In the last two issues of Equip we have looked at the use and benefit of having a good understanding of curriculum. This time I want to look at “hidden curriculum.” Hidden curriculum is what is taught and conveyed nonverbally in the classroom.
We teach a great deal by how we communicate. For example, when a student asks an off-topic question with true sincerity and curiosity, how do you deal with it? Do you dismiss the question? Do you tell the student that the question is not important because it has nothing to do with the lesson? Here, your hidden curriculum is how you decide to handle the situation. While we don’t want to get off the topic, we must make sure the students understand that they are important, and their question is important, but at a more appropriate time.
Another example of our hidden curriculum can be the physical setup of the room. The room should be set up in a way that invites interaction. Typically, the classroom is set up to make the teacher the focal point of the room. A better arrangement is to set the room to enable the students to interact with each other as well as the teacher. Color! Did you know that sterile white walls can be a distraction for some students as well as having too much color? All of this communicates to students without our saying a word.
When you teach, are you standing or sitting? If you are standing the whole time you can be communicating a sense of superiority over the students. Being at the same level as them communicates an openness and equality with them in Christ.
Budgets are also part of the hidden curriculum but less subtle. Budgets communicate just what value the church places on the students. If students lack for supplies or a written curriculum, then it says to these students that they are not important enough for the church to provide for at any cost. Did you know that 80-90 percent of all church budgets are spent on those over 18? Yet, on average, at least 50 percent of most churches are made up of those under 18!
One of the greatest weaknesses I see in our hidden curriculum is when we don’t help them know how to apply what we are saying. There is this myth that all we need to give is the information and the Holy Spirit will do the applying. If this were the case, half of many of Paul’s letters would never have been written! More than ever people don’t think through things on their own. They need help knowing how to take the truths we are presenting and apply them to their lives. We should never allow our students or congregation to go away asking what they are supposed to do with the information they just received. We need to direct them so that the Holy Spirit will do the applying of what we have said.
The hidden curriculum should not be feared, it should be something you try to think through as you put yourself in the place of your listeners. We cannot control all of it, but we can make adjustments when we make ourselves aware of what our listeners are hearing us not say.