Sparking Action: How Emotions Fuel or Inhibit Advocacy around Hidden Curriculum in Engineering

Document Type

Conference Paper

Journal/Book Title/Conference

SEFI 47th Annual Conference


European Society of Engineering Education


Budapest, Hungary

Publication Date


Award Number

NSF, Division of Engineering Education and Centers (EEC) 1653140


NSF, Division of Engineering Education and Centers (EEC)

First Page


Last Page



Emotions are not typically addressed or valued in engineering. However, emotions may play a pivotal role as individuals within the field navigate the complexities of the hidden curriculum (HC) or the unofficial guidelines and rules that characterize a learning or working environments. These emotions may be especially relevant for underrepresent students and faculty who may feel isolated, alienated or overwhelmed by negative and unacknowledged HC. As part of the larger mixed methods study, 174 undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and administration in engineering programs across the U.S. were asked to reflect on the role of emotions in advocating for themselves or others to reveal HC in engineering programs. Participant responses were analyzed using a combination of thematic, process, pattern, and co-occurrence coding.

Findings revealed that HC advocacy requires: (1) awareness of the issue; (2) ignition (i.e., emotion); and (3) a sustaining force (e.g., confidence). The most prevalent emotions to fuel advocacy were anger, frustration, and passion; hope was present only after an ignition occurred. On the other hand, inhibited advocacy was a result of one of three factors: (1) disbelief; (2) lack of value; and (3) perpetuating the status quo. Apathy and contentment were associated with participants who thought that action was unnecessary (i.e., disbelief, lack of value) while fear, exhaustion, and hopelessness corresponded to participants who felt prevented from taking action (i.e., perpetuating status quo). Findings from this work highlight how emotions are critical in advocating for issues of inequity in engineering.