Podcast: The Hidden Curriculum and its impact on working-class students (28 minutes)

title with magnifying glassIn this episode, Dr. Neil Speirs, a Widening Participation manager, practitioner and researcher at The University of Edinburgh, introduces the concept of the hidden curriculum, how we may be complicit in it, and what we can do about it. This episode accompanies our July-August ‘Hot Topic’: “Lessons from the Learning and Teaching Conference 2021“.

In the third episode of our Learning and Teaching Conference series, Neil Speirs introduces the idea of a ‘hidden curriculum’ which does not serve working-class students.  Neil begins by using sociological terms to build the listener’s understanding of how each person’s life experiences develop their habitus (the ways one interprets and interacts with the social world around them), which combines with others to form a collective university habitus.  This creates a privileged habitus, which is dangerous in our attempt to deliver a more equitable learning experience.

Our current appreciations, understandings, opinions and practices will influence our future. And what we have is: we have a privileged habitus, a privileged selection of dispositions, appreciations, understandings, et cetera, that are delivering the hidden curriculum and participating in the notion of social reproduction. And that’s what we see happening.

– Neil Speirs

Neil’s presentation is compelling, as he both introduces heavy concepts, citing Paulo Freire, Pierre Bourdieu and Peter Roberts, while fending off powerlessness as a response to social injustice.  Instead, Neil offers tangible changes we can make, as teachers and learners, to address this hidden curriculum through critical awareness.  Neil’s informative, inspiring, and empowering presentation is a must-listen for any teacher or learner wanting to take a stand for our working-class students. 

Listen now: 


2:02 – Episode specific introduction and Neil on the role of hidden subtexts and habitus on the university experience

8:30 – Neil on education being inherently political, Paulo Friere, and the role of doxa and illusio in the hidden curriculum

16:10 – Neil on how we can individually address the injustice of the hidden curriculum, and the Freirean notion of conscientization

22:08 – Neil on his personal experiences with working-class students and episode conclusions


Go to this Sway

Dr Neil Speirs

Neil’s role involves working as a manager, practitioner and researcher in a number of areas concerning widening participation & access and related policy.  He has strategic oversight and management of a number of self-generated community projects.  These projects along with his teaching and research are centred around a number of areas of interest that span from primary education through secondary, further and higher education.  A few of these areas of interest and specialisms are; the transition from primary to secondary education, the academic achievement of working class young males, the sociology of sport, widening participation student transitions, the equity of student experience, social reproduction & critical pedagogy, the working class mature student, the hidden curriculum, peer-related pedagogies and autoethnography.

Produced and Edited by:

picture of editor/producerEric Berger

Eric is a Mathematics and Statistics student at The University of Edinburgh, and a podcasting intern for Teaching Matters. Eric is passionate about university student mental health, interviewing researchers for the Student Mental Health Research Network at King’s College London, leading the University of Edinburgh’s WellComm Kings Peer Support Scheme, and conducting research on stigma for People With Mental Illnesses (PWMI).  In his free time, he enjoys watching and playing sports, over-analysing hip-hop songs, podcasts, and any sort of wholesome shenanigans.

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