The Hidden Curriculum of Unethical Behavior


April 17, 2016

Most teaching colleges have a code of ethics which list the standards by which an instructor must adhere.

Something that had not occurred to me, however, was how unethical behavior can form part of the hidden curriculum in our classrooms.   Hidden curriculum, for those of you who may not be familiar with the term, is, according to Great Schools Partnership (2015) “unwritten, unofficial, and often unintended lessons, values, and perspectives that students learn in school.”    These are the cultural expectations, values, perspectives, teaching strategies and institutional rules that are indirectly imparted to a student through their education experience.

Forsythe (2016) of Weber State University made this observation: “If the teacher believes he is fostering democratic values in the classroom but unintentionally allows students no voice in decision-making, the hidden curriculum is actually teaching the values of an autocracy. If a teacher stresses the importance of ethical behavior to students then engages in unethical behavior, this is another example of the hidden curriculum, of unintended teaching.”

We can say all the right things and espouse the profession’s code, but if our actions belie our words, it means nothing because it is not what the students believe — it is not what we live.



Forsythe, A. (2016). Weber State University. Retrieved from Teacher Education Professional Standards and Ethics:

Great Schools Partnership. (2015, July 2015). Hidden Curriculum. Retrieved from Glossary of Education Reform:


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