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The Hidden Curriculum and the Professional Formation of Responsible Engineers: A Review of Relevant Literature in ASEE Conference Proceedings

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Professional Formation and Career Experiences

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

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Paper Authors


Stephen Campbell Rea Colorado School of Mines

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Dr. Stephen C. Rea is a cultural anthropologist whose research focuses on the implications of digital technologies and automated decision-making for labor and finance. He works as an Adjunct Instructor/Research Assistant Professor at the Colorado School of Mines.

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Kylee Shiekh Colorado School of Mines


Qin Zhu Colorado School of Mines Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Zhu is Assistant Professor of Ethics and Engineering Education in the Department of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences and an affiliate faculty member in the Department of Engineering, Design & Society and the Robotics Graduate Program at the Colorado School of Mines. Dr. Zhu is Editor for International Perspectives at the Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science, Associate Editor for Engineering Studies, Program Chair of American Society for Engineering Education's Division of Engineering Ethics, Executive Committee Member of the Society for Ethics Across the Curriculum, and Treasurer of the Society for Philosophy and Technology. Dr. Zhu's research interests include the cultural foundations of engineering ethics, global engineering education, and ethics and policy of computing technologies and robotics.

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Dean Nieusma Colorado School of Mines Orcid 16x16

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Dean Nieusma is Associate Professor and Department Head of Engineering, Design, and Society at Colorado School of Mines.

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Research on engineering education interventions has focused extensively on the backward, engineering design approach. Such a course/curriculum design approach allows engineering educators to start with articulating and formulating desired student learning outcomes, and then “engineer” pedagogies to achieve student learning outcomes and assessment strategies to evaluate the efficacy of pedagogies in meeting those outcomes. Beyond explicit curricula in engineering education, education scholars have identified implicit or “hidden” curricula (HC) that contribute significantly to students’ overall learning experience. Compared to the explicit curriculum, HC are typically unintentional, unplanned, and less “controllable”—seemingly irrelevant to formal education. The hidden nature of this curriculum makes it especially difficult to anticipate, estimate, and manage its impacts on students’ development, including the formation of their professional and moral identities. Compared to other studies on HC, our interest lies in the ethics component of HC. More specifically, we seek to investigate how HC subtly yet powerfully communicate to students, both within and outside of the classroom, assumptions and moral values about engineering practice.

The overlooked yet powerful role of HC in shaping students’ learning experience has begun generating interest in the engineering education community. To further this growing research area, we propose to review the existing literature on HC and to leverage our findings as a means to better understand engineering students’ professional formation from a more holistic perspective. In this paper, we will systematically examine relevant papers published in ASEE conference paper repository (, which is the largest research publication database with the most diverse representation of researchers in engineering education.

Our analysis of ASEE conference papers will be organized around three questions: (1) How is HC defined and what unique features of HC are highlighted? (2) How is HC employed as a tool for theory building and/or data analysis and interpretation, and what issues in engineering (ethics) education have been addressed from the lens of HC? and (3) What are notable gaps exist in the literature on HC, especially those related to ethics education, and what are the opportunities for future engineering ethics education research from the HC perspective? We will discuss implications of the findings from the literature analysis for initiating a research proposal that systematically investigates the role of implicit educational messaging in shaping how students make sense of professional responsibility and the ethical ramifications of engineering practice.

Rea, S. C., & Shiekh, K., & Zhu, Q., & Nieusma, D. (2021, July), The Hidden Curriculum and the Professional Formation of Responsible Engineers: A Review of Relevant Literature in ASEE Conference Proceedings Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2021 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015