Course taster

Types of curricula

Using the drop-down below, please select each title to read more about the types of curricula.

The official curriculum is the intended curriculum as devised by those responsible for its design and development, for example, the government, the Department for Education, local education authorities, Ofsted, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), individual institutes of education and private-sector training departments. It is the learning (and learning experience) that is meant to take place and that which is laid down in syllabuses and prospectuses.

The taught curriculum is the learning that actually takes place and is the reality of the learning experience. It would ideally be the same as the official curriculum, but, more often than not, it differs (for a variety of reasons). It is what teachers actually teach, as opposed to what they are supposed to teach.

The disparity between the official and taught curricula may be deliberate or unintentional.

When teachers have beliefs and values that conflict with those that underpin aspects of the official curriculum, that tension may be reflected in differences between the official and the taught curriculum. This inevitably relates to questions about the professional role and duties of the teacher (and about the extent to which agents outside the classroom should be able to dictate what is taught).

This is what students actually take away from the classroom. It is the words, sounds, images, ideas, themes, etc. that make it into the students' minds and memories. For a number of reasons, they may not learn everything they are taught. This may stem from a teacher's inability to achieve certain learning outcomes, a student's lack of readiness to grasp key concepts or flaws in the learning experience itself such as poor attendance, inadequate learning facilities, a lack of resources, teaching to the assessment (i.e. when teaching is heavily focused on preparing students to pass the exams).

The tested curriculum consists of that portion of the curriculum over which a student is tested. It may fall short of the curriculum, either by design or due to the inability of test instruments to measure the full range of learning outcomes. As a result, teachers may emphasise the tested curriculum to the detriment of the rest of the curriculum. The tested curriculum sometimes becomes an inaccurate measure of the school's success. Teachers are often encouraged to teach to the objectives of the test, rather than to the objectives of curriculum standards.

The hidden curriculum entails the range of things (for example attitudes, opinions and values) that pupils learn not from the formal curriculum but simply from the experience of being in school. These derive from the implicit messages conveyed through the structure and organisation of the institution, the relationships between teachers and pupils, the disciplinary regime, the assessment system and the various subcultures that exist.

The hidden curriculum may come about by design or by accident and may have a positive or negative influence on learners. Some would say that the hidden curriculum transmits the true ideals and goals of the institution, and this may be dangerous because often we do not know that it exists.

Now watch the video below on the hidden curriculum:

The Hidden Curriculum

View The Hidden Curriculum video transcript

Consider the video clip below and answer the following questions: