Unable to attend our Teaching and Learning Forums? Get the latest recaps below! Each recap includes a condensed, podcast-version of the forum – hosted by experts on our team – a summary of key themes and a list of related resources.
Forums address themes and practices from Learning Science research, and carefully explore, connect and contextualize them within instructors’ experiences. Forums aim to help evolve practices and examples that build community and improve learning for educators and students.
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Unveil the Hidden Curriculum
How can your course help students develop the character, persistence, and attitudes that your field (and the world) needs? Be more transparent to speed the process!
These ten themes guided our discussion:
- What is the “hidden curriculum”? The “hidden curriculum” is often described by education scholars as the set of tacit rules in a formal educational context that insiders consider to be natural and universal. Those with prior knowledge of those tacit rules are prepared to succeed because they have learned the rules before, and those with no or little prior knowledge don’t even realize when they are breaking the rules let alone how to use these rules to their advantage. Reference: The Hidden Curriculum | Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed.
- Is it malicious? Some scholars suggest the ‘hidden curriculum’ is not actually hidden, but merely constituted by all those things that are so taken for granted that they are rarely given any attention. Reference: “Revealing the Hidden Curriculum in Higher Education.” Studies in Philosophy and Education | Jose Oron and Maribel Blasco.
- Is it harmful? An example from medical school (communication practices), docile is good (The moral construction of the good pupil embedded in school rules; Robert Thornberg, 2009), gender schemas and the assumption of heterosexuality are enforced and reinforced (Walton, 2005), racist regulation of students’ bodies. Reference: ‘“Tuck In That Shirt!” Race, Class, Gender, and Discipline in an Urban School.’ Sociological Perspectives | Edward W. Morris.
- Can it be good? Romero, who also observed overt socialization practices that led to the development of distinct definitions of self as a leader: “At Yale, students impart a hidden curriculum as a message that you are a leader. You are going to be leading the country. Thinking originally, thinking creatively, and learning new knowledge is important.” Apple described an intended hidden curriculum embedded in the University of Wisconsin’s institutional mission to counter its radical past: “My own institution has a long history of radical political activity and cultural experimentation. And for many people that’s a little threatening. So parents want to hear publicly that there is an official hidden curriculum at the institution which is, ‘don’t worry when your children come here, they will be fine.’” Reference: Apple, M. (1996). The hidden curriculum and the nature of conﬂict. Educating the democratic mind, 173-200.
- Who does it affect? Students specifically at risk tend to be from historically underrepresented populations including first in their families to attend college, multilingual, of color, of nontraditional age, from lower socioeconomic status communities and from immigrant backgrounds. References: Teaching the Hidden Curriculum: Inclusive Teaching Guide and Tips | Boston University; The Hidden Curriculum – First Generation Students at Legacy Universities | John S. Rosenberg, Harvard Magazine.
- Contradictions: A hidden curriculum can reinforce or contradict the formal curriculum, revealing hypocrisies or inconsistencies between a school’s stated mission, values and convictions and what students actually experience and learn while they are in school. For example, a school may publicly claim in its mission or vision statement that it’s committed to ensuring that all students succeed academically, but a review of its performance data may reveal significant racial or socioeconomic discrepancies when it comes to test scores, graduation rates and other measures of success. Reference: Hidden Curriculum Definition | The Glossary of Education Reform.
- Relation to Social Emotional Learning? While we often think of SEL as part of a K-12 curriculum, self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making are skills we often expect, enforce and reinforce as part of a hidden curriculum in higher education. Reference: Improving College and Career Readiness by Incorporating Social and Emotional Learning | Allison Dymnicki, Megan Sambolt and Yael Kidron, ERIC.
- If writing an undergrad paper on it, what should I write? Reference: What is Hidden Curriculum? – Examples, Pros & Cons | Chris Drew, helpfulprofessor.com
- Socialization or Preservation of Power? What cultural inequities might the hidden curriculum reinforce and perpetuate? “ …schools are particularly important as distributors of this cultural capital, and they play a critical role in giving legitimacy to categories and forms of knowledge.” Reference: “What do schools teach?” Curriculum Inquiry | Michael Apple and Nancy King.
- Is online education better? Not necessarily. The unspoken expectations just look different. Reference: Online education avoids the ‘hidden curriculum’ of cultural expectations | Jonathan van Belle and John Kaag, Times Higher Education.
- 9 Ways Colleges Should Support Underrepresented Students | Molly Bangs, The Century Foundation
- First generation students in higher education [Report] | Postsecondary National Policy Institute
- Book argues that mentoring programs should try to unveil colleges’ hidden curriculum | Charlie Tyson, Inside HigherEd
Alignment in Your Course
How can instructors align their learning activities (and course culture) with existing frameworks, such as program outcomes, the Wisconsin Experience, Teaching for Well-Being, and others? We’ll step into the challenge of connecting and building on what you’re already doing.
