The Hidden Curriculum

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The Hidden Curriculum (1973 edition)

The Hidden Curriculum (1970) is a book by the psychiatrist Benson R. Snyder,[1] the then-Dean of Institute Relations at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[2] Snyder advances a thesis that much of campus conflict and students' personal anxiety is caused by unstated academic and social norms. These hidden norms affect the ability to develop independently or think creatively, and form what Snyder calls the hidden curriculum. He illustrates his thesis with psychological studies and other research conducted at MIT and Wellesley College.


The phrase "hidden curriculum" was coined by Philip Jackson in his 1968 book entitled Life in Classrooms, in a section about the need for students to master the institutional expectations of school.[3] Snyder develops this with observations of particular institutions.[4] Snyder then addresses the question of why students — even or especially the most gifted — turn away from education. Even honest efforts to enrich curricula frequently fail, says Snyder, thanks to the importance of the tacit and unwritten understanding. He says that while some students do not realize there is a disjunction between the two curricula, in a demanding environment, students develop strategies to cope with the requirements they face.[4]

Many students find they can not possibly complete all the work assigned them; they learn to neglect some of it. Some student groups maintain files of past examinations which only worsen this situation.[4]

The difference between the formal and real requirements produced considerable dissonance among the students and resulted in cynicism, scorn, and hypocrisy among students, and particular difficulty for minority students.[5] No part of the university community, writes Snyder, neither the professors, the administration nor the students, desires the end result created by this process.[4]

The Saturday Review said the book "will gain recognition as one of the more cogent 'college unrest' books" and that it presents a "most provocative thesis."[6]

The book has been cited many times in studies.[7][8]

See also[edit]


  • ^ Review by Alex Makowski (Tech article, 20 January 1971)
  1. ^ Benson R. Snyder (1971). The Hidden Curriculum. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-394-42842-0.
  2. ^ "Benson Rowell Snyder, former psychiatrist-in-chief at MIT, dies at 89". MIT News. September 5, 2012.
  3. ^ Philip Wesley Jackson (1968). Life in Classrooms. Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Reprinted as Philip Wesley Jackson (1990). Life in Classrooms. Teachers College Press. pp. 33–37. ISBN 978-0-8077-7005-4.
  4. ^ a b c d "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-04-14. Retrieved 2016-10-23.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Sending Messages: Managing the Hidden Curriculum; second conference of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (Vancouver B.C., 14–16 October 2005) "For our purposes in higher education, therefore, let us set aside most of the above line of debate, and start with Snyder (1971). Snyder's observations pre-figured all the later research on "Deep" and "Surface" learning; he noted that at MIT in the 'fifties and 'sixties, the curriculum was getting more and more crowded as technological knowledge grew, and so undergraduates were taking "short cuts" in their learning. They could not absorb everything, so they strategically tried to guess what would be assessed, for example, and revised only that. Snyder's additional insight, however, was to realise that unintentionally the Institute was teaching them to act strategically, hence the term "hidden curriculum". Read more: Hidden curriculum Under Creative Commons License: Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives
  5. ^ Hafferty, Frederick W.; O'Donnell, Joseph F., eds. (2015). The Hidden Curriculum in Health Professional Education. Dartmouth. p. 11. ISBN 978-1611686609. Retrieved November 1, 2016.
  6. ^ Saturday Review (U.S. magazine) Book review, 20 Feb 1971, page 76
  7. ^ Sambell Kay, McDowell Liz (1998). "The Construction of the Hidden Curriculum: messages and meanings in the assessment of student learning". Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education. 23 (4): 391–402. doi:10.1080/0260293980230406.
  8. ^ Portelli John P (1993). "Exposing the hidden curriculum". Journal of Curriculum Studies. 25 (4): 343–358. doi:10.1080/0022027930250404.