26 5.2 Sociological Influences of the Four Curricula
There are four different types of curricula that educators have to address in the classroom; these four are explicit, implicit, null, and extracurricular. The most obvious curriculum in the classroom is the explicit curriculum because that is the curriculum that the Illinois State Board has approved of Education. Curriculum for extracurricular activities also exists for academic clubs, band, chorus, or sports. The curriculum that is not so obvious is the implicit or “hidden curriculum” and the null curriculum, which is information that students may never be exposed to because they are excluded from the explicit curriculum. Each of these curricula will be explained below with examples to illustrate what each entails.
Explicit instruction can be described as a curriculum that has been intentionally designed, field-tested by educators, and disseminated publicly, often with resources that will help teachers facilitate classroom instruction. One could look at district-level curriculum maps, graphic organizers, and supplemental materials that could be used to deliver a prescribed curriculum. Explicit curriculum directly aligns to the Illinois Learning Standards for each grade level and subject area.
The hidden curriculum are lessons that emerge from the culture of the local school district school and the behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs that the district has defined. Bruner (1960) addressed the need to cultivate an understanding of ideas by including content beyond the explicit curriculum. An example of a hidden curriculum is character education. Character education may address values that are not part of the state-approved curriculum. While character education can be found in the explicit curriculum, the character education program’s nuances may be informed by many factors present in the local school district, including the school community’s cultural expectations, values, and perspectives. A character education program may also include specific curricular topics containing varying ideological and/or cultural messages. Teaching strategies that connect the school to the community, like problem-based learning or applied learning, can also be part of the implicit curriculum.
Eisner (1985) defined null curriculum as information that schools do not teach:
… the options students are not afforded, the perspectives they may never know about, much less be able to use, the concepts and skills that are not part of their intellectual repertoire (Eisner,1985, p. 107).
Several examples of the null curriculum can be identified in content areas. For example, in social studies, the teacher may give a general overview of the history of science while covering the scientific revolution. However, this information is excluded from the formal curriculum. Another example would be the exclusion of Darwin’s theory of evolution from the official biology curriculum. Null content may represent specific facts omitted in a particular unit of study. An example of this would be a social studies unit focusing on the New Deal may not reference the fact that the New Deal failed to resolve the problem of unemployment.
The extra-curricular curriculum includes school-sponsored opportunities that fall outside of academic requirements prescribed on the local and state levels. Examples of extra-curricular activities include participation in sports, music, student governance, yearbook, school newspaper, and academic clubs. Extracurricular participation is a strategy to promote school connectedness (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009). Extracurricular activities are often associated with many positive outcomes such as higher academic achievement and decreased school dropout (Farb & Matjasko, 2012).
According to the United States National Center for Education Statistics (2012), sports are the most common type of extracurricular activity among secondary school students, with 44% of high school seniors reporting participation in some sport. Additionally, 21% of students participate in music activities, as well as clubs, such as academic (21%), hobby (12%), and vocational clubs (16%).