These seven themes guided our discussion:
- What are frameworks? Frameworks are high level structures that holistically guide the actions of practitioners within formal and informal organizations, disciplines. They are generally broad enough to offer flexibility in applying them, but narrow enough to be actionable. Chances are good that your disciplines have frameworks that you use in teaching, just as the university has frameworks that guide its culture (e.g. “sifting and winnowing”, the Wisconsin Experience, the Diversity Framework, etc.). Teaching and learning also has several frameworks that can help practitioners be more effective (e.g. backwards design, Universal Design for Learning, etc.).
- Find your frameworks: Identify a few frameworks that you need/want to align with (e.g., program outcomes and the Wisconsin Experience).
- Look for commonalities: Identify commonalities between multiple frameworks (e.g. goals for developing future professionals, core concepts of the Wisconsin Experience such as Empathy and Humility or Relentless Curiosity, etc.)
- Map out what you’re already doing: Connect practices that you’re already doing that align with elements of those frameworks.
- Identify gaps: When you notice elements in the frameworks that your course is missing, look for ways to fill them.
- Fill the gaps: Once you have identified gaps plan how you will address those gaps.
- Leave room for students to take ownership: Students bring their own hopes, dreams, and value frameworks to the course. Include them in the process.
- Summary tables of learning taxonomies
- Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education Framework | New York State Education Department
- Teaching and Learning Frameworks | Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning, Yale University
Exploring Problem Spaces (UDL)
How can we create learning experiences that students can customize to fit their unique paths? We’ll dig into ways to capture and assess the important parts of students’ learning experience without biasing towards a specific path.
These ten themes guided our discussion:
- Understand Human Problem Solving: Humans are sensing and social animals: 1) Embodied: we learn most powerfully through direct interaction with our environment, through our senses. 2) Situated: our experiences are powerfully affected by our specific environment. 3) Personalized: we each have unique wants, needs, identities, families, and cultures that deeply affect our interests and values. These drive our motivations to learn, and we use them to connect to content. 4) Metacognitive: our brains automatically categorize items according to perceived needs; alternative training (education) is required to overcome this.
- Your best problem might not be good: To engage learners, the problem must be relevant to them. Classic problems may not always do that. Meet learners where they are with problems that they find relevant. Reference: “Theme 1. Part 1: Co-Design – Let them co-design learning experiences.” 13 Principles of Good Learning in Games — Applied to Teaching| John Martin, Karin Spader and Julie Johnson.
- Don’t avoid problems: Teaching strategies to avoid problems is less helpful than you might think. College is a place expressly designed for “sifting and winnowing” — where learners should be able to fearlessly jump into wicked problems and try several solutions and strategies.
- Celebrate failures: Create low- or no-stakes opportunities for learners to fail while they explore problem spaces so they can better understand the entire problem space — including fail states. Share “wicked problems” where failure is frequent/expected and “correct” answers are subjective. Reference: Wicked Problem: A Podcast A Climate Change | Environmental Humanities Faculty Development Seminar, Stony Brook University.
- Celebrate risk-taking and out-of-box ideas: Novel ideas advance our disciplines. If learners feel that only the “right” processes or ideas are welcome, they may withhold their own unique ideas without giving them a chance to be tested/explored, or to revisit the conceptions that led to the novel idea (if wrong).
- Reverse Engineering and Deconstruction: Help learners break complicated problems into small manageable pieces to understand the process. Reference: “Theme 2. Part 5: Well-Ordered Problems – Scaffold their learning”, “Theme 2. Part 9: Fish Tank – Simplify complex systems”, and “Theme 2. Part: 10 Sandboxes – Provide safe places to explore systems.”13 Principles of Good Learning in Games — Applied to Teaching | John Martin, Karin Spader and Julie Johnson.
- Get Other Perspectives: Connect with people who have already encountered similar problems, or those outside of the problem space area to obtain a fresh look.
- Promote collaboration: Encourage learners to collaborate with one another to solve problems. Social learning experiences increase exposure to diverse perspectives and help learners develop new skills.
- Facilitate learning transfer and promote an asset-based mindset: Set aside time for students to reflect on the similarities and differences between problems in your course and the problems they have encountered in other courses, life experiences, or extracurricular areas of expertise. (Free-writes or think/pair/share activities work well for this!)
- Model your own methods: Show your own (messy?) problem-solving strategies — and model/normalize how false starts, failures, and colleague insights can all play a part in the process. There are over 50 general methods of problem solving (Malouff, 2011), so your method may not match others!
