Sociology of Education: A Critical Pedagogy of Hope

MQF Level: 7

ECTS Value: 4 ECTS

Self Study Hours: 48

Contact Hours: 20

Duration: 8 sessions

Assessment Hours: 32


Overall Objectives and Outcomes

The claim is made, time and again, that education is falling short of delivering value for money.  The claim is made interchangeably by industry on the one side, and by others on the other, who view education as a vehicle of social justice, frustrated at seeing economic imperatives wagging the educational tail.  Education should seek to transform. This module looks at issues of class, gender, race, and their intersectionality and seeks to understand in whose interest systems in society and in education work; how definitions of ability and success work to consolidate advantage and competition, over justice and cooperation.  It will use Foucault’s concept of the Panopticon interlaced with social capital theory and the concept of habitus to understand how oppression works, and whether education and the curriculum go far enough to address issues of equity and social justice. Emancipatory practices that go against the grain will be highlighted.

By the end of this programme, participants should be able to:


a) Use ethnography in the classroom to critically understand how different practices might be working against the interests of the dispossessed;

b) Challenge the common sense understanding of seemingly innocuous run-of-the-mill practices in education;

c) Suggest ways in which such practices should be changed;

d) Use reflective practice to challenge and work upon one’s own assumptions;

e) Redesign curricular materials which give voice to the disadvantaged;

f) Plan strategic ways through which changes can be brought about particularly through collective efforts;

g) Use text analysis and ethnographic research methods within the constraints of being a participant observer;

h) Generate a pedagogy of hope that uses good practices as beacons;

i) Use a critical pedagogy to help students understand better and interpret the world and their position within it.


a) Appreciate that discourse and educational practice is never neutral

b) Describe the theoretical frameworks of social capital and critical theory inter alia;

c) Describe the transformative potential of education and the educator;

d) Identify areas within practice which are strategically important in providing for equity.


a) Apply different theories to everyday experiences to be able to critically interpret them within a broader systemic context;

b) Use different methods of research, particularly ethnography, to gather data and analyse it;

c) Propose classroom strategies, curricular interventions and whole school approaches which can bring about positive change in current practices;

d) Reflect on personal habitus, its implications on participants’ experiences as students and educators;

e) Understand how issues of power and knowledge impact on the life chances of children.

Assessment Methods

This module will be assessed through: Assignment and Reflective Task.

Suggested Readings

Core Reading List
  1. Pahl, K.  (2004).  Narratives, artifacts and cultural identities: An ethnographic study of communicative practices in homes.  Linguistics and Education 15, 339–358.
  2. Chambers, D. W. (2019). Is Freire Incoherent?  Reconciling Directiveness and Dialogue in Freirean Pedagogy. Journal of Philosophy of Education, Vol 53, No. 1

    Chapters in: 

  3. Allan, J. and Catts, R.  (2012).  Social Capital, Children and Young People: Implications for practice, policy and research.  Bristol, UK:  The Polity Press. 

  4. Darder, A, Baltodano, M. P., and Torres, R,  Eds. (2009).  The Critical Pedagogy Reader: Routledge
  5. Borg, C.,Mayo, P. (2006).  Learning and Social Difference; Challenges for Public Education and Critical Pedagogy; Paradigm

  6. Freire, P. (1998). Pedagogy of Freedom, Ethics, Democracy and Civic Courage. Rowan and Littlefield Publishers Inc.

  7. Darder, A., Mayo, P., Paraskeva, J. (2016). International Critical Pedagogy Reader; Routledge

  8. Steinberg, R. S., Down, B. (2020). The SAGE Handbook of Critical Pedagogies; SAGE Publications Ltd
Supplementary Reading List
  1. Freire, P. (1972). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Penguin 
  2. Borg, C., Cardona, M., Caruana, S. (2009). Letter to a teacher; Lorenzo Milani’s Contribution. Agenda
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