Skip to main content


EDU3002 : Social Justice and Education

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Heather Smith
  • Lecturer: Dr Gareth Longstaff, Miss Lydia Wysocki, Dr Gail Edwards, Dr Chris Haywood, Dr James Stanfield, Dr Maria Mroz, Dr Wilma Barrow, Professor Liz Todd, Professor Caroline Walker-Gleaves
  • Owning School: Education, Communication & Language Sci
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


Over the course of this module students will:
• Understand that social justice and equality are concepts understood differently according to their situatedness within particular theoretical paradigms.
• Understand how different conceptions of equality are reflected in education policies, and the impact of this on educational practices.
• For example, understand how the process of labelling children as having particular needs alongside the labels themselves are constitutive of particular sociological constructions of equality and justice.
• Know that education outcomes vary according to pupil characteristics such as class and race, and be able to articulate whether they understand this to mean the existence of inequities within the education system and provide a rationale for this response.
• Be able to argue for a model of social justice explaining how it is situated theoretically thereby demonstrating an understanding of coherence and contestation between theories.
• Be able to use this model to explore an education problem relating to social justice, explaining why they understand this as a problem and posing potential solutions.

Outline Of Syllabus

This module aims to equip students with an understanding of theoretical perspectives on social justice and provide explanations as to how these theories/perspectives influence perceptions of equality in education. The module consists of three stages conceptually linked and developmentally progressive. Stage one introduces a range of theories of social justice such as: Marxism; Critical Race theory and critical whiteness; and neo-liberalism. The concepts involved, such as social class and race, will build on those developed in the education foundation module EDU1001. Students will be supported in understanding the overlaps and tensions between theories and therefore different conceptualisations of the term equality from notions of equity (just/fair outcomes for the public good) to equal opportunities (remedial provision for competition between individuals in a meritocracy). Students will be involved in discussing critical overarching questions such as; ‘what do we mean by justice or fairness?’; ‘what is the relationship between individuals and society, structure and agency?’. They will also be involved in more detailed questions within each paradigm, such as ‘what key points of Marx’s philosophy are most significant for a socially just education?’, or ‘to what extent do we live in a post racial society’?
Building on this, stage two will apply the tenets of social justice as situated theoretically to the field of education in a study of, for example: class and equality. Several themes will be explored within these studies including: language, curriculum (including the hidden curriculum), deficit ideology, policy, education outcomes, performativity and accountability. Given statistics revealing unequal education outcomes, students will be required to consider reasons for this. It is expected that students’ earlier conceptualisations around the meaning of equality will be challenged as some dissonance is likely to occur given the contextualised nature of discussions at this stage.
Finally, students will apply this developing understanding of social justice to specific education populations such as children labelled as having: special educational needs (SEN); dyslexia; ‘poor language skills’, behavioural difficulties; English as an additional language; and those labelled as gifted and talented (G&T). Students will be expected to critique both the process of labelling and the labels attached to particular populations, and question how these relate to education policies meant to ‘cater’ for children’s specific needs. This critique will draw on and in turn further develop their understandings both of social justice/equality per se, and its application to the field of education. Students will be expected by this stage to provide more concrete understandings of why this happens.
By the end of the module students will argue for a model of social justice explaining how it is situated theoretically thereby demonstrating an understanding of coherence and contestation between theories. Their model of social justice will then be used as a lens through which to explore solutions to an educational ‘problem’ based on aspects raised in the module or of their own choice. Students will also be aware that the act of naming a problem will in itself be reflective of the paradigm of social justice within which they are working.

PART 1 - overarching theories      
1       Intro - Equality vs equity basic principles
2       Marxism
3       CRT/CWS
4       Theories of justice
5       Neoliberalism - Seminar replaced by support for part 1 essay
PART 1 sessions for essay 1
PART 2 - tenets       relation to policies
5       Class
6       Race/language
7       Sexuality
8       Gender
PART 3 – individuals/groups - Critiquing labelling and/or resource allocation
9       Pupils labelled as having: SEN/dyslexia/’poor language skills’ versus gifted and talented -       Labelling special needs
10       Pupils labelled as having: Emotional/behavioural difficulties -       Labelling for behaviour
11 Looked after childern

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture112:0022:00Present in person
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials111:0011:00Asynchronous online: videos, podcasts, reflective tasks, data analysis tasks
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion130:0030:00Essay preparation
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion178:0078:00Poster or video preparation
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching22:004:00Assessment preparation seminars
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching11:001:00Session will involve the presentation of posters.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching101:0010:00Present in person - Seminars based on lectures and small group sessions
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study114:0044:00Engagement with readings for seminars
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

This module presents concepts and data on social justice within lectures. Because of the nature of the subject for this module, however, it is felt that some material which is intellectually and socially challenging (e.g. homophobia and racism) is best approached through small group taught sessions, which allow for a more discursive approach. Although all lectures will be interactive, students are given an opportunity to discuss issues highlighted in the lectures, or of concern to them, together with texts supportive of the concepts presented in lectures, in far more depth within small group seminars following each lecture. Voicing one’s own understanding and listening to others within such a context supports the eventual goal of understanding and being able to articulate one’s own theoretical and political position in relation to others’ in terms of models of social justice within education.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Poster2M70Poster/Video Naming a problem within education and proposing possible solution(s).Poster/video & presentation.
Essay2M30Presentation of an argument for a model of social justice. Essay 2000 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The first part of the module assessment is an essay which will require students to present an argument for a particular epistemological position in relation to theories of social justice and education and their relationship to political positions. In doing so they must critique other positions, thereby demonstrating knowledge of the field. It is important for students to position themselves in relation to the literature at this early stage, in order that they understand what the equality issues are in relation to tenets, education policies and effects for groups and individuals, aspects which are presented later in the module.

The module has at its core a transformative approach; hence rather than the students’ ideas and arguments being seen only by those who teach and mark the module, they have an opportunity to persuade a particular audience of their choosing of a proposed solution to a perceived problem in education relating to social justice. This will take the form of either a poster or a short video (around 10 minutes in length). They will then have 10 - 15 minutes to present this poster to an invited group of their chosen audience. The audience can then ask up to 3 questions to clarify or ask for extensions to the arguments presented. Feedback from the audience will be considered in marking the work in terms of the effectiveness of the product to communicate effectively to the chosen audience.

Reading Lists