EDUC20030 Key Ideas in Education

Academic Year 2023/2024

This module offers an introduction to the history, sociology, and philosophy of education. It will take a broad view of education, drawing on examples from primary, secondary, and third-level settings.

The module will commence by examining the historical context for the structure of the Irish educational system. It will then move to an interrogation of the most pressing questions facing students and teachers today, including:
1. What are the historical and sociological factors that determine educational outcomes?
2. In the school and university setting, what are the social barriers to participation and voice?
3. How might a student’s identity (e.g. their gender, their ethnicity, their social class) impact on their experience at school/university?
4. What do we mean by ‘inclusive education’?
5. What do we mean by ‘educational disadvantage’?
6. And what is the role of the school as well as the university in the development of a thoughtful citizenry?
In order to stimulate informed and lively discussion, students will be introduced to a broad range of relevant and provocative readings. Throughout the module, they will be encouraged also to share their own experiences of school and university. No prior knowledge of history, sociology, or philosophy will be assumed.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be able to:

1. Communicate clearly and confidently, both verbally and in writing, on key concepts in the history, sociology, and philosophy of Education
2. Explore these concepts with reference to the Irish as well as the international educational scene
3. Demonstrate the ability to understand and critique contemporary scholarship in educational studies
4. Demonstrate an understanding of the P4C (Philosophy for Children) pedagogy

Indicative Module Content:

Key Ideas in Education, EDUC20030

Indicative Module Content:

Week 1 13.09 Judith Harford & Áine Mahon, Introduction to Key Ideas in Education

Week 2 20.09 Judith Harford, Tracing the Historical Contours of Irish Education

Week 3 27.09 Judith Harford & Áine Mahon, Guidance on Assessment

Week 4 04.10 Judith Harford, Governance and Power in Irish Education

Week 5 11.10 Judith Harford, Gendering the Narrative

Week 6 18.10 Judith Harford, Education for All? A Spotlight on Equity

Week 7 25.10 Judith Harford & Áine Mahon, Fireside Chat with Professional Masters of Education (PME) students:
What is it like to be a teacher?

Week 8 01.11 Áine Mahon, Philosophy for Children: Theory and Practice

Week 9 08.11 Áine Mahon, Education and Creativity

Week 10 15.11 Áine Mahon, Belonging and Alienation in the Contemporary University

Week 11 22.11 Áine Mahon, Philosophy, Education, and Mental Health

Week 12 29.11 Judith Harford & Áine Mahon, Module Review and Reflection

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Seminar (or Webinar)




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Lecture-based approach that employs a P4C (Philosophy for Children) pedagogy

Students and lecturer will engage in discussions that are grounded in key ideas and texts. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Continuous Assessment: This module will be assessed via two distinct components:
20%: Preparation and Participation
80%: Opinion Piece (1500 words) or Podcast Episode (10 minutes)
Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded Yes


Carry forward of passed components
Remediation Type Remediation Timing
In-Module Resit Prior to relevant Programme Exam Board
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Not yet recorded.

Key Ideas in Education Reading List

Biesta, Gert. 2016. “The Rediscovery of Teaching: On robot vacuum cleaners, non-egological education and the limits of the hermeneutical world view”, Educational Philosophy and Theory, 48:4.
Fahie, D. (2017) Faith of Our Fathers - lesbian, gay and bisexual teachers' attitudes towards the teaching of religion in Irish denominational primary schools. Irish Educational Studies 36 (1), 9-24
Fahie, D. (2016) “‘Spectacularly exposed and vulnerable"– how Irish equality legislation subverted the personal and professional security of lesbian, gay and bisexual teachers. Sexualities 19: 393-411. doi: 10.1177/1363460715604331
Farrell, Emma and Áine Mahon. 2021. “Understanding Student Mental Health: Difficulty, Deflection, and Darkness”, Ethics and Education 16:1
Fleming, B. and Harford, J. (2014) 'Irish Education Policy in the 1960s: A Decade of Transformation'. History of Education, 43, (5), pp. 635–656.
Fleming, B. Harford, J. (2021) 'The DEIS Programme as a Policy aimed at Combating Educational Disadvantage: Fit for Purpose?' Irish Educational Studies, doi: 10.1080/03323315.2021.1964568.
Harford, J. (2008) The Opening of University Education to Women in Ireland. Dublin: Irish Academic Press.
Harford (2021) Piety and Privilege: Catholic Secondary Schooling in Ireland and the Theocratic State, 1922-67, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Harford, J, Fleming, B. & Hyland, A. (2022) Rethinking Educational Disadvantage, Special Issue of Irish Educational Studies, London: Taylor & Francis.
Harford, J. (2018) (ed.) Education for All? The Legacy of Free Post-Primary Education, Oxford: Peter Lang.
Lim, J. H. (2008). The road not taken: Two african-american girls' experiences with school mathematics. Race, Ethnicity and Education, 11(3), 303-317.
Macfarlane, Bruce. 2016. Freedom to Learn: The Threat to Student Academic Freedom and Why It Needs to be Reclaimed. London: Routledge.
Mahon, Áine. 2021. The Promise of the University: Reclaiming Humanity, Humility, and Hope
Dordrecht: Springer.
Mahon, Áine. 2021. “Towards a Higher Education: Contemplation, Compassion, and the Ethics of Slowing Down”, Educational Philosophy and Theory 53:5
McAvinue, L. P. (2018). Oral language and socioeconomic status: The Irish context. Irish Educational Studies, 37 (4), 475-503.
O'Donoghue, T. and Harford, J. (2011) 'A Comparative History of Church-State Relations in Irish Education'. Comparative Education Review, vol. 55, issue 3, pp. 315–341.
O’ Donoghue, T. and Harford, J. (2021) Piety and Privilege: Catholic Secondary
Schooling in Ireland and the Theocratic State, 1922-67. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Reay, D. (2006). The zombie stalking English schools: Social class and educational inequality. British Journal of Educational Studies, 54(3), 288-307.
Swain, J. (2000). 'the money's good, the fame's good, the girls are good': The role of playground football in the construction of young boys' masculinity in a junior school. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 21(1), 95-109.
Sparks, H. (2018). ‘The right to aspire to achieve': Performing gendered and class privilege at elite private schools in Auckland, New Zealand. Gender, Place and Culture : A Journal of Feminist Geography, 25(10), 1492-1513.
Vansieleghem, Nancy and David Kennedy. 2011. “What is Philosophy for Children, What is Philosophy with Children – after Matthew Lipman?”, Journal of Philosophy of Education 45:2.
Name Role
Dr Declan Fahie Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Ms Aine Mahon Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Áine Mahon Tutor
Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12 Wed 14:00 - 15:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 3, 5, 9 Wed 14:00 - 15:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 4 Wed 14:00 - 15:50