Social curriculum defined and made simple

Published 11:53 am Wednesday, October 22, 2003

By Staff
Sonya Rogers Education columnist
In every school and classroom, there exists a set of guidelines and standards that outlines expectations for student behavior. These expectations are made known to students throughout the day by means of verbal explanations, posted rules, and pre-determined consequences. Teachers spend quality time at the beginning of the school year verbally clarifying their expectations for student behavior and learning.
However, in a less well-managed classroom or school, inconsistency among expectations, rules, and consequences provides less opportunity for students to learn the anticipations of the social curriculum. Students may even find themselves receiving conflicting messages about the appropriate way to behave in different classroom situations.
Research implies that the majority of students come to school with the ability to recognize and appreciate teacher expectations. Social learning theorists suggest that most of us have a very finely developed sense of how unexpressed social rules may change from time to time based on varying situations.
Children who display incorrigible, noncompliant, aggressive, or antisocial behavior have often learned this behavior in a different setting over a period of time. They are usually willing to suffer the consequences and typically strike out first and then ask questions. Consequently, antisocial behavior and underachievement are linked together. As the difficulty of academic material increases, students who display behavior problems will decide to stay off-task and increase their disruptive behavior as a means of escaping from academic demands. Furthermore, when students are faced with unstructured classroom situations, those who are accustomed to inconsistent home environments may act out in order to test the limits of their environment.
Although one might assume that discipline policies will vary from school to school, it is reasonable to credit that students will be disciplined in response to their behavior, not based on the characteristics of the school environment. Does suspension improve school behavior? Humh! Many school administrators concur that they do not enjoy removing students from the school. There are possible preventive measures that may assist with school discipline problems. Some examples include: (a) establish and consistently enforce school rules, communicate school norms through school wide campaigns, teach social competency skills, enforce behavior modification procedures, and teach "thinking skills" to high risk youth. It is relevant to build a better understanding of the school factors that impede the implementation of prevention strategies. It is also vital that schools stress comprehensive planning, prevention, and parent and community involvement. An instructional approach to school discipline reflects the desire of school administrators to seek procedures which are most likely to be effective in producing student learning. In short, by teaching the social curriculum, educators are simply drawing upon their greatest knowledge in hopes to teach today's children the behaviors they need to be successful in school and in life.
Sonya Rogers is an independent columnist for the Advance and reports on educational issues. She may be reached by e-mail at

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