“Why is BDS so stressful?” This was a question asked in my workshop on Stress management for Year 3 students. I explained that BDS is not stressful. It left me wondering, if BDS is not stressful, why is the workshop on stress management being attended by the whole batch.

Hidden Curriculum (HC) is the unarticulated and unscripted learning that occurs in-parallel with the documented Formal Curriculum (FC). A student knows and experiences the formal curriculum while hidden curriculum influences the student on the norms, morals and values that are accepted and appreciated. A conflicting HC to the FC might pose a threat to the psychological safety of the learners. Example – Learning through delivery of patient care is documented in the FC. Let’s say, a lecturer observes a student performing a procedure that could potentially harm the patient. FC states that the supervising clinician is responsible for patient care and student should take due diligence in the delivery. How a supervisor handles the potential harmful situation varies; kindness, anger, or indifference. This is not stated in FC and is realized by the students as they experience. This is HC. 

HC should be contrasted from informal curriculum (IC) which supplements the FC. Example would be an informal meeting with a lecturer to clarify concepts learned in a lecture. This meeting towards learning of the subject matter is not recorded in timetable but accorded by the institution in its facilities.  HC is institution specific and is dynamic due to the various stakeholders involved at a given time and place. 

The published FC contributes to the education and holistic development of a learner into a knowledgeable, skilled and values driven individual responsive to the world of work (Nina Rossouw 2023) HC is the unintentional convey of messages that support inequalities in race, class, gender, beliefs. HC is usually misaligned to FC and occurs during the learning experience. This learning experience arise by the interplay of social relations on the transmission of abstract ideas (Dewey). Jackson in his book, Life in Classrooms describes HC as the rules and regulations that regulate school life and originates from the inequalities and social norms in school environment. HC prevents students to develop independently and creatively and be happy. Evaluate the norms to assess whether positive or negative experience. HC is not deliberately obscured and its hidden assumptions only becomes visible when they come into conflict with deliberate and exposing challenge.  

Why should we know the HC

  1. Lecturers will know how HC influences the learning of the students whom they teach.
  2. Learners know what to expect and the meaning of various situations and use it to achieve their academic and social goals.
  3. The institution/school can better train its faculty and support staff to create a safe and conducive learning environment.

How to document the HC?

  1. Academic staff observation: Look for and record student behaviours that show positive or negative attitudes towards learning. Identify what prompts or triggers such behaviours. Validate the findings with some students.
  2. Student report: Focussed questionnaire or focus group discussions on what shapes the attitude and behaviours of students and how it influences learning.

How do you record, evaluate or use the hidden curriculum in your School?

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