module specification

SS5030 - Knowledge, Ideologies and Curricula (2022/23)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2022/23
Module title Knowledge, Ideologies and Curricula
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Social Sciences and Professions
Total study hours 300
86 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
210 hours Guided independent study
4 hours Assessment Preparation / Delivery
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 50%   Essay on sociological theories of education (2,500 words)
Coursework 50%   Essay on curriculum organisation (2,500 words)
Running in 2022/23

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
No instances running in the year

Module summary

The module aims to:
• Critically explore the curriculum as a symptom of the purpose of schooling
• Introduce students to theories within the sociology of knowledge in relation to concerns about whether school curricula convey knowledge or ideology
• Identify and analyse competing ideological positions surrounding current curriculum debates
• Consider the nature and purpose of individual subjects within the National Curriculum


This module builds upon and deepens students’ understanding of positions and key themes in the sociology of education that students first encounter at Level 4 / Year 1 of the Education Studies BA.

Part 1

In the first semester of the module, students are asked to consider the possibility and extent of ideological purposes within the school curriculum and educational institutions and practice, with reference to opposed theoretical positions – Social Elitism, Functionalism, the Enlightenment, Social Justice Education, Social Constructionism, Marxism, Feminism and Foucault’s Poststructuralism. Students will be able to distinguish these key positions with reference to Ralf Dahrendorf’s contrast between a consensus theory of society, and how this might be promoted through education and the curriculum, and a conflict theory of society. LO1,LO2,LO3,LO4,LO6

Part 2

In the second semester, the module builds upon the content in the first part by narrowing its focus and examining the history of the contemporary school curriculum, and particular subjects within it, in relation to the share that they might have in promoting either knowledge or ideology, consensus or conflict. Specific subjects examined include Geography, History, Religious Education, Science, Citizenship and English Literature, alongside broader curricular themes related to Feminism, Social Justice, Multiculturalism and Democracy. LO3,LO4,LO5,LO6

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

The module will utilise a range of teaching and learning strategies.  It will include:
• Lectures, seminars, workshops and tutorials;
• Set piece debates focusing on competing ideologies of education in relation to controversial curricular themes;

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

1. Describe and critically analyse key positions within the sociology of education – Functionalism, Social Justice Education, Social Constructionism, Social Elitism and the Noble Lie, the ideal of Enlightenment, Marxism, Poststructuralism, Feminism
2. Distinguish and explain the distinction between a consensus theory of society and a conflict theory of society, and the relevance of the distinction to the curriculum
3. Understand the relation between these sociological positions and debates concerning whether the curriculum conveys knowledge or ideology, and to what degree
4. Be able to identify the extent to which ideological positions and political processes have and may impact on curriculum content and design
5. Apply positions within the sociology of knowledge and sociology of education to individual curricula subjects, and cross-curricula themes, such as gender, multiculturalism and democracy
6. Be able to draw upon and consider the merits of a range of different positions concerning the nature and purpose of the curriculum in written assignments

Assessment strategy

Assessment of this module will comprise of two coursework essays on the topics covered for the year. The first essay, on sociological theories of education, will focus on one of the topics covered during the Autumn Semester e.g. The Enlightenment, Marxism, Social Constructionism, Social Justice, Foucault and education, Functionalism, Social Elitism.  Lectures in the Spring term will critically evaluate the applicability of such perspectives to specific subjects and themes within the contemporary National Curriculum, and students will write an essay on either a specific topic in the curriculum in relation to knowledge or ideology, or a theme related to schooling, such as democracy or gender.


Core Texts

Burr, V., Social Constructionism, 3rd edition, Hove: Routledge, 2015
Durkheim, E., Education and Sociology, translated by S. D. Fox, New York: Free Press, 1956
Foucault, M., Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, translated by A. Sheridan, London: Penguin, 1991.
Kant, I., ‘What is Enlightenment?’, in Political Writings, edited by H. Reiss, translated by H. B. Nisbet, Cambridge: CUP, 1990.
Marx, K. & Engels, F., The Communist Manifesto, edited by A.J.P. Taylor, translated by S. Moore, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985
Plato, Republic, translated by D. Lee, London: Penguin, 2007
Sadovnik, A.R. & Coughlan, R. (eds.), Sociology of Education: A Critical Reader, 3rd edition, New York: Routledge, 2016
Strauss, L., ‘What is Liberal Education?’, in An Introduction to Political Philosophy: Ten Essays by Leo Strauss, edited by H. Gildin, Detroit: Wayne University State Press, 1989.

