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Essay: Understanding the Three Types of Curriculum: Official, Taught, and Hidden

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  • Published: 1 February 2018*
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Question 1

‘ ‘schooling consists of the totality of student learnings associated with the school. Curriculum may be seen as all of those planned learnings that students were deliberately exposed to schools. Nevertheless, students acquired numerous learnings that were not planned.’

(a) Write a clear and concise essay on what the author means from the above statement.

Tyler (1949) defines curriculum as ‘All learning of the students which is planned by and directed by school to attain its educational goals’. From the point of view of E. Eisner (1979), ‘The curriculum of a school, or a course, or a classroom can be conceived of as a series of planned events that are intended to have educational consequences for one or more students’. Hence, curriculum can be said to be all the knowledge and learning experiences a student acquires at school. There are three types of curriculum namely official, taught and hidden which are most important for students to emancipate and develop their learning skills.

An official curriculum serves as time management and organizational tool and also helps teachers identify an effective learning style by focusing on the most critical aspects of a projected lesson plan. This type of curriculum provides students with learning experiences that are engaging, relevant and challenging in learning environments that are stimulating. Students are encouraged to be curious, inquisitive and they explore and interact with their local and global environment. On the other hand, taught curriculum is the enactment or implementation of the written curriculum by a teacher with a specific group of students helping students become proficient in the knowledge and skills outlines by the written curriculum.

In many cases, teachers develop their own curricula, often refining and consequently improving it. In some cases, school programs provide comprehensive multi-grade curriculum books and other materials to teachers for better learning. Most teachers spend a lot of time thinking about studying, discussing and analyzing curriculum and most of them acquire the expertise in curriculum development because they know how to structure, organize and deliver lessons in a way to facilitate or accelerate student learning.

Through deliberative selection of content provide a wide range of advantages to teachers and students; however, a standardized curriculum severely limits the opportunities for students to learn by enforcing one-size-fits all curriculum. As the curriculum is scripted and prescriptive it handicaps the expansion of learning to a greater dimension therefore shifting from professional practice towards content coverage and away from deep understanding. Some assessment criteria are relatively narrow and of limited utility in gauging the achievement of and individual student. Rather serving as an indicator of overall performance based student learning the assessment seems as a bias program which focuses only on test success. The deliberate selection of content limits curriculum to specific programs, courses and activities or outcomes described in the syllabus. Therefore, students only see one perspective on a concept or issue and they assume that learning is simply a collection of facts and figures. Teachers being given specific curriculum and tools they do not have the opportunity to tailor-made lessons to the specific attributes and interests of different categories of students thus the latter see learning as accumulation of correct answers.

On the other hand, hidden curriculum brings a broader dimension to learning techniques which consist of unwritten, unofficial and often unintended lessons, values and prospective, unspoken or implicit social and cultural messages which are communicated to students at school. This concept is based on the recognition that students absorb lessons in school that may or may not be part of the formal course of study. Moreover, hidden curriculum encompasses an enormous variety of potential intellectual, social, cultural and environmental factors which undoubtedly reinforce the lessons of formal curriculum as well.

(b) What implications does this have for your own teaching practice?

As a teacher, our philosophy, choices, and use of books and materials, the audio-visual techniques used in classrooms, the motivational techniques, the measurement of assessments, the relationships and interactions between teachers and students, the learning groups and the socioeconomic differences can play a more major role in the learning process. Teachers are encouraged to respond to a more diverse classroom and schools should be understood as socialization processes where students pick up messages through the experience of being in school, not just from things those they are explicitly taught.

Essential to the growth and development of our schooling system is our ability to teach and learn about differences and multiplicity and to consider these differences in our teaching practices. Every child is unique in his or her own and to succeed, teachers should integrate non-bias practices and facilitate learning experiences for all. As teachers, we adhere to agreed-upon topics to discuss, practices to follow, objectives to meet, and ends to reach. Our adherence is obviously governed by well-declared curricular criteria. The problem is our work might evaporate and have no significance if we are not able to include other implicit and unintentional considerations we usually choose to identify as Hidden Curriculum.

Schools still openly and intentionally promote social norms and values such as: punctuality, competitive accepting hierarchy of authority, patience, among others. Many ideas, ideologies, and concepts can be enforced in the students’ cognitive system. Teachers should be sensitive to this challenge and try to establish a setting with well-defined relationships that encourage students to discuss openly, energize teamwork and learning group practices

Teaching is not merely a practice but an experience where we should work on the best possible combination of what is purely professional in our work and what is personal. Teachers should be very sensitive to how they introduce themselves to their students and to the messages they are permanently transmitting in their classrooms. More significantly, teachers should vary their strategies so they can have greater impact on their instructive activities and should equally have their emotional presence be sensed in the heart of their children.


1. EISNER, E W., 1979, The three curricular that all schools teach. The Educational Imagination. New York: MacMilliam, pp 74 – 89.

2. TYLER RALPH W., 1949, Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction.

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