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SOCIAL WORK EDUCATION AND THE HIDDEN CURRICULUM

One form, to stay with the terminology used by Bowles and Gintis (1976), that influences socialization is the physical environment—the brick and mortar (Apple & King, 1983; Gair & Mullins, 2001). It is the unmarked and taken-for- granted frame in which education takes place. After discussing the physical environment, I present aspects of the hidden curriculum as these pertain to students and faculty.

The Physical Environment and the Hidden Curriculum

The context that influences professional socialization is not limited to the direct student-educator relationship. The physical environment also factors in (Bogo & Wayne, 2013; Costello, 2001). The architecture and physical environment act as socializing factors, and the way an educational institution is structured reflects the agenda of that institution (Gair & Mullins, 2001; Martin, 1983; Snyder, 1971). I remember entering the educational institution where my MSW program was located and remember sitting in classrooms confined to a chair while learning about how to work with people who were oppressed, marginalized, and often difficult to reach due to their previous experiences with the human services system. As I literally became increasingly uncomfortable (3 hours is a long time in a hard chair), my thoughts returned to the social pedagogical colleges with which I was familiar from Denmark. Most educational institutions for social pedagogues in Denmark have few classrooms because there is little emphasis on lecturing as a teaching and learning modality. There is ample space for group work; in some instances, there are designated rooms for student group projects. At the college from which I graduated, we all worked in groups, and each group had its own room for the semester. At the colleges, there are also a variety of workshop rooms and equipment for creative learning opportunities and projects, such as music, arts, physical movement, drama, and ceramics. The moment we entered as students, it was clear that we were expected to be creative, to move around, to use artistic tools and instruments, and to work together.

Entering a traditional school of social work in the United States communicates a different agenda than a school of social pedagogy in Denmark. The traditional university setting in the United States reflects an agenda of limitation. You can be creative, but practice within the classroom. You can dance and build, but do so within the classroom. You will sit in rows or, at best, in circles or around tables that can be moved. The restriction of the classrooms parallels the restriction of the office: the typical site of social work practice—a site distinctly different from the lived realities of the very people with whom social workers interact. The current physical environment limits the pedagogical choices of faculty; what goes on has to fit in a classroom full of chairs and tables and within a predetermined amount of time (Gair & Mullins, 2001; Ife, 2008). These restrictions may force faculty to abandon or limit more innovative pedagogical strategies that could prepare students for new and different approaches. The physical settings of educational programs send messages to students that are indicators of a hidden curriculum. The CSWE's (2008) Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS) clearly articulate that programs are expected to promote innovation and creativity. However, most settings have traditional classrooms that leave few opportunities for creativity.

 
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