Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 18 Issue 6 (November/December 2008), Pages 527-646

Engaging contexts: Drawing the link between student and teacher experiences of the hidden curriculum (pages 593-614)


This article examines how academic disengagement (being off task, unenthusiastic and uncurious about learning) is facilitated by the hidden curriculum (the values, norms and beliefs transmitted via the structure of schooling), and mediated by race, ethnicity and gender for students in a working class elementary school. Additionally, we contextualize how a teacher was challenged by the hidden curriculum in her attempt to make her classroom environment engaging for all students. Participants included a young white female teacher and 21 second grade, low‐income students, of whom approximately 50% were white and 50% were Black or Latino/a. A teacher interview and fieldnotes covering 8 hours a week over 3 months comprised the data. Results indicated that students were required to show their engagement in particular ways that related to control and conformity. When they did not, they were reprimanded, which led to academic disengagement and the transmission of the hidden curriculum's message that school was not a place for them. This process was especially salient for Black and Latino boys, which indicated that the hidden curriculum was institutionalized. Results also showed that the hidden curriculum was a structural limitation for the teacher, as she was often thwarted in her attempts to create an academically engaging learning environment. Implications include strategies for school change and reform, including making the hidden curriculum more visible. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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