The Hidden Curriculum - Barri Moc
Curriculum for Wales is now a complete document and following the Senedd election results and a Labour portfolio for education most likely, there is now strong certainty, if there was ever any real doubt, that it's full steam ahead for Curriculum For Wales!
I've been teaching for a long time and I've observed that some learners seem to be able to listen, process, understand, interact, wrestle with challenge and make impressive progress both in terms of acquiring knowledge and application of skills. On the other hand, there are learners who are disaffected, bored, not interested, distracted or poorly behaved where progress is often hindered and this can also hinder the learning of others. Of course this is a continuum of extremes and many learners are situated along it at different points and can often change their position depending on a huge range of variables and factors such as the weather, relationships, home life, background knowledge, educational and life experience, well-being and health etc. The struggle for me has always been that this vast mixture of learners are all present in the same lesson. Even with the best lesson sequences planned out with engaging resources and the latest thinking on how to deliver that content, it may not be sufficient to bridge the gap between these two extremes. It's a struggle!
Barri Mock - Teacher and Subject Lead
This is a 'hidden curriculum' because it goes beyond the knowledge and skills that can be planned for within a lesson sequence. Sure, teachers in the classroom will select content and activities with the aim of including everyone and will strive to ensure there is challenge and support to involve all learners in being successful and promote progress, but this is not sufficient to realise the lofty goals of the 4 Purposes in and of itself. I'm not suggesting this has not been a factor in the co-construction phase and it is obviously implicit within the document itself and this 'hidden curriculum' is more about the vision, culture, ethos, routines, identity, behaviour, attitudes and ownership of the learning within our schools themselves. It's the day to day stuff, the language, the timetable, the pastoral support, the interactions, the extra-curricular opportunities, the systems and the organisation and structure of the school and what it stands for.
How do we foster positive dispositions to learning? How do we cultivate curiosity, creativity, resilience, critical thinking and problem solving? How do we invite another into exploring identity and sense of place in the world? How do we go about equipping an individual to deal with the harsh realities of life and remain positive and philosophical in moving forward? How do we reconcile poverty with wealth and the different experiences this can bring? How do we create an environment where failure is seen as a positive step in learning? How do we ensure the self-efficacy of all learners and promote equity? These are questions that go right to the heart of the 4 Purposes and yet they will not be written into any schemes of work because the craft of the teacher working within a community ethos and culture is in the realm of professional learning, leadership and the shared purpose and understanding of a meaningful education.
The reality on the ground will remain the same for most teachers! Learners will continue to have different backgrounds and experiences and a wide range of knowledge, skills and abilities on which to draw. On one hand this is amazing as there's lots to share but it's also problematic. Let's take reading for example! What if a learner, for whatever reason, cannot read upon reaching Y7? What about those who don't care or feel the 'visible curriculum' is not relevant to them? What about those learners who cannot understand the cultural references within lessons that others do? What about learners who do not possess the dispositions required to function in the classroom? What about the bullies, racism and peer pressure that is rife due to social media? What about tolerance, understanding, patience and respect? What about celebrating diversity and being inclusive of all? Can these things be addressed sufficiently within the 'curriculum plans' and subject schemes of work and lesson sequences and experience, or is there something else, some other layer of thought and planning we need to engage with? Do we also need to address the 'hidden curriculum'?
In designing Curriculum for Wales within each school/cluster/region there is a need to consider things such as school vision, ethos, culture, intention, purpose, identity and expectation. The passing on of information between phases over and above academic data also needs careful consideration, particularly in view of dispositions and attitudes to learning in order to address any issues. We need to arrive at a place where the start of a new phase is not a complete blank slate, but a continuation of the journey. We also need to address meta-cognition, motivation and relationships through careful investment of time and expertise in the 'hidden curriculum' if we are to achieve the desired outcomes of this bold curriculum adventure. In addition to this, we need to go a little further and ask where the responsibility for addressing these very important points rests? How do we cultivate the best culture, environment and dispositions from classroom through faculty, school, cluster, regional and national level so that Cymru is given the best chance of moving forward and to realise the lofty goals of the 4 Purposes and Curriculum for Wales?