We have all heard about the “silent curriculum”. The curriculum we want to teach, but for which standards do not exist. This curriculum usually revolves around respect, responsibility, caring and character development. I want to take a few minutes and reflect on what else is oftentimes taught implicitly by many teachers (including yours truly, although I am working on it). Let me be clear, these are things that are often taught implicitly in schools, even though most of us would be against them. I hope this post causes you to reflect on your own practices and what implicit messages you send your students.
1) Understanding quickly is more important than understanding deeply. Many teachers quiz students on their understanding along the path of learning and assess homework for understanding. These assessments are often entered as static fixtures of students’ overall grades. Yet, isn’t the purpose of homework to encourage or assist learning? Isn’t a quiz given half way through a unit designed to inform both the teacher and the student of learning progress? We admit these are road markers toward an end goal, but then we treat them as final destinations. Perhaps we need to put fewer marks in the grade book and send the message to students that learning is a process and you will not be penalized if you do not understand quickly.
2) Completing work is more important than learning. How many of our students fail our courses because they do not turn in their homework? Or, perhaps even worse, how many students are getting A’s just because they complete all the work or do a crap ton (that is bigger than a metric ton) of extra credit. I was always told an A was for achieving at exceptional levels, I just didn’t realize “exceptional” meant “get your work in on time”.
3) Learning = Memorizing. Yes, there are some things students must remember, but the periodic table? A classification scheme? I would rather have students be able to USE these things than have them memorized.
4) Learning is supposed to be fun. Yes, we want to engage kids, but if we focus on entertaining students, we lead them to believe that learning is fun. I want my students to realize that learning is rewarding, but that it is also hard work. Hard work worth doing.
That is all for now. I am sure I’ll post some more parts to the “unwelcome silent curriculum” at some future date. I hope these have given you some food for thought.
Post some of your insights about negative implicit messages in the comments.