Teachers designing their curriculum must consider how the environment of the classroom will impact students. A student will learn from what is taught in a class and from how that class is taught. That student will also take lessons from how her class and school are organized. These are the concepts of explicit and implicit curriculum, and they help educators think about the different ways students learn so they can design more effective methods of teaching.
Explicit curriculum refers to the plan for learning set by a teacher or school board. A class's explicit curriculum is what that class is designed to teach. This includes the topics covered by the class and any documents included in the lesson plan, such as textbooks, films and web sources. Explicit curriculum also refers to a teacher's plan for her class, regardless of whether this plan is seen by her students.
Implicit, or hidden, curriculum refers to lessons that students take from teachers' attitudes and the school environment. This learning can be either conscious or unconscious. For instance, the location of a teacher's desk at the front of a classroom underscores his authority and positions him as the center of the class's attention. A school's rigid class schedule may make students perceive learning as an inflexible and authoritative process. Implicit curriculum can also refer to how educational institutions reflect larger social norms. A teacher who models a society's dismissive attitude toward a subject, for example, will communicate that attitude to his students.
Explicit vs. Implicit Curricula
The difference between explicit and implicit curriculum is the difference between what is formally intended to be taught by a class versus what happens to be taught by an environment. The explicit curriculum refers to intentional instructive techniques. A teacher can purposefully change the environment of her class as an intentional learning experience. For example, she may have the class role-play a setting where normal classroom restrictions do not apply. This explicit curriculum is still affected by the implicit curriculum, because the underlying structures of the classroom and school continue to teach students.
Teachers and administrators may be aware of how implicit curriculum operates within their school. However, that operation is not a result of intentional decisions made specifically to teach students. For instance, students may learn about authority from a teacher's emphasis on tardiness. However, unless this is a specific teaching strategy that has been set out ahead of time, it is an example of implicit curriculum.
Null curriculum is closely related to explicit and implicit curricula. It refers specifically to any subjects that are not covered within the context of a class. This may refer to subjects that are passed over due to a teacher's bias or larger social prejudices. It may also refer to subjects that are discouraged or explicitly banned from being taught by school authorities. A teacher should consider her null curriculum carefully. By not teaching a subject area, she communicates its irrelevance.