Hidden Curriculum (HC) is the implicit, ill-defined, unwritten influence on student learning that is embedded in the actual educational experience. HC contrasts and usually conflicts the documented, explicitly written formal curriculum (FC). HC is the ground reality of what learners and teachers do in contrast to ‘what is meant to happen’ as expressed in the FC. Snyder (1971) identified how students memorized facts and theories to succeed in exams rather than aim to achieve the learning goals in developing competence in problem solving, independent thinking and creativity. This was ascribed to the assessment and teaching procedures that determined the hidden curriculum. Becker (1968) described how students developed strategies to get high grades rather than ‘learn’ the course material to understand.

How does assessments influence the student behavior? Assessments defines how a student perceives the curriculum (Ramsden 1979). Assessments that affect progression give a strong message on what is valued in the learning context. The briefing on the real purpose and requirements of assessment can be wiped off the student’s mind by the implicit message from assessments. The messages from the assessments are de-coded by the students in their own unique manner. The perception of the hidden curriculum through the medium of assessments is influenced by their totality of experiences, prior, present, and expected.

Formative assessments provide a safe environment to identify, dissect and master the hidden curriculum. The expectations of the assessments and the messages, implicit and explicit, can be perceived by the students in their own way through the FAs. For this purpose, the FAs should mirror the summative assessments in structure, content, and evaluation (rubrics). When the students take FAs and are provided with feedback, it dispels many hidden fears of the actual assessments. It will be right to say that a curriculum that does not adequately prepare students through FAs is difficult and fearful.

Very few studies have evaluated the impact of FAs in motivating the students towards learning than get stressed towards cracking the code to success. Duarte in an interesting paper describes how dropouts of an engineering course reduced significantly after implementation of a continuous assessment strategy. This strategy that included shift to learning goals than performance goals, making grading criteria explicit, providing feedback to students on formative tests produced good results in increasing the intrinsic interest in the course and its learning.

I am finding it difficult to identify studies that evaluated FAs in making the secretive HC explicit and known. If you find any good papers, direct to me. If you have any opinions, views, facts related to this topic, drop to me to include here.

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