What’s your hidden curriculum?

In education there is a term called the hidden curriculum, which refers to unintended outcomes or lessons taught in the classroom. These mostly encompass the soft stuff like values, beliefs, behaviours and norms that are transmitted through the social environment or the behaviour of the educator.

As a teacher a number of years ago, I was very familiar with the intended curriculum – those activities purposefully designed to bring about certain learning. There was an active process of designing lessons to do this. I was also conscious of how I used space and acted to bring about lessons. Despite all of this, I was still struck when students would tell me what they learned from me or a lesson, and I would be surprised to hear stuff that I was not actually conscious of doing or remembered occurring. These were at times positive lessons, and other times negative experiences. It was striking how so many of the most deeply memorable learning experiences where not from the ‘intentional curriculum’, but from the ‘hidden curriculum’ of the teacher.

Now, this all sounds like a fairly harmless thing if one has a bit of awareness and some emotional intelligence to deal with this stuff. The concept of a hidden curriculum can have a darker side though. An example of a more negative expression is when a school promotes inclusiveness while structuring its classrooms by ranking students according to ability or performance. Research has shown that relationships that are structured and modeled within the classroom can transfer to outside of the classroom. These norms have been seen to influence social groupings Read more

Cultural constellations (and a marriage) of change

Today I had the pleasure of sharing lunch with Mike and Rosie Kennedy. Mike is Australian born, and Rosie of Maori heritage. They have been married for a number of years and lived in both Australia and New Zealand. As changemakers and community leaders, they have had to grapple with and understand each other and the world through the lenses of their different cultures.

Mike shared some interesting stories about first going into cultural situations in New Zealand and needing to learn quickly around how to talk, how to LISTEN, and how to behave. He talked about learning aspects of Maori spirituality and language. While we live so closely in the world, there are some strong distinctions in how community works, and how leadership and change happens.

Mike shared how when he first landed in New Zealand so many years ago, he was reading Machiavelli’s The Prince. This classic text talks about an approach to changemaking based on power, politics, corruption and violence; glorifying the ethical maxim that the “end justifies the means”. Mike described how surreal it was to be reading this philosophy while being introduced to such a contrasting view of how power and community can work.

According to Rosie and Mike, the Maori way has its own sense of power. It is a spiritual and cultural way of being in the world deeply rooted to land and water, to family and community. While we didn’t unpack ethics in relation to Maori culture, Read more