Create and Maintain a Learning Community
How do we create a course culture where students feel empowered to take responsibility for their own learning while also supporting their peers’ learning? This forum explored pro-social teaching practices that encourage community and positive interactions.
These eight themes guided our conversation:
- Social Learners: We learn from, and are inspired by, each other’s sharing understanding, approaches, strategies, passions, resilience, self-discipline, and efficacy. Reference: A Guide to Social Learning Theory in Education | Western Governors University.
- Meaningful Interactions: Community members interact in a meaningful way that deepens their understanding of each other and leads to learning. They benefit from collective meaning-making, mentorship, encouragement, and an understanding of the perspectives and unique qualities of an increasingly diverse membership. Reference: “Chapter 4. Community: The Hidden Context for Learning.” Learning Spaces | Deborah J. Bickford and David J. Wright.
- Empowered Learners: Learning with and from peers increases motivation and promotes autonomy — key components in student development. Reference: Asked students to help each other understand ideas or concepts | IDEA.
- Better Learning: Research on learning theory, how the brain works, collaborative learning, and student engagement has taught us that people learn best in community. Reference: What Matters to Student Success: A Review of the Literature | George D. Kuh, Jillian Kinzie , Jennifer A. Buckley, Brian K. Bridges and John C. Hayek
- Collaboration: Active, social, contextual, engaging, and student-owned learning experiences lead to deeper learning. Reference: Collaborative Learning | Center for Teaching Innovation, Cornell University.
- Multiple Options to Connect: All learners bring unique life experiences, skills, and values to their learning. Do our courses let them connect in personally relevant ways? Reference: Social Learning | UDL On Campus.
- Regularity: Efforts to foster community in your course must come consistently. A discussion here or there, or a single end-of-term group project will not effectively develop the relationships necessary for a strong learning community.
- Built-In: Consider the tools and practices used in your course. Which ones center student empowerment, and which ones retain status quo hierarchies that encourage students to passively listen. How can you work to design and maintain a culture of community? Reference: Course Success Self-Review: Recommendation 4.1: Community & Presence.
- Community Building Through Icebreaker Discussion Forums | Center for Teaching and Learning, Wiley Education Services
- Use Team Charters to Improve Group Assignments | Faculty Focus
- Classroom Assessment Techniques | Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, Iowa State University
- A Pedagogy of Kindness | Catherine Denial, Hybrid Pedagogy
Teach the Google Generation
Who are our students and what are their expectations in 2021? Experiences over the last year have accelerated changes and pressures that institutions of higher education have been seeing for some time. As students return this Fall, they bring new expectations with them. Many align with good teaching practice! This forum discussed ways to design and teach courses that meet students where they’re at while also meeting course goals.
These ten themes guided our conversation:
- Technology: “Podcasts, websites, simulations, interactive tutorials on YouTube, and Internet-based educational games are some of the technologies that can capture the attention of GenZ.” Reference: Educational experiences with Generation Z | Marcela Hernandez-de-Menendez, Ruben Morales-Menendez and Carlos A. Escobar Díaz, International Journal on Interactive Design and Manufacturing (IJIDeM)
- Flexibility: 69% of student respondents wanted More flexibility for attending classes and completing coursework. Reference: College 2030 Report | Barnes and Nobel College.
- Access: Over 56% of college students use mobile devices for coursework. Reference: Mobile Usage Online Classrooms 2020: Smartphone & Tablets in College | Wiley Education Services.
- Good User Experience: As devices and apps get simpler, students demand more user-friendly tools and processes for their learning. For example, almost all your students are already familiar and comfortable with Google Apps.
- Reminders: With voice assistants, mobile devices, and shared calendars, students look for structures in their learning to help them as well.
- Relevance: Students want practical skills to enable lifelong learning and growth. Reference: College 2030 Report | Barnes and Nobel College.
- Humanized: How can technology help us tailor learning experiences for individual experiences and identities? Reference: 4 Steps for Humanizing Personalized Learning | Paul Emerich France, EdSurge
- Support: Reference: Depression, Anxiety, Loneliness Are Peaking in College Students | Kat J. Mcalpine, The Brink, Boston University.
- Caution: Generational stereotypes? Reference: Generational Differences At Work Are Small. Thinking They’re Big Affects Our Behavior | Eden King, Lisa Finkelstein, Courtney Thomas, Abby Corrington, Harvard Business Review.
- Students as Consumers: To what extent are students “our customers”? How much of adult learning is on them, and how much can/should instructors do? Reference: What current higher education students want | Kristen Boesel, Mintel Blog.
- Technology and student distraction | The Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, Harvard University
- How to make smart choices about tech for your course | Michelle Miller, The Chronicle of Higher Education
- More than tools? Making sense of the ongoing digitizations of higher education | Linda Castañeda and Neil Selwyn, International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education