The Curricula Trinity

Perhaps the greatest of all pedagogical fallacies is the notion that a person learns only the particular thing he is studying at the time. (John Dewey)

V31A3562Trying to understand curriculum is a “task and a half” on its own. Brady and Kennedy, in “Curriculum Construction 4th Edition”, described curriculum as  providing ” a blueprint for teaching / learning for an extended period of time”

Yet the curriculum that is generally discussed   is really a “trinity of curriculums”. That is, three parts to the one whole curriculum.

These three parts are known as explicit, implicit and null curriculum. And they are evident in every classroom and every school environment.

We start with the explicit curriculum. Explicit curriculum is the external  and publicly obvious goals of teaching and learning that occurs in a school. The teaching programs, the scope and sequence charts detailing the learning, the school Key Learning Area policies and parent information guides are all examples of the “obvious and outwardly” demonstrated teaching and learning that occurs.

The second part of the “Curricula Trinity” is the implicit curriculum. What is it we teach children that isn’t externally documented in any class programs or school policies. Implicit curriculum is behaviour and thinking that occurs because of what the student “thinks” is needed to happen in the classroom. It is extrinsically motivate often with a reward e.g. if a child completes an exercise “well” they are given a star or sticker. If a child behaves a certain way they may also be rewarded. It is the curriculum that is not spoken but suggested.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 admini

The last of the “curriculum Trinity” is the null curriculum. The curriculum which does not exist. It is what schools fail to teach. An example of this is a Catholic school which may not teach about Darwin’s theory because of the story of Genesis in the Bible ie God created the world. 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.

So, how is it that schools convey their teaching and learning, and the answer is through the combination of all three parts of the one curriculum- explicit, implicit and null curriculum. Also, defined in this post as “The Curricula Trinity”


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