What is Hidden Curriculum? - Examples, Pros & Cons (2022) (2022)

Table of Contents

1. What is the Hidden Curriculum?
2. Definition of Hidden Curriculum
3. Pros and Cons
4. Examples
5. Origins of the Term
6. Scholarly Resources

What is the Hidden Curriculum?

Here’s a simple definition to start:

The hidden curriculum is all those things that we teach in schools that aren’t written down in syllabus documents.

The visible curriculum is what we’re told to teach: mathematics, science, languages, and so forth. But there is a lot more that goes on at school besides.

What is Hidden Curriculum? - Examples, Pros & Cons (2022) (1)

In fact, school is a place where we’re subtly taught how to behave, walk, speak, wear our clothing, interact, and so on.

I’m sure you’ve experienced it.

A teacher at the front of the classroom yells out to you: “Don’t speak out of turn, Jessica!”

Teaching you when to speak is not a part of the curriculum. The teacher isn’t paid to ensure you are aware of when and how to speak to people.

But they reinforce this rule anyway.

And generally, most parents and politicians generally agree that teachers do and should reinforce these small, subtle rules

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Examples include:

  • Morals: Schools ensure that the moral fabric of a society is passed down from one generation to the next. We’re taught not to steal, how to be polite, to respect our elders, and so on and so forth.
  • Norms: Things that have become ‘normal’ in our society are re-taught to us in school. Putting your hand up to signify you want to speak isn’t something that’s natural – we weren’t born knowing it. We’ve just decided that it’s a norm, and now we pass that rule on from one generation to the next. The same goes with tucking your shirt in to ‘look neat’. We just pass this on from one generation to the next, because we were taught this by our teachers back in the day.
  • Power Hierarchies: Many theorists believe that a main role of school is to reinforce power hierarchies. In other words, the local government school is designed to remind the working class that they’re born to work. The posh school down the street is there to teach young people from the wealthier classes how to be bosses.
  • Gender roles: One part of the power hierarchy that might be reinforced in schools is gender roles. Research shows that boys get a lot more attention from their teachers than girls. Some teachers might also treat girls and boys differently. This ‘hidden’ pattern of behavioirs might reinforce gender disparities between girls and boys.

Scholarly Definition

Regular readers would know that I believe we always need to use scholarly definitions for terms.

If you’re writing an essay on this topic, it’s extra important that you define it using scholarly sources.

So, here’s a few scholarly definitions of the ‘hidden curriculum’ (HC):

  • Boostrom (2010, p. 440) argues that the HC “refers to student learning that is not described by curriculum planners or teachers as an explicit aim of instruction even though it results from deliberate practices and organizational structures.”
  • Kentli (2009, p. 88) surveys different approaches to the HC, and argues that each definition shares the common belief that the HC is “the elements of socialization that take place in school (including) norms, values and belief systems.”
  • Alsubaie (2015, p. 125) argues that the HC “refers to the unspoken or implicit values, behaviors,
    procedures, and norms that exist in the educational setting”

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Advantages and Disadvantages of the Hidden Curriculum

Advantages

Disadvantages

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)

While reading this post, you might have already been thinking about whether the HC is a good thing or a bad thing.

In my seminars, students are usually divided on this point. And I like to see some differences of opinions.

But if you’re preparing a seminar or essay on the topic, you should probably present both sides of the argument.

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So here are both the pros and cons of the HC:

Pros

  1. School’s job is to prepare us for life in a society. Societies need norms that bind us. If we don’t have a shared culture or shared understandings of good and bad, right and wrong, our society might crumble. It’s good that schools are a place where we learn to get along.
  2. Children need to be taught to obey adults. Whether it’s at school, home or elsewhere, adults have a responsibility to correct children when they misbehave. As a teacher, you have a special obligation to ‘raise people well’, not just teach them things.
  3. Schools would fail to function without rules. The hidden curriculum is necessary to maintain order and fairness. Rules are necessary for creating calm, predictable environments in which learning will occur.

Cons

  1. Reproduction of social class inequalities. It is possible that the hidden curriculum subtly teaches working class people that they need to remember their place in life: to work hard and earn a meager living without complaining. By contrast, the hidden content taught in posh schools may subtly teach the upper classes that their job is to become keepers of the moral codes and future bosses of the poor.
  2. Gender roles are reinforced. Some people think schools subtly teach girls to wait their turn, act like ladies and be polite, while it teaches boys to speak up and act like authority figures. This might subtly reinforce gender norms from one generation to the next.
  3. People of color and minority cultures are expected to assimilate. If school is designed to reinforce social rules, are people from minority cultures supposed to drop their cultural values and norms when at school? Is school forcing cultural conformity to the dominant culture?

