Decoding the learning environment of medical education: a hidden curriculum perspective for faculty development

Acad Med. 2011 Apr;86(4):440-4. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31820df8e2.


Medical student literature has broadly established the importance of differentiating between formal-explicit and hidden-tacit dimensions of the physician education process. The hidden curriculum refers to cultural mores that are transmitted, but not openly acknowledged, through formal and informal educational endeavors. The authors extend the concept of the hidden curriculum from students to faculty, and in so doing, they frame the acquisition by faculty of knowledge, skills, and values as a more global process of identity formation. This process includes a subset of formal, formative activities labeled "faculty development programs" that target specific faculty skills such as teaching effectiveness or leadership; however, it also includes informal, tacit messages that faculty absorb. As faculty members are socialized into faculty life, they often encounter conflicting messages about their role. In this article, the authors examine how faculty development programs have functioned as a source of conflict, and they ask how these programs might be retooled to assist faculty in understanding the tacit institutional culture shaping effective socialization and in managing the inconsistencies that so often dominate faculty life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Curriculum*
  • Education, Medical*
  • Faculty, Medical*
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Organizational Culture
  • Schools, Medical
  • Staff Development*
  • Teaching / methods