Curriculum and Instruction Education

Hidden Curriculum: Its Definition

Is there really a hidden curriculum? Why is it called hidden? What are some of its examples? And what classroom implications can be drawn from it?

This article defines hidden curriculum, provides some examples and discusses its implications. 

Definition of Hidden Curriculum

According to the book, “Curriculum Development” (Bilbao et al., 2008), hidden curriculum refers to the physical condition of the classroom or the school environment, the mood of the teachers or the students, the teacher-learner interaction, the peer influence, and other factors that may affect the delivery of the lesson.

Another term for hidden curriculum is the unintended curriculum which is not actually planned but may change the behavior or affect the learning outcomes of students. So, what does it mean? More often than not, when teachers plan for a lesson (by writing lesson plans or syllabi), there are some parts that are not fully implemented due to the presence of the “hidden curriculum”.

Actually, hidden curriculum is one of the types of curriculum operating in schools according to Allan Grathon (2000) as cited by Bilbao et al., (2008). The curriculum exists but maybe, not everybody is aware of this.  So, in simple words, it is hidden because it is not planned or just simply ignored when planning for a lesson. However, it might suddenly come out depending on the factors mentioned above.

How Hidden Curriculum Can Affect Learning: Some Examples

  1. Physical Conditions of the Classroom or School Environment

Is the classroom conducive to learning? Is it well-lighted and well-ventilated? Are there enough chairs and tables for students? Is there enough space for students to do group activities or online activities? Is there always electricity in the place or is brown-out or power outage frequent?

If the answer to these questions is no, then learning among students will be more difficult. An uncomfortable classroom will make students uneasy thus affect their academic performance. The physical environment is not conducive to learning.

  1. The Mood of the Teachers or Students

Are the teachers always on the mood to deliver the lesson? Are they given teaching loads and schedules that are fair?

As human beings, no matter how teachers hide their emotions or feelings from the students, they are affected by the strains and stresses that may come along. However, many will argue that teachers must leave their problems at home and pretend like actors and actresses in the classroom.

Students may also be in a bad mood. They may be hungry, or emotionally affected due to their parents’ lack of time or financial support, or they have misunderstandings with their friends, or loved ones.

While ideally the mood of teachers and students should be right for effective interaction, this is not always the case. Bad moods will hinder learning to take place.

  1. The Teacher-Learner Interaction

Having a limited background on the needs of the students, their interests and learning styles, the teachers may find it hard to interact well with the students. They should have a good repertoire of strategies or activities in order to implement the instructional objectives and reach the learning outcomes. More often than not, the mood of the students and teachers may also affect their interaction.

  1. Peer Influence

Students learn more with their friends. For example, Liza is interested in studying or learning during that day; but if many of her friends are noisy due to stress, she will be affected and influenced to be noisy too. So, the success of the lesson can be determined when the learning outcomes have been achieved by the students.

Classroom Implications

Knowing some of the examples of hidden curriculum will help the department chairpersons, course directors and course coordinators to be more humane in giving loads, and in rating the performance of their teachers through classroom observations. They should also consider the hidden factors that may affect the learning outcomes. But of course, recognition of the hidden curriculum should not be used as an excuse to cover up the teachers’ inefficiency in class. Instead, teachers should be creative, flexible and positive in teaching the students in spite of their personal problems and anxieties in life.

To the administrators, they should ensure that the school environment and learning resources are conducive for teaching and learning. They should figure out ways to combat the hidden curriculum.

In conclusion, the lessons may not be implemented as planned. Many teachers may write excellent lesson plans or syllabi but when they are already in class, they would realize that there are aspects in the lesson plans that cannot be implemented due to hidden curriculum.


Bilbao, P. P., Lucido, P. I., Iringan, T. C., Javier, R. B., (2008). Curriculum development. Philippines: Lorimar Publishing, Inc.

© 2014 December 1 M. G. Alvior

By Alvior, Mary G.

Dr. Mary Gillesania Alvior has PhD. in Curriculum Development from West Visayas State University. She earned her Master of Arts in Teaching English Language at De La Salle University, Manila as CHED scholar. She worked at the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu in Saudi Arabia as an English instructor and curriculum developer. Her committee was responsible for the development of an english curriculum based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and used the English Language Proficiency Exams as assessment tools. In 2016, she moved to Thailand and taught at the St. Theresa International College. She was able to teach English and Education courses to college and MA students. In the Diploma in Teaching course, she was able to observe different classes in Thailand. From pre-school to high school classes, from private to government schools, from small private schools to the most elite schools, and from local schools to international schools. Her students came from 14 countries and some of them are retired from famous organizations and graduates of Oxford University, McGill University, National University of Singapore, MIT, British Columbia, among others. Her experiences in a multi-cultural environment made her exposed to different curricula and programs abroad. Curricular programs that are industry-related, innovative, and follow global standards. The kind of programs that are much needed by developing countries.

18 replies on “Hidden Curriculum: Its Definition”

thank you. This helped me in my subject on curriculum development as well as it helps me to understand my students better and make learning comfortable for them.

Thanks for your kind words, Mam Jovelyn. I wish that you can help us share this site to other teachers and students. God bless!

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Thank you very much. Great article.
Are there different variations of the definition of ‘hidden curriculum’ ? If so what answer would you say would be ideal and least ideal and why.

Thank you

It was easy to understand and I learned many things. I was just surprised to see that you had your PhD from my undergraduate university. I felt proud.

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