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Hidden Curriculum: How To Avoid.

Students in a traditional classroom


This article will examine how a hidden curriculum can have an adverse effect on instruction. In addition, this article will describe how biases, inclusion, and a student's preferred learning styles can influence a hidden curriculum.

A hidden curriculum is not written down or planned. This type of curriculum can reflect negatively on learning. Therefore, the implications for educators are crucial. A curriculum should motivate all types of learners and encourage students to reach their learning potential.

Consequently, a teacher could inadvertently show biases in classroom instruction. This can be exhibited by not providing quality and equitable instruction for all students. In addition, a teacher may not set high learning expectations based on student learning potential. Teachers can unintentionally ignore a student’s preferred learning style by not providing lessons, which cater to all types of learning styles.

Classroom Biases

Biases In The Classroom

One factor, which influences a hidden curriculum, is a teachers unintentional use of biases in the classroom. Biases can affect instruction by an educator’s use of proximity, gender achievement expectations, and instructional practices.

The first characteristic of a teacher’s use of bias is the use of proximity. Proximity should be used to motivate student learning. “The teacher’s presence is a motivator to students and sends a message to students that they are acknowledged and important.” (Cantor, 2001b, p. 32) However, educators could inadvertently use proximity by “spending more time near high achieving students…or disruptive students.” (Cantor, 2001b, p.32) Most definitely, a teacher uses proximity to ensure all students stay on task and proximity does help to allay any disruptive behavior. On the other hand, a students feelings need to be taken into account regarding the use of proximity. An educator wants to avoid sending the message to struggling students that the focus is on high performing students or appropriately behaved students. Lee Canter mentioned that teachers should “circulate around the classroom and hold high behavioral/academic expectations for all students.” (Cantor, 2001b, p. 34)

Another characteristic of being bias is a teacher’s selection of students. Student participation helps a teacher determine if skills are mastered and motivates learning. In personal observations, students enjoy explaining what they have learned. This encourages students to pay close attention to lessons. However, an educator could unintentionally call primarily on a certain gender or high achieving students. “Most of teachers’ interactions are with about 20 percent of the students. Unfortunately, the students who need personal interactions the most are the ones who get it the least.” (Canter, 2002b, p. 33)

Therefore, a teacher needs to conscientiously include all students into the learning process. For example, a teacher can use a fair process of selecting males and female students. In personal observations, students are more motivated to participate in lessons, when the teacher involves all types of learners.

The teaching strategy Delving can be use to promote biases. Delving is a process “to elicit an answer.” (Cantor, 2001b, p. 59) An educator should use the delving strategy to promote higher-level questions. However, educators could “water down” questions, because of the “belief that female students, low achievers, shy students, limited-English-speaking students, and intimidating students don’t have much to offer.” (Cantor, 2001b, p. 60)

In addition, research show that the majority of questions created are low leveled. (Bloom, 1984 & Gall, 1984) Therefore, teachers create a higher-level word prompt in the classroom. This enables teachers to move beyond recall questions and ask application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluative questions. Such as:

- Imagine if…. (Synthesis)

- Can you show… (Application)

- Compare/contrast… (Analysis)

- Rate this…. (Evaluation)

In personal observations, students find higher-level questions exciting and it motivates critical thinking. When an educator uses bias practices in the classroom, this can unintentionally influence a hidden curriculum. Therefore, teachers need to be conscientiously aware of any bias practices. Such as the unfair use of proximity, student’s selection, gender bias, and instructional practices.

Including All Students

Not Including Students With Special Needs

A second factor that can influence a hidden curriculum is not including special needs students into the learning process. Public law 94-142 was passed to ensure that “all schools receiving federal funds (public schools) can not discriminate any disability.” (Canter, 2002a, p. 25) Today, teachers and schools districts need to ensure that all special needs students receive classroom accommodations. These accommodations could be physical, such as a larger desk, ramps, or elevators. In addition, educators and school districts need to provide academic accommodations for special needs students. Curriculum modifications will increase student achievement. For example, if a student has difficulty in reading, technology can be used to provide assistance. Textbook companies include software across the curriculum such as, phonics, vocabulary, and reading comprehension.

A curriculum should ensure that there are equal opportunities of learning. Special needs students are mainstreamed into the classroom and teachers need to create modifications in the curriculum, which caters to all types of learners. If special needs students are ignored, student and teacher frustrations may increase. Therefore, “the time spent make accommodations are more productive than time spent experiencing frustrations.” (Cantor, 2001b, p. 79)

One strategy for reaching special needs students is teaching to the multiple intellegences. According to Howard Gardner (1984), there are “eight multiple intelligences:

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  1. “verbal-linguistic
  2. visual-spatial
  3. logical/mathematical
  4. bodily/kenesthetic
  5. musical
  6. intrapersonal
  7. interpersonal
  8. naturalist.” (Friend & Buruck, 2002, p. 246)

Multiple intelligences can be incorporated into lessons: For example, an educator could create bodily/kinesthetic activities to teach special needs students the revolutionary war. Students can create a diorama of the lesson or create a song that describes an aspect of the Boston tea party (musical). Thereby, teachers, will promote achievement by equally providing all types of learners the opportunity to learn.