Examples in Schools

Here are a few examples of studies that have shown how the concept works in schools:

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  • Morris (2005) Tuck in That Shirt!: This journal article argues that there is a HC in schools that forces young people of color to dress like white people. Fashions popular in the black community are discouraged because they are considered inferior fashions to the fashion of the dominant culture. Morris (2005, p. 28) argues: “The hidden curriculum tacitly teaches students unspoken lessons about their race, class, and gender.”
  • Walton (2005) Implications for LGBTQI Youth: Walton argues that the HC is in effect when sexuality education fails to adequately discuss LGBTQI sexuality. By discussing heterosexuality as the presumed norm for all young people, LGBTQI children are taught that they are different and, potentially, need to hide their identities or be ashamed of them.
  • Cubukcu (2012) Effects on Character Education: Cubukcu argues that the explicit teaching of morals and values in lesson formats is not effective enough. Instead, we have to learn values by living them. This is, in effect, the ‘learning by doing’ argument. To live our values in schools, we need to celebrate national days that commemorate important events, expect positive social relationships as a norm, and participation in extracurricular activities that teach team work and character building. This argument is a more positive vision of the HC that sees it as necessary for developing understandings of “good and evil behavior, decisions, group relations, human relations, organizational behavior, upper-lower relationships and so many other issues” (Cubukcu, 2012, p. 1532).
  • Thornberg (2009) The Moral Construction of the Good Pupil: Thornberg argues that the hidden curriculum in school rules teaches us to be docile and unquestioning of the social order. Students internalize the rules of the school because they learn that if they follow the rules they will be rewarded for being ‘good pupils’. Because there is no explicit discussion and critique of school rules in lessons, students aren’t taught to question the norms and learn to be blindly obedient. Thornberg therefore thinks the HC is a bad thing. He argues: “The function of the hidden curriculum is social control” (2009, p. 246).

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Where does the Term Come From?

The short answer is: Phillip Jackson first coined the term in his book Life in Classrooms (1968).

But let me give you a little more background on a few influential theorists who have contributed to the development of the term.

a) Emile Durkheim: Socialization and Moral Education

Before the term was invented, there were scholars already writing about how schools have some hidden purposes. Durkheim never used the exact phrase, but he wrote a lot about the same idea.

In particular, Durkheim wrote that schools do more than teach the curriculum. Rather, schools socialize us by showing us how to behave in society.

We often associate Durkheim with the idea of ‘socialization’. To Durkheim, school did more than teach information. It taught us morality. It taught us how to behave as members of a society and taught us our place in society.

b) Phillip Jackson: Life in Classrooms

Perhaps the first mention of the exact phrase is from Phillip Jackson.

The term ‘hidden curriculum’ is generally understood as originating with Phillip Jackson in his book Life in Classrooms (1968).

Jackson observed classrooms and argued that there were some things that were being taught that weren’t in the books. He observed these behaviors constantly being reinforced within the classroom:

  • Manners such as being courteous;
  • Making an effort;
  • Keeping busy;
  • Waiting quietly for your turn;
  • Turning up on time

c) Giroux and Apple: Critical Theorists

The term is now generally associated with critical theory and neo-Marxist ideas.

Critical theory and neo-Marxism do not think the HC is a good thing.

These people are concerned that the HC enables powerful people to hold on to and reinforce their power over others.

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Two of the most widely cited contemporary theorists of the HC are:

  • Henry Giroux, and
  • Michael Apple

Both are critical theorists who believe that schooling is a way of enforcing the power of the ruling class over the working class.

I strongly recommend this journal article which gives a really nice and easy to read breakdown of all the different theorists who have used the term over the years. Here’s the APA citation for the article:

  • Kentli, F. (2009). Comparison of HC Theories. European Journal of Educational Studies, 1(2): 83 – 88.

Sources and Further Reading

Regular readers of this website would know that I believe you should always cite quality academic articles when writing about topics at university.

Below are some useful sources that you can cite if you are writing an essay on this topic.

>>> Related Post: 9 ways to Find Scholarly Articles Online for Free

My Recommendations for Further Reading

I strongly recommend the Kentli and Alsubaie articles which are the easiest to understand introductions to the topic that I have come across. Both are freely available online if you click the following links:

And here are all the articles I recommend you cite in your essay:

The above citations are in APA format. If you need some guidance on converting the citations to another format, read my advice here.

