The Hidden Curriculum
Adapted from Various Sources by Roger Hiemstra
As a student of graduate courses in Adult Education, not everything available to you or expected of you is listed in official documents. As with any program of study, faculty, administrators, and the nature of any institution of higher education have an implicit “hidden curriculum” and even “hidden” resources seldom discussed. This can result in students sometimes saying, “no one told me” or “I did not know that!” This is the telling of our hidden “stuff'” and an attempt to make more explicit the nature of resources available to you.
Three Aspects of Career Preparation
Your faculty believe that any certificate or degree offerings are “professional” in nature. In essence, our purpose is to prepare professionals. We believe you are here for career preparation and a greater enhancement of yourself as a professional teacher, trainer, or educator of adults, not just to get a certificate, degree, or to pass a few courses. In that regard, there are three equally important aspects of your graduate studies: Courses, personal relationships, and professional experiences.
It is obviously important to focus on the courses, any exams, a final project, or other course-related requirements and accomplishments. That means by being a graduate student you accept the responsibility for doing the best you can in your courses, in meeting deadlines, and in understanding the various program requirements that are portrayed in the graduate catalog. Obviously, advising sessions may be necessary and you will want to work with faculty and administrators to meet all necessary expectations.
Courses do give you the basic skills, practice, and knowledge to add to over the next decades as you continue to learn, practice your craft, and grow as an individual. However, we believe a certificate or master’s program is not the end of professional growth; it is only the beginning in many respects. We simply try to help you acquire enough personal resources so that you can continue to grow and develop. To use a musical metaphor, we’ll teach you how to play the scales and provide some chords for your professional pianos, but you have to continue to practice, to improve, and to even learn to play new songs throughout your professional career.
2. Personal Relationships
Equally important as the courses you take while involved with graduate studies are the personal relationships you will form. Much of the enjoyment of graduate studies comes from working and socializing with fellow students and faculty. This may involve participating in local, regional or national conferences so you meet fellow students and faculty from other higher education institutions as well as getting to your program students and faculty better. It may include not only attending any campus or social functions, but also agreeing to help plan and implement them. Often it will be up to you to take the initiative in ensuring that such functions are successful.
Perhaps more important are the friendships and networking opportunities you develop. Veteran students, for example, can give you real inside information on how the system works, on course strengths and weaknesses, and on how to deal with individual faculty. Students often engage in joint projects, study together for any exams, share assistance on effectively utilizing the Internet, computer software, and technological hardware, and generally support each other. You also will develop personal and professional relationships that can serve as career-long networking support mechanisms.
Graduate study is often a time of rapid growth and change; it is often stressful, too, both professionally and in one’s personal life. The faculty will try to help you however we can and there are formal counseling and advising opportunities you can take advantage of or make special requests when the need arises. However, the source of your best day-to-day support will be other students in your program. So, interact with your fellow students, even if you are shy or have a more reserved nature. You will find it makes your graduate studies easier and more enjoyable.
3. Professional Experiences
The third equally important aspect of your career preparation is the accumulation of a set of professional experiences that will enable you to increasingly participate as a full member of a profession. One important component of this is becoming acquainted with your campus or other campuses where you have study privileges to use the library, computer center, and other facilities. You also will meet other faculty and students. In essence you will obtain a much better understanding of your college and what it has to offer you over your life as a professional.
We also encourage you to think about the nature of your learning experience even in each course. Consider ways you can tie your learning to the practical nature of your professional work, expected professional work, and specific interests. Visiting agencies, interviewing continuing education professionals, writing journal articles, developing a personal portfolio (a related handout is available), participating in mini-internships, professional reading, and attending conferences all are ways you can enhance yourself as a professional.
Some Final Thoughts
Following is a collection of random thoughts, observations, and reminders of resources you have at your disposal.
1. Be willing to accept ambiguity. Always remember there may not be a “right” answer or definition, as some people will make certain assumptions while others may make different assumptions.
2. Learn what others think and why they think that way. You can have your own opinion, but be tolerant with the opinions of others. You don’t have to agree with every thought expressed but accept that others have the right to think the way they do. The resulting intellectual challenges and stimulation can become the most important and pleasurable part of your graduate studies.
3. Over time learn to develop a personal filter or screen through which you assess the appropriateness of an idea, theory, or stated piece of knowledge for your own practice. In essence, become a critical thinker, reflector, and evaluator.
4. Look for the practical, but don't stop thinking.
5. Some courses will be more "practical" than others because they deal with very practical issues, but they also have a critical and often rigorous thinking, reflecting, and writing component.
6. Learning to think and learning to learn are important aspects of any graduate study. Such skills will serve you well throughout your career.
7. You have access to library resources in various ways, but don't forget the power of the Internet. Considerable information is available through the World Wide Web that can help you in your graduate studies. Thus, we encourage you to obtain an Internet userid, use email as a means of frequent communication with faculty and fellow students, become adept at creating Internet resources such as web pages, wikis, and blogs, learn to use one or more of the powerful search engines available, access the thousands of useful web pages recommended by faculty and others, and participate in chat rooms available to you.
Good luck in all that you do! We are committed to your success.