Simon Buckberry

Is There a Place for the Hidden Curriculum in Educational Settings?

Educational establishments, even though the focus is still on pupils passing their subject tests, teachers have become more aware of the importance of the hidden skills that children learn alongside these subjects. This article will look into why these hidden skills are very important.

With employers screaming out for soft skills such as grit, resilience, self-mastery and communication, clearly academic achievement is no longer enough. Despite the importance of the curriculum at all education settings, the teaching of softer skills are becoming more of a priority to young people.

This includes:

  • statutory requirements
  • extra-curricular opportunities
  • the ‘hidden curriculum’ (what children learn from the way they are treated and are expected to behave)

Other examples may include:

The expectations we share with our children – by ensuring all adults have high expectations, this will assist the teaching of children to uphold these.

Teaching strategies – the way we teach our children can convey intentional and unintended messages, allowing them to learn skills such as critical thinking and problem solving, and attributes such as persistence, resourcefulness, and self-motivation.

Rules and regulations – school policies that are enforced, do determine how we are wanting to mould our future adults. This brings us to the argument whether their appearance is solely important or whether it is the work we produce.

All settings consider the importance of the hidden curriculum as something we strive for and prepare to teach. These moments require a key to unlocking their potential as we cannot write them into lesson plans or long-term plans, however, we may organise a group to get involved in a fire making activity, and the social dynamics and problem-solving skills that emerge are spontaneous and context-specific — this is where the learning happens. It shares huge potential, with its focus on the Piagetian theory of discovery andexploration.

Incorporating a play-based approach allows children to grow socially and emotionally, and without a prescribed structure to their play, children gain independence. Whilst being available for guidance, the teachers role is to scaffold, challenge and ask those questions that deepen student learning and curiosity, providing changes to analyse and evaluate scenarios, not to redirect or take charge.

This promotes higher-order thinking and supports Bloom’s Taxonomy of Questioning , which some teachers find difficult to use, in particular for children with additional needs.

When a group of children decide to build a den, they take charge of their own project and automatically show care towards this, asking questions like;

  • Who gets to make the door?
  • What if some of us want to build a small den rather than a large one?

These questions allow the hidden curriculum to be utilised correctly. Children will try, fail, learn from their mistakes and repeat this process until they co-operate with someone. This can be a hard strategy to teach, especially with young children. The hidden curriculum allows this teaching to take place without any formality but steers them towards the right direction to succeed.

The main issue, as raised above, is what skills are we specifically wanting to share with our young children? All schools and settings have a different hidden curriculum they want to share with their team and may have specific factors that are of more importance than others (e.g. – religion, appearance, teamwork, individuality, inclusion etc.)

It’s about how visible you want this curriculum to be and this leads to the argument of how hidden is the hidden curriculum? These factors do determine the behaviours and learning that a child experiences within their life and will continue to do so throughout their adulthood.

Simon Buckberry

A special needs teacher at a local academy trust in Grantham. Have experience with governing at a primary school and have completed my Primary Education degree in 2015.

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