This exploratory study analyzes the extent of alignment between the formal and hidden curricula in responsible management education (RME). Based on case study evidence of a school that has signed the United Nations Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME), we found poor alignment between the school’s explicit RME claims and students’ lived experiences. While the formal curriculum signaled to students that RME was important, the school’s hidden curriculum sent a number of tacit messages that led students to question the relevance and applicability of responsible management. The tacit messages that students received occurred along three “message sites” related to (a) how the formal curriculum was delivered, (b) how students and lecturers interacted, and (c) how the school was governed. On the basis of these findings we develop a proposition that can guide further research in this area, i.e., the connotative level of language use is an important site of misalignments between what lecturers say in relation to RME (e.g., in a syllabus) and how students interpret the meaning of their lecturers’ words. We also discuss further implications of our findings for strengthening the alignment between schools’ formal RME claims and their hidden curriculum.
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Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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Interview Guide for Focus Groups
Our interview procedure followed an interview guide approach in which topics and issues are pre-defined while allowing the interviewer to decide on the precise wording and sequence of questions (Patton 2015). In this way, a “rough travel itinerary” (McCracken 1988, p. 37) is provided so that interviews can remain conversational and situational, allowing for an increase in the comprehensiveness of the data. The semi-structured character of the interview guide approach was especially suited for our purpose of conducting interviews in small focus groups, as it “keeps the interactions focused while allowing individual perspectives and experiences to emerge” (Patton 2015, p. 439).
Questions related to the formal curriculum
Ask students to elaborate and explain RME in their own words, using free writing.
Ask students where they have experienced topics of responsible management education in their study program (e.g., readings, exercise classes, lectures).
Ask students where they have experienced responsible management education outside of class at The School, e.g., extracurricular activities (case competitions, student organizations, etc.).
Ask students to rate how important they believe responsible management education is at The School, based on their experience in classes and readings on a scale from 1 to 10.
Ask students about the importance of responsible management education in relation to exams.
Questions related to interpersonal interactions
Ask students to describe the culture within their program.
Ask students how they think future employers value responsible management competencies when hiring.
Ask students about lecturers and guest lecturers and how they have experienced these lecturers dealing with responsible management education.
Questions related to school governance
Ask students how they experience The School’s governance and practices in relation to responsible management education.
Ask students if they can provide examples of where The School as an organization engages in responsible management.
Ask students if they can provide examples of where The School as an organization can improve its engagement in responsible management.
Ask students about the physical environment of The School in relation to responsibility and sustainability efforts.
See Table 4.
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Høgdal, C., Rasche, A., Schoeneborn, D. et al. Exploring Student Perceptions of the Hidden Curriculum in Responsible Management Education. J Bus Ethics 168, 173–193 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-019-04221-9
- Responsible management education
- Business education
- Hidden curriculum
- Classroom practices