The Hidden Curriculum

What are we teaching our vet students outside the lecture theatre?  A worrying culture seems evident, based on recent studies both in the UK and over the pond.

The hidden curriculum is defined as “Ideological and subliminal messages of both the formal and informal curricula. Examples are policy development, evaluation, resource allocation, and institutional slang or nomenclature.” (Acad Med 1998;73:403-407)

Dr. Rosanne Taylor, dean of the University of Sydney Faculty of Veterinary Science, says… “The hidden curriculum conflicts with what is learned during formal professionalism studies, creating a dilemma for students when the behaviors they see and believe they should emulate are at odds with their understanding of best practices.”

Dr. Stephen May, deputy principal at the RVC has co-authored a paper on the hidden curriculum, due to be published this summer in the Journal of Veterinary Medical Education.  At the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges’ Annual Conference, he asked the question: “Are we forgiving professional shortcomings in our role models because they are technically competent and bring in lots of money—even if they’re awful to interact with, and that’s not great for our students to be exposed to?  What are we willing to do to develop a culture we want to be proud of?”

The end of the article highlights the paucity of help and support for veterinary students in dealing with these conflicts.  Even where support does exist there is a lot of work to be done to effect the cultural change necessary to address the root cause.

Teresa A. Johnson, PhD, coordinator for assessment and curriculum design at The Ohio State University, stated at the 2014 AAVMC Health and Wellness Summit: “These counselors feel like they keep putting goldfish back in dirty water. You can’t just take out a teaspoon, you have to change most of the water, and I think it’s pretty clear we have some polluted water in our curricular situations.”

Read the full article here

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