Assessing the Implicit Curriculum in Social Work Education: Heterogeneity of Students’ Experiences and Impact on Professional Empowerment

N. Andrew Peterson, Antoinette Y. Farmer, Louis Donnelly, Brad Forenza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Scopus citations


The implicit curriculum, which refers to a student’s learning environment, has been described as an essential feature of an integrated professional social work curriculum. Very little is known, however, about the heterogeneity of students’ experiences with the implicit curriculum, how this heterogeneity may be distributed across groups of students, and how it may impact students’ professional empowerment. This study used latent profile analysis to identify groups of students based on their experiences with the implicit curriculum in school and field contexts, and it examined differences between profile groups on measures of professional empowerment. Study participants (n = 534) were undergraduate and graduate students of a large school of social work in the northeast. Results revealed that four groups of students could be identified based on their experiences with the implicit curriculum: students who experienced (a) positive school and field environments, (b) positive school but negative field environments, (c) negative school but positive field environments, and (d) negative school and field environments. Profile groups differed significantly on measures of professional empowerment. Implications and directions for future work are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)460-479
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Teaching in Social Work
Issue number5
StatePublished - 26 Oct 2014



  • implicit curriculum
  • measurement
  • professional empowerment

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