicit skills and implicit traditional norms are even more closely intertwined. (Antoine, Mason, Mason, Palahicky, & France) (Petscheleit, Indigenous Learning Cultures, 2021)

Now that I know about the hidden curriculum I will make more of an effort to “unhide” it. I will analyze why I have expectations of my students. I will explain to them more explicitly what additional skills I am teaching them and why. When a lot of what was “hidden” is out in the open, I can double down on things that I already, purposely, do.

An example would be gender-neutral language. In our trades environment, people often assume a male-dominated setting where female or other genders are unusual. (WITT, 2020) (Petscheleit, 2021 Trends In Trades, 2021). By modelling gender-neutral language the focus is more on the skills and breaks the stereotypes that trades jobs are reserved for straight males.
I don’t think that anyone will be able to recognize all the biases and beliefs that seep into everything we do. I feel like it is important to reflect on them though and bring as many as possible into the open and evaluate and explain them. Talking about these topics that go beyond the syllabus allows us to reach our (mostly) young adults and make them think.
My instructor colleagues seem to experience an increasing number of students that act entitled, disruptive or even racist and demeaning to other students. In a way, I feel like our apprenticeship courses are one of the last opportunities to give these young adults the tools they need to be productive members of the trades community and society at large.

References

Antoine, A.-n.-h., Mason, R., Mason, R., Palahicky, S., & France, a. C. (n.d.). Pulling Together: A Guide for Curriculum Developers. Pulling Together: A Guide for Curriculum Developers. ?, ?, Canada. Retrieved from https://opentextbc.ca/indigenizationcurriculumdevelopers/

Drew, C., & PhD. (2021, June 12). https://helpfulprofessor.com. Retrieved from What Is Hidden Curriculum? – Examples, Pros & Cons: https://helpfulprofessor.com/hidden-curriculum/#1

Flowjame. (2021, 3 30). The Interaction Between Hidden Curriculum and Culture. Retrieved from flowjame.com: https://flowjame.com/2021/03/30/hidden-curriculum-and-culture/

Petscheleit, F. (2021, October 17). 2021 Trends In Trades. Retrieved from Frithjof’s Blog: https://frithjof.blog/2021/10/17/2021-trends-in-trades/

Petscheleit, F. (2021, October 23). Indigenous Learning Cultures. Retrieved from Frithjof’s Blog: https://frithjof.blog/2021/10/23/indigenous-learning-cultures/

WITT, L. K. (2020, April 24). The Future of Work – Women in Trades. (Globalnews, Interviewer) Global News. Retrieved from https://globalnews.ca/video/embed/6863280/

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