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Chris Drew (PhD)

Website | + posts

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.

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FAQs

What is a hidden curriculum and give examples? ›

The hidden-curriculum concept is based on the recognition that students absorb lessons in school that may or may not be part of the formal course of study—for example, how they should interact with peers, teachers, and other adults; how they should perceive different races, groups, or classes of people; or what ideas ...

Which is the best example of the hidden curriculum? ›

Examples of things taught through the 'hidden curriculum:
  • respecting authority.
  • respect for other pupils' opinions.
  • punctuality.
  • aspiring to achieve.
  • having a 'work ethic'
9 Nov 2017

What is the hidden curriculum provide 2 examples? ›

The hidden curriculum is all the other things students learn in school that is not explicitly taught or written down; concepts like friendship, honesty, fairness, the value of work, ethnic relations, and cultural differences.

Is the hidden curriculum good or bad? ›

Hidden curricula teach students beyond the subject content of their courses. An educator can design hidden curriculum to teach positive characteristics such as dignity, humility, hard work, responsibility, and appreciation. Hidden curriculum has the potential to positively impact students and even change lives.

What is the hidden curriculum in schools? ›

The term “hidden curriculum” refers to an amorphous collection of “implicit academic, social, and cultural messages,” “unwritten rules and unspoken expectations,” and “unofficial norms, behaviours and values” of the dominant-culture context in which all teaching and learning is situated.

What are the examples of curriculum? ›

Curriculum may also encompass a school's academic requirements for graduation, such as the courses students have to take and pass, the number of credits students must complete, and other requirements, such as completing a capstone project or a certain number of community-service hours.

What are the characteristics of a hidden curriculum? ›

A hidden curriculum is a side effect of an education, "lessons which are learned but not openly intended" such as the transmission of norms, values, and beliefs conveyed in the classroom and the social environment. Any learning experience may teach unintended lessons.

What is hidden curriculum of gender in school? ›

The hidden curriculum consists of implicitly and informally behaviours and norms taught in a school. In essence, it is everything taught by teachers that teachers aren't explicitly stated to teach. A simple example is students being taught to stand or wait in lines to maintain discipline.

How does the school evaluate it's hidden curriculum? ›

The hidden curriculum was evaluated using the Illuminative Evaluation Model. The instructional system and learning milieu were examined through document analysis of school documents, observations of classroom instruction, and interviews among teachers, school personnel, and administration.

What factors affect hidden curriculum? ›

The messages of hidden curriculum usually deal with attitudes, values, beliefs, and behavior. There are numerous such messages conveyed indirectly.

Why is the idea of the hidden curriculum important essay? ›

The “hidden curriculum” affects the established attitudes and values created by teachers in order to be communicated to students in the course of a learning practice. Students effectively use the knowledge provided in classroom settings, based on the values hidden in the arrangements created by teachers in schools.

What is the role of a teacher in improving hidden curriculum? ›

In the hidden curriculum, a teacher is a significant figure to successfully create or shape students' character and personality. As such, the relationship between a teacher and students must be harmonious, so that the goal of creating a right attitude in students is effectively achieved without any obstacles.

How does the hidden curriculum impact students in school sociology? ›

Hidden curriculum is a concept that describes the often unarticulated and unacknowledged things students are taught in school and that may affect their learning experience. These are often unspoken and implied lessons unrelated to the academic courses they're taking — things learned from simply being in school.

What is the conclusion of hidden curriculum? ›

Conclusion: Generally, it can be concluded that hidden curriculum plays an important role through the implicit transfer of values, attitudes, and skills to students, especially on social skills and creativity, so that these issues need to be given more attention by the educators in every educational setting.

Why is it difficult to observe the hidden curriculum? ›

The hidden curriculum is a slippery thing because so many parts of it are dependent on the context and situation in which the behavior happens . Not only does it involve understanding and looking for nonverbal cues, but once you recognize the cues, you have to consider the context.

How does hidden curriculum promote inequality? ›

In this sense, a hidden curriculum reinforces existing social inequalities by educating students according to their class and social status. The unequal distribution of cultural capital in a society mirrors a corresponding distribution of knowledge among its students.

What is hidden curriculum and how does it impact student learning? ›

The Hidden Curriculum, however, is made up of the lessons and knowledge that students learn that are not part of the curriculum or the course of study. This knowledge will not have been included as part of the formal curriculum, but will instead be taught - often unintentionally - alongside the other lessons.

