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Social Theory and Education

  • Year 2 - 15 CATS - OPTIONAL module
  • Year 3 - 15 CATS - OPTIONAL module
  • Year 4 (intercalated degree) - 15 CATS - OPTIONAL module

What is this module about?

The BA (Hons) Education Studies aims to introduce its students to creative and forward-thinking approaches to understanding education, based on critical analysis. However, coverage of contemporary education research and debates often assumes a knowledge of critical social theory and concepts of social and cultural reproduction. This module enables students to explore the interplay between theories of society and education. Students will examine how major theorists have sought to analyse the role that educational institutions play within complex societies. The module will focus on the historical development of a range of dynamic and flexible approaches to understanding social and cultural reproduction in education.

Topics covered:

  • Education and Society- Problems and explanations
  • Sociologies of Education
  • Marxist educational
  • Rethinking class and culture in education
  • Problematic structural theories of education
  • Education, change and identity
  • Education, globalization and neo-liberalism
  • Sociologies of knowledge
  • Futures in education and social theory

Learning outcomes:

  • To understand relationships between theories of society and theories of education
  • To comprehend and articulate key concepts in the study of social and cultural reproduction in education
  • To compare and analyse historically and theoretically diverse literature on the social purposes and effects of education
  • To be able to articulate and challenge theoretical accounts of issues of power, knowledge, inequality and identity in education
  • To be able to apply knowledge developed during the module, in order to problematise current developments in educational policy and practice

Contact time:

The module will consist of 10 3 hour interactive seminars to a total of 30 contact hours.


The module will be assessed by one 3000 word assignment OR a 3 hour exam

Sample reading list:

Ball, S. (1990) Foucault and Education: disciplines and knowledge (Abingdon: Routledge).
Ball, S. (ed.) (2003) Routledge Falmer Reader in Sociology of Education (London: Routledge).
Blacker, D. (2013) The Falling Rate of Learning and the Neoliberal Endgame (Alresford, Hants: Zero).
Bowles, S. and Gintis, H. (1976) Schooling in Capitalist America: educational reform and the contradictions of economic life (NY: Basic).
Butler, J. (2006) Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (Abingdon: Routledge).
Dixson, A. & Rousseau, C. (eds) (2006) Critical Race Theory in Education: All God’s Children Got a Song, New York, Routledge.
Flint, J. and Peim, M. (2012) Rethinking the Education Improvement Agenda: a critical philosophical approach (London: Continuum).
Grenfell, M. and James, D. (1998) Bourdieu and Education: acts of practical theory (London: Routledge).
Leonardo, Z. (2009) Race, Whiteness, and Education (London: Routledge).
Moore, R. (2004) Education and society: issues and explanations in the sociology of education (Cambridge: Polity).
Morrow, R. and Torres, C. (1995) Social Theory and Education: A critique of theories of social and cultural reproduction (New York: SUNY).
Reay, D. (2006) The zombie stalking English schools: social class and educational inequality, British Journal of Educational Studies, 54(3): 88 –307.
Scruton, R. (2015) Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: thinkers of the new left (London: Bloomsbury).
Skelton, C. and Francis, B. (2008) Feminism and 'The Schooling Scandal' (Abingdon: Routledge).
Warmington, P. (2015) Dystopian social theory and education, Educational Theory, 65 (3): 265-281.
Willis, P. (2000) Learning to Labour: How Working Class Kids Get Working Class Jobs (Farnham: Ashgate).