Twofish's Blog

July 22, 2006

What is the hidden curriculum?

I’ve been thinking about why the idea of “training for a job” is problematic to me, and I think the reason is not that I think training is bad, but rather I’m worried about the “hidden curriculum.”

People learn customs, and ideas from their environment, and I’m wondering what is the “hidden curriculum” at “UoP.”  What are the customs, ideas, and taboos that get taught and are the ones that should be taught?  Let me name a few of the ideas

1) if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t matter

2) if it isn’t on the test, it doesn’t matter

3) if it doesn’t increase your salary, it doesn’t matter

4) the teacher should determine what books to read

5) collaboration between students is good
6) collaboration between teachers is bad

We don’t want to go on a “witch hunt” here.  Just because it is part of the hidden curriculum doesn’t mean it is bad which is why I included 5)  I don’t think that UoP encourages students to work together is bad.  I think it is good.

Let me talk about 5) some more, since this is one area where UoP gets it right.
One of the things that I think is funny if it weren’t so tragicly absurd is that in the undergraduate curriculum, copying someone else’s work is called “cheating.”  In the modern workplace it is called “teamwork.”  If you can get the job done by copying someone else’s work (and giving them credit) you are insane for not doing so.

The reason that teachers are so intent on catching cheaters is that the assignments that they give are so simplistic in order to make it easy to grade.  If you really want to give a good homework problem in programming, you can make it so that every student produces a different answer and the students can talk about how to solve the problem, and if they are lucky enough to be able to solve it by copying something directly, GREAT!!!  That’s how things work at work.

Yeah I can solve the problem in ten seconds by copying smith’s code, but I think I’ll write it from scratch which will take me five days.

The problem is that then the problem sets become hell to grade, but what in effect happens when there is a “cheating witchhunt” is that the teacher is imposing a dysfunctional educational structure on students, and then blaming them when the outcome is bad.

The UoP system really encourages collaboration which is a good thing.

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2 Comments »

  1. I am considering getting my master’s degree from UofP.
    Also asian-american, I struggle with the whole identity crisis, and the fact that my boyfriend right now is not of my race (and just doesnt understand my family or work ethic)is starting to freak me out, on top of everything. But that’s besides the point, probably.
    I was wondering, if you’ve ever come across the truth behind the myth that states: employers do not think much of a UofP masters degree, versus one from a state school.

    Comment by christina — August 4, 2006 @ 8:25 pm

  2. My experience is that employers do think highly of a UoP MBA degree. In many jobs, an MBA degree is a “union card” and one from MBA is just as good as any other. Also getting an MBA shows initiative.

    The trouble is that it sometimes doesn’t matter what an employer thinks. If you have 2 spaces and 20 applicants, the employer might think highly of all of the applicants but still not be able to give a job.

    Comment by twofish — August 5, 2006 @ 5:25 am


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