BSc Education / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Sociology of Education

Course unit fact file
Unit code EDUC14051
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


This unit covers various theoretical traditions of scholarship within the sociology of education, and explores ‘big questions’ about the role of education in society. It explores institutional based processes, such as institutional power dynamics, teacher labelling, the curriculum and ‘hidden curriculum’, and the construct of ability. In doing so, the unit will explore the processes through which educational and social inequality are generated and how alternative forms of education might address inequality.



The unit aims to:

Begin with an introduction of key theories in sociology (e.g. Marx, Weber, Foucault) and their applications to education. It will introduce a number of concepts (e.g. functional/structural– agency/structure) which are then used to study a variety of educational contexts (e.g. schooling, higher education, international education). It explores major concepts in the sociology of education such as equity, inequality, power, social justice and social mobility, and helps students to apply these to relevant educational issues and debates (e.g. access, curriculum, pedagogy etc.). It aims to address four main questions:

  • What role does education play in society, both nationally and internationally?
  • How can we understand schooling and other educational institutions sociologically?
  • How do educational processes link with wider structures of societal inequality?
  • What forms or structures of education might help to address issues of inequality?


Learning outcomes

Students should/will be able to:

    Teaching and learning methods

    The module will utilise a range of learning formats, including lectures, seminars, group activities and online materials, as well as readings, presentations, formative feedback and summative assessments. The module will adopt interactive approaches to learning using digital competencies, with independent and group activities in lectures, seminars and as part of the suite of formative and summative assessments.


    Knowledge and understanding

    • Explain issues related to social justice, social mobility, and social inequality in education[SC1] .
    • Identify major sociological perspectives (functionalism, conflict, symbolic interaction and critical pedagogy), their theoretical components and their historical evolution.
    • Identify key debates, theories and arguments in the sociology of education (such as society; social structure; culture; social institutions, economy; social change; social class; status; race; ethnicity; gender; social conflict; etc.) and how these relate to empirical research.
    • Explain evidence regarding educational inequalities and their relationship to wider social and economic structures and processes from a socio-cultural theoretical perspective (Marxism, Vygotsky, Cultural Historical Activity Theory, Bourdieu, Funds of Knowledge/Identity, etc.).
    • List a range of alternative educational traditions, including progressive, popular, radical and democratic education.
    •  The learning objectives have been clarified to provide more achievable aims to students at Level 4.

    Intellectual skills

    • Critically reflect on contemporary issues and how they relate to key ethical, social and political debates in education.
    • Demonstrate scholarly independence by using sociological theories to understand key educational problems and their solutions.
    • Reflect on their own experiences of education (past, present and future) and understand how these may be influenced by the issues raised on the course unit.

    Practical skills

    • Evaluate how issues of inequality, social mobility and social justice may be manifest in their future professional careers and how they will navigate or address such issues.
    • Use sociological theory/concepts to analyse complex educational problems through digital literature searches and analysis.
    • Access and interpret information digitally and evaluate information critically, reflecting on its credibility as a source of information.

    Transferable skills and personal qualities

    • Find, read, summarise, and synthesise digital evidence from multiple sources to solve complex problems. problem-solving.
    • Participate and communicate effectively in digital teams to share information and produce shared materials.
    • Write coherent and substantiated argument on a specific topic.

    Assessment methods

    Method Weight
    Other 40%
    Written assignment (inc essay) 60%

    Critical Reflective Journal Entries: 1,000 Words 40%

    • Reflect on their own personal history in relation to issues of social justice, social mobility and social inequality in education.
    • Reflect on their future career trajectories in relation to issues of social justice, social mobility and social inequality.
    • Reflect on their learning of social theories.
    • The group assessment has been replaced as per student feedback, individual feedback is preferred midway course.
    •  The critical reflective journals with 3 entries are targeted towards achieving specific ILOs and introducing issues of social justice, social mobility, etc. in relation to critical reflection prior to the individual essay.

    Traditional Essay: 2,000 Words 60%


    Feedback methods

    Feedback Online

    Recommended reading

    Boronski, T. & Hassan, N. (2015) Sociology of Education, London: Sage.

    Dewer, J. (2004) Democracy and Education. Courier Corporation.

    Fielding, M. & Moss, P. (2010) Radical Education and the Common School: A Democratic Alternative, London: Routledge.

    Freire, P. (1970) Pedagogy of the Oppressed. London: Bloomsbury

    Gerwirtz, S. & Cribb, A. (2009) Understanding Education: A Sociological Perspective, Cambridge: Polity Press.

    Lareau, A. (2011). Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race and Family Life, Los Angeles: University of California Press. 

    Meighan, R. & Harber, C. (2007) A Sociology of Educating (5th edition), London: Continuum.

    Morris, M.W. (2016). Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools. New York, NY: New Press.

    Required texts (Core)

    Sadovnik, A. (2016). Sociology of Education: A Critical Reader, 3rd Ed. New York: Routledge.

    Study hours

    Scheduled activity hours
    Lectures 30
    Independent study hours
    Independent study 170

    Teaching staff

    Staff member Role
    Sophina Choudry Unit coordinator

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