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Thinking about the difference between hidden curriculums in schools and universities helps to explain why the hidden curriculum does not necessarily always have a negative impact on learners. (1968) argue that trying to be completely explicit about our expectations as assessors would restrict higher-level scholarship because students would simply have to follow specific instructions and memorise information from their teachers.It is therefore desirable that some expectations are hidden or deliberately vague because students can only meet those expectations indirectly.The hidden curriculum is not set by any one teacher, but is rather a general process by which children learn to conform and adapt to the expectations of society.
As a teacher, this type of hidden curriculum means that you can never fully understand how the curriculum is experienced by your learners because they are seeing it through their own unique lens.
This is a rather complex idea, but is helpful for understanding some of the problems with assessment design (Sambell and Mc Dowell, 1998).
A hidden curriculum is often easier to notice when resources are scarce.
Rather than looking at policies or what is written in documentation, we can look at the allocation of resources to see what is really valued.
Curriculum and policy documents would express a desire for deep approaches to learning, but Marton and Säljö's (1976) research suggested that the way students were assessed (particularly in exams) actually encouraged them to take surface approaches.
Richardson et al (2012) included this concept in their analysis of which types of pupils get better grades at university, and found that a strategic approach was actually more successful than a deep approach, while a surface approach was the least successful.
A key concept in higher education is surface and deep approaches to learning.
Marton and Säljö (1976) introduced the idea that students at university could adopt either a deep approach to learning, in which they learnt concepts in detail and thoroughly understood material, or took a surface approach, in which they memorised facts.
If pupils are not forced to do as much work in a set way, they have more freedom to make their own value judgements.
By reducing the power we hold over our pupils and students and giving them more choice, we reduce the implied or hidden message that they must defer to authority.