A Rose by Other Names: Some General Musings on Lawrence and Colleagues’ Hidden Curriculum Scoping Review

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Abstract

In this Commentary, the authors explore the scoping review by Lawrence and colleagues by challenging their conclusion that with over 25 years’ worth of “ambiguous and seemingly ubiquitous use” of the hidden curriculum construct in health professions education scholarship, it is time to either move to a more uniform definitional foundation or abandon the term altogether. The Commentary authors counter these remedial propositions by foregrounding the importance of theoretical diversity and the conceptual richness afforded when the hidden curriculum construct is used as an entry point for studying the interstitial space between the formal and a range of other-than-formal domains of learning. They document how tightly delimited scoping strategies fail to capture the wealth of educational scholarship that operates within a hidden curriculum framework, including “hidden” hidden curriculum articles, studies that employ alternative constructs, and investigations that target important tacit sociocultural influences on learners and faculty without formally deploying the term. They offer examples of how the hidden curriculum construct, while undergoing significant transformation in its application within the field of health professions education, has created the conceptual foundation for the application of a number of critical perspectives that make visible the field’s political investments in particular forms of knowing and associated practices. Finally, the Commentary authors invite readers to consider the methodological promise afforded by conceptual heterogeneity, particularly strands of scholarship that resituate the hidden curriculum concept within the magically expansive dance of social relationships, social learning, and social life that form the learning environments of health professions education.

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