Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2021-2022 (archived)

Module SOCI2271: Sociology of Education

Department: Sociology

SOCI2271: Sociology of Education

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2021/22 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To facilitate an understanding of key theoretical perspectives within the sociology of education.
  • To support critical assessment and synthesis of existing empirical research in the field.
  • To enable students to weigh up the relative strengths of alternative theoretical perspectives and competing research findings.
  • To provide a forum in which students can actively apply theories and evidence to develop their understanding of contemporary education systems.


  • The module is designed to equip students with a critical understanding of the central role education plays in structuring society. We will consider a range of concepts and theories, and evaluate a variety of sources of empirical evidence from research. The first half of the module will focus on the purposes of education and the nature of compulsory schooling; topics include class, gender and race inequalities in school experiences and achievements and the contested idea that contemporary societies are meritocratic. The second half of the module focuses specifically on higher education, tackling a range of key debates including who should get to go to university, who should meet the costs of higher education, why are some universities consider better than others, and how can access to higher education be made fairer and more democratic.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Upon successful completion of this module, students will have demonstrated:
  • a deep understanding of key theories in the sociology of education, and their relationship to one another;
  • a critical appreciation of quantitative and qualitative research evidence in the field of education;
  • an awareness of key debates in the sociology of education and their relevance to the changing position of education in relation to equality, efficiency and social justice.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of the module students should have demonstrated ability to:
  • evaluate sociological arguments and evidence;
  • use abstract sociological concepts with confidence;
  • analyse and evaluate the philosophical stance of specific theoretical approaches;
  • deploy critical reasoning in relation to the strengths and weaknesses of specific theoretical and empirical approaches;
  • develop their own sociologically informed arguments about contemporary issues in education.
Key Skills:
  • By the end of the module students should have demonstrated ability to:
  • think abstractly;
  • engage in reasoned argument;
  • gather information from a variety of sources both bibliographic and electronic;
  • use of appropriate techniques for analysing a variety of forms of empirical data.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • During periods of online teaching, for asynchronous lectures in particular, planned lecture hours may include activities that would normally have taken place within the lecture itself had it been taught face-to-face in a lecture room, and/or those necessary to adapt the teaching and learning materials effectively to online learning.
  • The module will entail weekly lectures and fortnightly seminars.
  • Lectures indicate the main issues to be considered and introduce the main themes, interpretations and arguments in relation to the substantive material.
  • Lectures encourage students to develop skills of listening, selective note-taking and an appreciation of how information may be structured and presented to others.
  • Fortnightly seminars are organised around themes for discussion and guided reading available via the Virtual Learning Environment (DUO). A structured programme relates the material on DUO to the lecture and seminar.
  • Seminars provide the opportunity for students to present and develop their own understanding of relevant materials, encourages them to develop transferable skills (e.g. oral communication, group work skills), subject specific skills (e.g. competence in using theoretical perspectives in sociology, the ability to formulate sociologically informed questions) and generic intellectual skills (e.g. judging and evaluating evidence, assessing the merits of competing arguments and explanations, making reasoned arguments). The seminars have a core function integrating the learning taking place through attendance at lectures and the use of DUO.
  • In planning, preparing and contributing to seminars students should develop organisational skills, together with other transferable skills (e.g. developing confidence in public speaking and presentation, managing group work, and using the material provided on DUO).
  • Students should also spend time in self-directed individual study as they prepare for seminar and essay assignments.
  • The first summative assignment (2000 word essay) and the second summative assignment (2000 word essay) require students to demonstrate a critical understanding of two different debates in the sociology of education by means of an essay in which they develope a clear and persuasive argument, supported by evidence.
  • The first and second formative assignments (both 500-1000 word bullet-point style essay plans) are intended to help students to prepare for the first and second summative assignments respectively.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 20 10 in term 1; 9 in term 2; 1 in term 3 1 Hour 20
Seminars 10 5 in term 1; 5 in term 2 1 Hour 10
Preparation and Reading (including work via DUO) 170
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Assignment 1 Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2000 words 100%
Component: Assignment 2 Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Two 500-1000 word bullet-point style essay plans, one in preparation for the first summative essay and one in preparation for the second summative essay (compulsory).

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University