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The theatrical ties that bind: an examination of the hidden curriculum of theatre education

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Examining the elements of the hidden curriculum in theatre education allows theatre educators the opportunity to reflect on their own pedagogy and its effects on the learner. The hidden curriculum

Examining the elements of the hidden curriculum in theatre education allows theatre educators the opportunity to reflect on their own pedagogy and its effects on the learner. The hidden curriculum refers to the unspoken or implicit values, norms, and beliefs that are transmitted through tacit messages. When the hidden curriculum remains veiled, the impact on the learner's education and socialization process can perpetuate gender, race, and class inequalities. In order to understand how the hidden curriculum manifests itself in theatre classrooms, we have to look at schools as "agents of legitimation, organized to produce and reproduce the dominant categories, values, and social relationships necessary for the maintenance of the larger society" (Giroux, 1983, p. 72). This qualitative study examined the hidden curriculum in theatre at the secondary level and looked at theatre teachers' pedagogy in reproducing elements of the hidden curriculum. Interviews, naturalistic observation, and a researcher reflective journal were employed in the data collection process to better understand: a) the elements of hidden curriculum that appear in theatre education at the secondary level, b) how the pedagogical practices of theatre teachers support societal structures, and c) how the hidden curriculum in theatre reinforces gender, race, and social class distinctions. Data were then coded and analyzed to find emergent themes. Multiple theoretical perspectives serve as a conceptual framework for understanding the hidden curriculum, and provide a neglected perspective of the hidden curriculum in theatre education. The theatre classroom provides a unique space to view hidden curriculum and can be viewed as a unique agent of social change. Themes related to the first research question emerged as: a) privileges for older students, b) school rules, c) respect for authority, d) acceptance of repetitive tasks, and c) punctuality. Themes related to the second research question emerged as: a) practices, b) procedures, c) rules, d) relationships, and e) structures. Finally, themes related to the third question emerged as: a) reinforcement of social inequality, b) perpetuation of class structure, and c) acceptance of social destiny. The discussion looks at the functions of theatre pedagogy in the reproduction of class, inequality, and institutionalized cultural norms.

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  • 2013