Is school culture a hidden curriculum? ›

School culture has been referred to as the 'hidden curriculum' of a school (Pollard and Triggs, 1997). It forms the rites and rituals, customs, symbols, stories, and vocabulary of a school.

Who came up with hidden curriculum? ›

The phrase "hidden curriculum" was coined by Philip W. Jackson in his 1968 book entitled Life in Classrooms, in a section about the need for students to master the institutional expectations of school.

Why is it important that leaders are aware of hidden curriculum? ›

Hidden curriculum plays a main role in professional learning, formation of professional identity, socialization, moral development and learning values, attitudes, beliefs, and knowledge in learners, so it needs to be managed.

What is the hidden curriculum sociology? ›

The Hidden Curriculum refers to the unwritten rules, values and normative patterns of behaviour which students are expected to conform to and learn while in school.

What is the difference between formal curriculum and hidden curriculum? ›

While the “formal” curriculum consists of the courses, lessons, and learning activities students participate in, and the knowledge and skills educators intentionally teach to students, the “hidden curriculum” is defined as a set of influences that function at the level of the organizational structure and culture that ...

What are the 4 types of curriculum? ›

There are four different types of curricula that educators have to address in the classroom; these four are the explicit, implicit, null, and extracurricular.

What are the 7 types of curriculum? ›

Seven Types of Curriculum
  • Recommended Curriculum.
  • Written Curriculum.
  • Taught Curriculum.
  • Supported Curriculum.
  • Assessed Curriculum.
  • Learned Curriculum.
  • Hidden Curriculum.
7 Jan 2015

Why is hidden curriculum encouraged in schools? ›

In many instances, students struggle to understand teachers' messages or hidden meanings when they not explicitly stated. Moreover, the hidden curriculum helps educators to convey messages to students about their feelings and directions that may be challenging for students to understand.

What is curriculum explain with example? ›

Curriculum is define as the planned and unplanned concept, content, skills work habits, means of assessment, attitudes and instructional strategies taught in the classroom and the variety of school activities in and out of class that influence present and future academic, social, emotional and physical growth of ...

How might the hidden curriculum transmit traditional gender roles? ›

Gender is a major element of the hidden curriculum and is reinforced by specific gender roles that are played out culturally. Although there are indeed clear biological differences between male and female sexes, gender roles are heavily influenced by processes of socialization.

What are the five curriculum models? ›

Curriculum models have five areas they define:
  • Focus- subject or student. Where is the emphasis?
  • Approach - traditional or modern. What type of instruction will be used?
  • Content - topic based or content based. How will units or strands be written?
  • Process - formative or summative. ...
  • Structure - system, linear or cyclical.
10 Nov 2021

How does the hidden curriculum affect achievement? ›

The hidden curriculum is a concept that describes the often unarticulated and unacknowledged things students are taught in school and that may affect their learning experience. These are often unspoken and implied lessons unrelated to the academic courses they're taking — things learned from simply being in school.

How does the hidden curriculum benefit the middle class? ›

The 'hidden curriculum' creates an uncritical, passive workforce by rewarding pupils who are hardworking, punctual and reliable. As middle-class pupils accept 'hidden curriculum' messages more easily, they are more likely to gain better examination results.

How does the hidden curriculum benefit capitalism? ›

The benefits of the education system for capitalism

Bowles and Gintis argue that the hidden curriculum produces a passive, obedient workforce which accepts authority, is motivated by external rewards and is fragmented.

What is the hidden curriculum for healthcare? ›

Hidden curriculum (HC) is considered as unintended learning experiences in medical education (ME). This may include values, norms, beliefs, skills, and knowledge which could potentially influence learning outcomes.

Which group of students does the hidden curriculum negatively impact quizlet? ›

All students are equally affected by the hidden curriculum. Middle- and upper-class students are most adversely affected. Working-class and poverty-level students are most adversely affected.

Can a school exist without a curriculum defend your answer? ›

Essentially, the desired learning objectives upon which the school structure is based form the curriculum, and the curriculum guides the school structure, the school culture, as well as the learning objectives. In short, a school cannot exist without a curriculum.

What is the importance of curriculum? ›

An effective curriculum provides teachers, students, school leaders and community stakeholders with a measurable plan and structure for delivering a quality education. The curriculum identifies the learning outcomes, standards and core competencies that students must demonstrate before advancing to the next level.

What is recommended curriculum? ›

The Recommended Curriculum is the name given to the curriculum construed by the educational stakeholders at the national level. It is more general and usually consists of policy guidelines. It actually reflects the impact of “opinion shapers” such as: policy makers. educationists.

