module specification

SS5019 - Sociology and the Curriculum (2022/23)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2022/23
Module title Sociology and the Curriculum
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Social Sciences and Professions
Total study hours 300
4 hours Assessment Preparation / Delivery
210 hours Guided independent study
86 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
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)
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Year North Monday Afternoon

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.

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.

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.


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