Student Learning Styles

The third factor that influences a hidden curriculum is a students learning style. A learning style is the “preferred way to approach new information." (Conner, 2005, p. 1) There are three learning styles visual, auditory, and tactile/kinesthetic. Everyone has a preferred learning style and this includes the teacher. Consequently, an educator can unintentionally create lessons, which are catered to a personal learning style. Thus, the teacher is not taking into account the individual learning styles of students.

Therefore, a teacher should test students to determine their preferred learning style. A test will reveal not only the preferred learning style, but also the weakest learning style. This information helps teachers to create lessons that will strengthen any learning styles. For example, a visual learner can boost learning by “looking at graphics, drawing, and describing a play.” (Connor, 2005, p.1) An auditory learner can listen to a story or poem and make comparisons of the characters. Lastly, a tactile kinesthetic learner can measure and convert measurements into centimeters or inches. Most definitely, teaching to a students learning style not only will boost learning, but it “provides many choices for how students can show the teacher they understand.” (Silverman, 2006, p. 2)

The writer worked ardently to avoid unintentionally teaching a hidden curriculum. Throughout the years, utilizing collaborative groups and hands-on activities helped to involve all learners. Although challenging, dividing special needs students into cooperative groups helps to increase learning. Some special needs students are extremely low and several medium or high performing students tend to ignore this struggling group. Behavioral and management modification help train learners discover how to work together. Academic modifications can be accomplished by breaking down concepts into smaller sections. In addition, special needs students who struggle with reading can use the listening center and follow along with the reading lesson.

A professional development workshop provided teachers with a fair system to equally call on boys and girls. Therefore, educators circulate around the classroom and look for opportunities to encourage all students, which include shy students. Thereby, all learners regardless of ability experience success.

In the area of student learning styles, the writer discovered that tactile/kinesthetic and visual is the preferred learning style. After reviewing a few old lessons, the writer re-designed these lessons, which were primarily catered to a preferred learning style. As a result, the writer created centers, which caters to all learning styles. Funding was attained for purchasing supplies to create a listening center for auditory learners. Display boards provided samples of assignments for visual learners and project based lessons, which caters to tactile/kinesthetic students.

In conclusion, a teacher can unintentionally influence curriculum by using a hidden curriculum. Factors that can influence a hidden curriculum are personal biases. A teacher can exhibit gender inequity in the classroom by calling predominantly on a specific gender. In addition, educators can show biases by spending more time (proximity) with high performing students. This unfair practice will not motivate students. On the other hand, teachers should utilize fair and equitable classroom practices, which stimulate learning. Lastly, teaching to a students learning style can boost learning and provide a variety of ways for student learning.


Bloom, B., (1984). The search for methods of group instruction as effective as one to one tutoring. Education Leadership. Vol. 4. p.17.

Canter, L., (2002a). Including students with special needs in the regular classroom. Study guide. p. 25. Los Angeles: CA.

Canter, L., (2002b). Motivating today’s learner. Study guide. p. 25-110. Los Angeles: CA.

Conner, M., L., (2005). What’s your learning style? Retrieved from website http: //

Friend, M., & Bursuch, W., D., (2002). Including students with special needs: A

Practical guide for classroom teacher. p. 246. Boston: MA.

Gall, M., (1984). Synthesis of research on teacher’s questioning. Educational leadership Vol. 42. pg. 40-47.

Silverman, F., (2006). Learning styles: Want to have teachers reach every student? Think, seeing, feeling, and touching. Retrieved from website


Missy Mac (author) from Illinois on January 19, 2013:

Thanks Au Fait. Many parents are choosing to home school their children. Today, there are a variety of educational options. Thanks for reading.

C E Clark from North Texas on January 19, 2013:

All the issues you discuss here are important and need to be considered by classroom teachers and parent. While I believe maintaining the best possible pubic school system is imperative, I believe home school can be the solution to a lot of problems for parents who are able to do so.

When I home schooled my daughter, she got all of my attention and answered all of the questions. Many of the things you list here were never an issue.

Very good hub on issues that all parents and teachers need to be aware of and deal with. Voted up, useful, interesting, and will share with my followers.

Missy Mac (author) from Illinois on November 14, 2012:

Yes, educators need to understand how they personally learn. Therefore, the best strategies can be used for learners. Its important to help students understand how they best learn (strengths) and working on any weaknesses. Thanks for reading.

Shasta Matova from USA on November 14, 2012:

I can't imagine being a teacher, working with a range of academic levels and learning styles, and avoiding personal biases that are bound to crop up in teaching. I commend you for making the effort to learn the learning styles of your students, and working to help maximize your effectiveness as a teacher. Voted up.

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