Exploring physical environment as hidden curriculum in higher education: a grounded theory study

Tor, Dürdane
This is a grounded theory study of the physical environment as hidden curriculum. A hidden curriculum is one of the side effects of an educational settings that transmits unstated norms, values and beliefs which are not openly intended. One domain discussed in hidden curriculum literature is the physical environment that conveys messages about social order, the nature of the learning process, and the role of teachers and students. In this sense, main aim was to investigate the physical environment as hidden curriculum in higher education. Grounded theory was employed to develop a theory that conceptualizes and explains the physical environment as hidden curriculum in an attempt for understanding its scope, depth, and relevance. Walking interview and photo-elicitation methods were utilized to collect data from 93 undergraduate students from seven contexts. Data were analyzed with open, axial and selective coding within the grounded theory framework. The study revealed three major dimensions of the physical environment as hidden curriculum: (1) impact of the physical environment on students’ socialization, feelings, and ideas on field specificity, (2) meaning of the physical environment as symbol of the university, and (3) invisible side of the physical environment depending on the researchers’ backgrounds and underlying ideologies. This study presented a conceptual framework for the description of a university place, a practical framework illustrating the way learning places are used as an education tool and socialization place, and a theoretical framework for the contribution of the physical environment to undergraduate students’ university life.


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Citation Formats
D. Tor, “Exploring physical environment as hidden curriculum in higher education: a grounded theory study,” Ph.D. - Doctoral Program, Middle East Technical University, 2015.