What are the characteristics of good curriculum? ›

A good curriculum is not rigid- it allows room for flexibility, monitoring and evaluation by administration. It should provide sufficient scope for the cultivation of unique skills, interest, attitudes and appreciations. It should be psychologically sound.

What is hidden curriculum advantages and disadvantages? ›

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Hidden Curriculum
AdvantagesDisadvantages
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)
1 more row
22 Jun 2019

Which is the best example of the hidden curriculum? ›

Examples of things taught through the 'hidden curriculum:
  • respecting authority.
  • respect for other pupils' opinions.
  • punctuality.
  • aspiring to achieve.
  • having a 'work ethic'
9 Nov 2017

Which of the following is an example of hidden curriculum? ›

At most schools, an example of a hidden curriculum would be the teaching of reading and writing.

What is the conclusion of hidden curriculum? ›

Conclusion: Generally, it can be concluded that hidden curriculum plays an important role through the implicit transfer of values, attitudes, and skills to students, especially on social skills and creativity, so that these issues need to be given more attention by the educators in every educational setting.

Why is it difficult to observe the hidden curriculum? ›

The hidden curriculum is a slippery thing because so many parts of it are dependent on the context and situation in which the behavior happens . Not only does it involve understanding and looking for nonverbal cues, but once you recognize the cues, you have to consider the context.

How does the hidden curriculum impact students in school sociology? ›

Hidden curriculum is a concept that describes the often unarticulated and unacknowledged things students are taught in school and that may affect their learning experience. These are often unspoken and implied lessons unrelated to the academic courses they're taking — things learned from simply being in school.

Which group of students does the hidden curriculum negatively impact quizlet? ›

All students are equally affected by the hidden curriculum. Middle- and upper-class students are most adversely affected. Working-class and poverty-level students are most adversely affected.

What is the role of a teacher in improving hidden curriculum? ›

In the hidden curriculum, a teacher is a significant figure to successfully create or shape students' character and personality. As such, the relationship between a teacher and students must be harmonious, so that the goal of creating a right attitude in students is effectively achieved without any obstacles.

How does the school evaluate it's hidden curriculum? ›

The hidden curriculum was evaluated using the Illuminative Evaluation Model. The instructional system and learning milieu were examined through document analysis of school documents, observations of classroom instruction, and interviews among teachers, school personnel, and administration.

How does hidden curriculum promote inequality? ›

In this sense, a hidden curriculum reinforces existing social inequalities by educating students according to their class and social status. The unequal distribution of cultural capital in a society mirrors a corresponding distribution of knowledge among its students.

What are the characteristics of hidden curriculum? ›

A hidden curriculum is a side effect of an education, "lessons which are learned but not openly intended" such as the transmission of norms, values, and beliefs conveyed in the classroom and the social environment. Any learning experience may teach unintended lessons.

Why is the idea of the hidden curriculum important essay? ›

The “hidden curriculum” affects the established attitudes and values created by teachers in order to be communicated to students in the course of a learning practice. Students effectively use the knowledge provided in classroom settings, based on the values hidden in the arrangements created by teachers in schools.

How does hidden curriculum affect teaching? ›

The hidden curriculum can often mean that children are taught to accept their teacher's own views and opinions. Teachers are an important authority figure in a child's life and one that they see a great deal. This means that they can have a serious effect on a student's beliefs and actions.

Why a hidden curriculum should be encouraged in schools? ›

Understanding the hidden curriculum is crucial for students because it contains aspects of social behavior vital to their future success in society. There are limits to what can be taught in school. There are many social norms and behaviors students are expected to learn and adapt to on their own.

What factors affect hidden curriculum? ›

The messages of hidden curriculum usually deal with attitudes, values, beliefs, and behavior. There are numerous such messages conveyed indirectly.

What is an example of change over the life course? ›

Transitions often occur as a result of life events, significant changes that have an impact on a person's life. Examples of life events include getting married, getting divorced, a loved one passing away, and having a baby, along with many other changes.

Which of the following is a criticism of the No Child Left Behind? ›

One of the most serious criticisms of No Child Left Behind is an issue of funding and unfunded mandates. Critics say that education funding is not a high priority in the United States, with many schools finding their budgets cut repeatedly year after year.

What has happened to the achievement gap between rich and poor children between the 1970s and today? ›

Furthermore, while the black-white achievement gap has narrowed over time, the gap between high- and low-income students grew as much as 40 percent, when comparing children born in the 1970s to those born in 2001.

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