What is the hidden curriculum


  • Curriculum broadly refers to the collection of content and experiences within a course or program. For the most part, the curriculum is quite structured, and expectations are explicit. Most educators are familiar with the word curriculum but might be surprised to learn that there are other curriculum types. These different types can be thought of as layers that interact with one another and contribute to the educational experience for students. The hidden curriculum is one of these layers that refers to the unwritten and unofficial lessons learners acquire implicitly and are not taught formally. The hidden curriculum is present at all stages of education but becomes increasingly relevant for learners who are navigating post-secondary learning environments and exploring career opportunities.
  • Because the hidden curriculum is often not explicitly taught, we believe it can have a negative impact on student success and mental health. Not all students undertake post-secondary studies with equal pre-existing knowledge of hidden curriculum skills. After all, access to this knowledge is heavily influenced by numerous factors such as culture and socioeconomic background. For example, the ability to network and make professional connections requires knowledge of norms and expectations that some students may not have had a chance to learn if the family or school they grew up in did not provide opportunities to learn these norms and practice them. Discrepancies in hidden curriculum knowledge between individual students or groups of students can reinforce social inequities and hinder access to opportunities within and beyond post-secondary education.
  • For these reasons, we created Uncovering the Hidden Curriculum. We believe that educators are positioned to promote the importance and relevance of topics that aim to target the hidden curriculum. Explicitly embedding this content in their courses promotes equitable access to knowledge and skills that will benefit students during their academics. Learning these transferable skills will also equip students to face a variety of professional and interpersonal challenges in their lives.