Secondary Texts

Althusser, L., On Ideology, London: Verso, 2008
Apple, M.W., Cultural Politics and Education, Buckingham: Open University Press, 1996
Apple, M.W., Official Knowledge: Democratic Education in a Conservative Age, London: Routledge, 2000
Apple, M.W., Ideology and Curriculum, London: RoutledgeFalmer, 2004
Ball, S.J., (ed.) Foucault and Education: Disciplines and Knowledge, London: Routledge, 1990
Ball, S.J., Education Policy and Social Class: The Selected Works of Stephen J. Ball, London: Routledge, 2006
Bowles, S. & Gintis, H., Schooling in Capitalist America: Educational Reform and the Contradictions of Economic Life, Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2011
Carr, E.H., What is History?, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001
Conway, D., Liberal Education and the National Curriculum, London: Civitas, 2010
Copley, T., Teaching Religion: Fifty Years of Religious Education in England and Wales, University of Exeter Press, 1997
Crick, B., Essays on Citizenship, London & New York: Continuum, 2004
Dahrendorf, R., ‘Toward a Theory of Social Conflict’, The Journal of Conflict Resolution, 2: 2, (June 1958), pp.170-183
Eagleton, T., Ideology: An Introduction, London: Verso, 2007
Eagleton, T., Literary Theory: An Introduction, 2nd Anniversary edition, Malden: Blackwell, 2008
Epstein, D., Elwood, J., Hey, V., and Maw, J., Failing Boys? Issues in Gender and Achievement, London: Open University Press, 1998
Evans, N., Curriculum Change in Secondary Schools, 1957-2004: An Educational Roundabout?, London: Routledge, 2005
Francis, B., Boys, Girls and Achievement: Addressing the Classroom Issues, London: Routledge, 2000
Gilbert, J., (ed.), The RoutledgeFalmer Reader in Science Education, Routledge, 2004
Goodman, J., McCulloch, G. & Richardson, W., Social Change in the History of British Education, London: Routledge, 2008
Issa, T. & Williams, C., Realising Potential: Complementary Schools in the UK, Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham, 2009
Kelly, A.V., The Curriculum: Theory and Practice, London: Sage, 2009
Mannheim, K, Ideology and Utopia: An Introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge, translated by L. Wirth, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1960
Moore, R. & Muller, J., ‘The Discourse of “Voice” and the Problem of Knowledge and Identity in the Sociology of Education’, British Journal of Sociology of Education 20:2, 1999, pp.189-206
Mthethwa-Sommers, M., Narratives of Social Justice Educators: Standing Firm, London: Springer, 2014
Nind, M., Sheehy, K. & Rix, J., (eds.) Curriculum and Pedagogy in Inclusive Education: Values into Practice, London: Routledge, 2005
Popkewitz, T.S., Pereyra, M.A. & Franklin, B.M. (eds.) Cultural History and Education: Critical Essays on Knowledge and Schooling, New York: RouteldgeFalmer, 2001   
Race, R., Multiculturalism and Education, London: Continuum, 2011
Ross, A., Curriculum: Construction and Critique, London: Routledge, 2000
Sears, J. & Sorensen, P., (eds.), Issues in Science Education, Routledge, 2000
Skelton, C., Francis, B., & Smulyan, L. (eds,) The Sage Handbook of Gender and Education, London: Sage, 2006
Smith, E., Key Issues in Education and Social Justice, Los Angeles: Sage, 2012
Snow, C.P., The Two Cultures, Cambridge: CUP, 2012
Stoddart, M.C.J., ‘Ideology, Hegemony, Discourse: A Critical Review of Theories of Knowledge and Power’, Social Thought and Research 28, 2007, pp.191-225
Walford, R., Geography in British Schools, 1850-2000: Making World of Difference, London: Woburn Press, 2001
Weinberg, D., Contemporary Social Constructionism: Key Themes, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2014
White, J. (ed.), Rethinking the School Curriculum: Values, Aims and Purposes, London: RoutledgeFalmer, 2004
White, J., ‘Justifying Private Schools’, Journal of Philosophy of Education 50:4, 2016, pp.496-510
Williams, R., The Long Revolution, London: Hogarth Press, 1992


British Journal of Sociology of Education
Critical Studies in Education
Gender and Education
History of Education Quarterly
Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy