The Role of Values & Visions in delivering the “Hidden Curriculum”

Conversations with educators yield rich data on the importance of a values-based education that is deliberately infused in the curriculum. These conversations arise out of the clear evidence of young people struggling to cope with the challenges of the world and seeking a barometer – a metric – to help them find meaning. The rise in anti-social behaviour or the number of young people suffering from mental illness are only two examples of their challenges.

As educators, we often consider how we impart the values we hold to be important to the next generation. We rely on numerous transmission modes. Family. School. Culture. Within family structures, the values that are promoted tend to be connected to cultural traditions and norms within that society. Schools on the other hand tend to reflect the objective of the nation in the curriculum that is delivered. From a knowledge and skills perspective, this is perfectly laid out for teaching in unit plans and teachers are trained to deliver this learning. Yet, how much contemplation has been detoured to understand how we impart values in schools? Does the term “hidden curriculum” reveal our collective disinterest?

My experience in schools, particularly as a form teacher required that I teach my subject of expertise but also support my students’ pastoral development. While the “hidden curriculum” is very much an expectation or even yet a “social contract” between teachers and families, teaching or imparting knowledge is considered to be of higher value. So with that in mind, many schools approach the teaching of values as if it is an add-on rather than a feature of schools.

What do I mean when I say an “add-on”? Consider that you have purchased a brand new apple iPhone. What features do you expect? Sped-up browsing? User-friendly interface? Sleek? Fast processing speeds for apps? These are key features and without them your iPhone would not seem so interesting. Now consider the protective case of the phone or even earbuds to listen via Bluetooth? These are add-ons and the user quite likely would need to purchase them at a different cost in order to access them. The phone works fine without them. This example illustrates how some schools (or school system) view a values-based curriculum. It is treated as an additional feature but not the main product. Certainly not integrated.

As a form tutor, I remember having to check for the topic of the day and then with little training was expected to effectively marshal eager 14-year-olds through a discussion on mundane topics such as finding self. Those were tough days when I had form time, feeling like a fish out of water. I would try my best to make the session work and use my own initiative to prolong the discussion. Many of my colleagues did not fare so well, with some describing form time as one of the challenges of the job. Some even demanded extra pay. One pondered about the potential for a world where there was a playbook of sorts: something like a guide with activities laid out and explanations about the purpose of the sessions.

For those seeking such a playbook, there is Values & Visions. Values & Visions is a book designed with teachers and students in mind. The book exemplifies the mission of the charity, which is to help young people find purpose and meaning in a volatile world. This is a noble mission, but The Values & Visions Foundation is so committed to its success. The book has over 130 engaging activities covering a range of social and emotional learning activities. Each section considers different facets of a values-based education and provides a step-by-step guide to help teachers to deliver the sessions. The guidebook is based on the Dynamic Learning Cycle.

The Dynamic Learning Cycle is a journey through experience, reflection and then purpose and action. As it is a cycle each new experience is followed by a reflection and a better sense of purpose and action based on previous learning. It’s dynamic. This is a powerful tool and motif that schools and teachers can adopt in order to teach and inculcate values in our younger generation. This is far too important. The evidence is there to see with many highlighting the broken society around us.

Our collective disinterest allows us to label this important spice in our lives as the “hidden curriculum”; perhaps it is time to take it into the open.

Megel Barker

By Comments off May 8, 2021