Is simply that which is written as part of formal instruction of
schooling experiences. It may refer to a curriculum document, texts,
films, and supportive teaching materials that are overtly chosen to
support the intentional instructional agenda of a school. Thus, the
overt curriculum is usually confined to those written understandings
and directions formally designated and reviewed by administrators,
curriculum directors and teachers, often collectively.
As defined by Cortes (1981). Cortes defines this curriculum as:…[the]
massive, ongoing, informal curriculum of family, peer groups,
neighborhoods, churches, organizations, occupations, mass media, and
other socializing forces that “educate” all of us throughout our lives. 24
This type of curricula can now be expanded to include the powerful
effects of social media (YouTube; Facebook; Twitter; Pinterest, etc) and
how it actively helps create new perspectives, and can help shape both
individual and public opinion.
That which is implied by the very structure and nature of schools, much
of what revolves around daily or established routines.
Longstreet and Shane (1993) offer a commonly accepted definition for
this term – the “hidden curriculum,” which refers to the kinds of
learnings children derive from the very nature and organizational
design of the public school, as well as from the behaviors and attitudes
of teachers and administrators…. ” 46
Examples of the hidden curriculum might include the messages and
lessons derived from the mere organization of schools — the emphasis
on: sequential room arrangements; the cellular, timed segments of
formal instruction; an annual schedule that is still arranged to
accommodate an agrarian age; disciplined messages where
concentration equates to student behaviors were they are sitting up
straight and are continually quiet; students getting in and standing in
line silently; students quietly raising their hands to be called on; the
endless competition for grades, and so on. The hidden curriculum may
include both positive or negative messages, depending on the models
provided and the perspectives of the learner or the observer.
In what I term floating quotes, popularized quotes that have no direct,
cited sources, David P. Gardner is reported to have said: We learn
simply by the exposure of living. Much that passes for education is not
education at all but ritual. The fact is that we are being educated when
we know it least.
4. The null
That which we do not teach, thus giving students the message that
these elements are not important in their educational experiences or in
our society. Eisner offers some major points as he concludes his
discussion of the null curriculum. The major point I have been trying to
make thus far is that schools have consequences not only by virtue of
what they do teach, but also by virtue of what they neglect to teach.
What students cannot consider, what they don’t processes they are
unable to use, have consequences for the kinds of lives they lead. 103
Eisner (1985, 1994) first described and defined aspects of this
curriculum. He states: There is something of a paradox involved in
writing about a curriculum that does not exist. Yet, if we are concerned
with the consequences of school programs and the role of curriculum in
shaping those consequences, then it seems to me that we are well
advised to consider not only the explicit and implicit curricula of schools
but also what schools do not teach. It is my thesis that what schools do
not teach may be as important as what they do teach. I argue this
position because ignorance is not simply a neutral void; it has important
effects on the kinds of options one is able to consider, the alternatives
that one can examine, and the perspectives from which one can view a
situation or problems. …97
From Eisner’s perspective the null curriculum is simply that which is not
taught in schools. Somehow, somewhere, some people are empowered
to make conscious decisions as to what is to be included and what is to
be excluded from the overt (written) curriculum. Since it is physically
impossible to teach everything in schools, many topics and subject
areas must be intentionally excluded from the written curriculum. But
Eisner’s position on the “null curriculum” is that when certain subjects or
topics are left out of the overt curriculum, school personnel are sending
messages to students that certain content and processes are not
important enough to study. Unfortunately, without some level of
awareness that there is also a well-defined implicit agenda in schools,
school personnel send this same type of message via the hidden
curriculum. These are important to consider when making choices. We
teach about wars but not peace, we teach about certain select cultures
and histories but not about others. Both our choices and our omissions
send messages to students.
The messages prevalent in and through exposure to any type of
media. These components and messages play a major part in the
enculturation of students into the predominant meta-culture, or in
acculturating students into narrower or generational subcultures.
What is taught, or emphasized at home, or those experiences that are
part of a family’s experiences, or related experiences sanctioned by the
family. (This type of curriculum may be received at church, in the
context of religious expression, lessons on values, ethics or morals,
molded behaviors, or social experiences based on the family’s
Elements from the rhetorical curriculum are comprised from ideas
offered by policymakers, school officials, administrators, or
politicians. This curriculum may also come from those professionals
involved in concept formation and content changes; or from those
educational initiatives resulting from decisions based on national and
state reports, public speeches, or from texts critiquing outdated
educational practices. The rhetorical curriculum may also come from
the publicized works offering updates in pedagogical knowledge.
The formal curriculum (written or overt) comprises those things in
textbooks, and content and concepts in the district curriculum guides.
However, those “formal” elements are frequently not taught. The
curriculum-in-use is the actual curriculum that is delivered and
presented by each teacher.
Those things that students actually take out of classrooms; those
concepts and content that are truly learned and remembered.
Processes, content, knowledge combined with the experiences and
realities of the learner to create new knowledge. While educators
should be aware of this curriculum, they have little control over the
internal curriculum since it is unique to each student. Educators can
explore this curricula by using instructional assessments like “exit slips,”
reflective exercises, or debriefing discussions to see what students
really remember from a lesson. It is often very enlightening and
surprising to find out what has meaning for learners and what does not.
Those lessons learned through searching the Internet for
information, or through using e-forms of communication. (Wilson,
2004) This type of curriculum may be either formal or informal, and
inherent lessons may be overt or covert, good or bad, correct or
incorrect depending on ones’ views. Students who use the Internet
on a regular basis, both for recreational purposes (as in blogs, wikis,
chatrooms, listserves, through instant messenger, on-line
conversations, or through personal e-mails and sites like Twitter,
Facebook, or Youtube) and for personal online research and
information gathering are bombarded with all types of media and
messages. Much of this information may be factually correct,
informative, or even entertaining or inspirational. But there is also a
great deal of other e-information that may be very incorrect, dated,
passé, biased, perverse, or even manipulative.
The implications of the electronic curriculum for educational practices
are that part of the overt curriculum needs to include lessons on how
to be wise consumers of information, how to critically appraise
the accuracy and correctness of e-information, as well as how
to determine the reliability of electronic sources. Also, students
need to learn how to be artfully discerning about the usefulness and
appropriateness of certain types of information. Like other forms of
social interaction, students need to know that there are inherent
lessons to be learned about appropriate and acceptable
“netiquette” and online behaviors, to include the differences
between “fair and legal usage,” vs. plagiarism and information
Cortes, C.E. (1981) The societal curriculum: Implications for multiethnic educations. In
Banks, J.A (ed.) Educations in the 80’s: Multiethnic education. National Education
Eisner, E.W. (1994) The educational imagination: On design and evaluation of school
programs. (3rd. ed) New York: Macmillan.
Longstreet, W.S. and Shane, H.G. (1993) Curriculum for a new millennium. Boston: Allyn
Oliva, P. (1997) The curriculum: Theoretical dimensions. New York: Longman.
Wilson, L. O. (1990, 2004, 2006) Curriculum course packets ED 721 & 726, unpublished
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