The Hidden Curriculum

PIDP 3210 – Curriculum Development
Vancouver Community College
Kathryn Truant
October 4, 2016

What is the Hidden Curriculum?

The hidden curriculum distinguishes itself from a planned curriculum when instructors assume that common sensibilities exist among students.

“There is need to distinguish the official or planned curriculum – the formally            approved program of study – from the de facto or lived (sometimes called hidden)         curriculum – the norms values and beliefs that are often learned within classrooms and the broader social environment” (Case & Tomkins, 2013, para.3).

The purpose of curriculum is to outline a program of study, which includes content and expected outcomes. Hidden components of a curriculum are implied; they are not explained. This idea caught my attention because it is interesting to learn that most instructors are not always aware of a hidden curriculum in their classes.

How do I identify with the Hidden Curriculum?

I can identify with the phenomenon of a hidden curriculum, because I can imagine how easy it is for an instructor to assume that students share common sensibilities; there are things that are obvious to an expert, but need to be explained to students in very literal terms, especially in a field like healthcare for example.

I like that this online course is explicitly outlined. At our first Skype meeting, my instructor asked if I was already teaching, and then she asked how long I’d been in my profession. I really appreciated her assessment of the level that I was at. I told her that I was a beginner; she adjusted our Skype conversation and advised accordingly. She also addressed deadlines, which seem obvious, but she explained the importance of submitting assignments as per the Course Schedule Checklist in order to receive feedback, and be able to reflect on that feedback (a great learning opportunity!).

Self-directed online learning needs to have a curriculum that is explicit; I don’t think that the curriculum can be implicit in this particular environment. An educator has a responsibility to the students, and to the institution that is providing the course, to set the students up for success.

What does the Hidden Curriculum mean to me, and what insights have I received from learning about it? How has my thinking changed from reflecting on it?

Learning about the hidden curriculum reminds me that “common context cannot be assumed” (British Columbia Instructor Diploma Program, 2013. p. 52). An instructor must not accept that the students know what is expected of them, unless specific deadlines, policies, and procedures are clearly explained. Behavioural expectations are subtler because an instructor may assume that students have the same common social and cultural intelligence to know how to conduct themselves when interacting in a learning environment.

Do we as educators, in considering a hidden curriculum, want to see if our students will “sink or swim?” (I’m assuming that my audience will recognize this euphemism!). Or, are we simply presuming that they will know things that we think are obvious due to our own arrogance? After all, we are the experts!

How can my new or enhanced interpretation of the Hidden Curriculum be applied to my professional practice?

I am going to try to be conscious of my educational approach in order to have an explicit curriculum. Expectations must be explained clearly leaving no room for assumptions, error, or arrogance. I do not believe that a hidden curriculum occurs out of malice, but I do feel that it can stem from a presumptuous attitude on the part of the curriculum designer and instructor. I also think it is important to have a plan that encompasses the “hows” and the “whys”. For example, if I am teaching students to perform a skill in a certain way, or if I am advising them to adopt a certain behavior, it is because in my experience it has proved most effective, and I need to explain the specific reasons. I strongly feel that this makes students feel valued; I have to be able to treat a curriculum in a dynamic way, and to allow for input and evolution or else the learning will become stagnant, and the students disinterested.

I want to set my students up for success and give them all the information that they will need to learn new knowledge and skills. I want to be able to give them all the pieces of the puzzle so that when they master a new skill, it will also build their confidence, and create momentum. To me, a hidden curriculum is as damaging and non-productive as a “hidden agenda.” A level playing field will make learning a fair opportunity for all.

I work in a busy Oral Surgery group practice with surgeons, surgical staff, and administrative staff. Our curriculum is our surgical and administrative protocol. The purpose of protocols, which include policies and checklists, are for patient safety, disclosure and clarification. When I’m directing coworkers, I can never assume that just because of their education and experience, they will perform our policies and procedures unless directives are explained thoroughly. I need all the pieces to do my job most effectively, and so do my students.

@Please refer to my Resources page for works cited