University of Technology Sydney

013403 The School in the Context of Contemporary Society

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2020 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Education: International Studies and Global Societies
Credit points: 6 cp

Subject level:


Result type: Grade, no marks

There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.


This subject investigates the social, political and economic contexts in which contemporary schools, in particular secondary schools, operate. It links these contexts to research into social theories which seek to explain how these forces interact. It explores the ways in which social, political, cultural and economic factors interact in the Australian context to shape the nature of our schools and classrooms, influence educational policy and impact educational outcomes. The subject focuses on a critical–reflective, research-based approach to educational practices and beliefs which enable students to interrogate and understand the ways in which educational practices and pedagogies are socially and historically constructed. It also explores the ways in which educational practices construct identity and shape societal norms. Some of the following issues are examined: social theories and the process of socialisation in schools; forms of capital, poverty and disadvantage; globalisation; global understandings; gender; and multicultural education and the application of culturally responsive practices in schools.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

a. Analyse how schools operate and recognise that they are an integral part of contemporary society (GTS 7.1, 7.2)
b. Critically reflect on how schooling is influenced by social cultural, economic and political factors (GTS 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 2.4, 7.1, 7.2) (PA 1.1, 1.2, 6.1, 6.2)
c. Develop a critical-reflective approach to educational practices and beliefs (GTS 6.2)
d. Analyse a range of sociological theories, research and viewpoints in education, and how they inform how students learn. (GTS 1.2) (GTS 6.2) (PA 6.1, 6.2)
e. Assess educational outcomes in terms of a broad range of social, economic and political factors in respect of such issues as gender cultural diversity; social justice and equity and key current issues in education (GTS 1.3, 1.4, 1.5) (PA 1.1, 1.7, 1.10, 1.11, 6.3, 6.4, 6.5, 6.6)
f. Demonstrate knowledge of teaching strategies that are responsive to the learning strengths and needs of students from diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds. (GTS 1.3)
g. Effectively communicate the contested nature of key aspects of education (GTS 7.4)
h. Critically analyse the impact of ICT on secondary education and what this means for educational relevance to gender, diversity and sustainability issues (GTS 4.5)

Contribution to the development of graduate attributes

This subject addresses the following Course Intended Learning Outcomes:

1. Professional readiness

1.3) Plan for and implement effective teaching and learning with an advanced knowledge of educational practice, pedagogy, policy, curriculum and systems

1.5) Engage in professional learning, demonstrating complex problem solving and intellectual independence in a research project

2. Critical and creative inquiry

2.1) Enquire into and research practice to improve educational experiences and outcomes

2.2) Critically analyse and reflect on and synthesise complex theories of learning and teaching

3. International and intercultural engagement

3.1) Demonstrate extensive knowledge and respect for diverse societies, cultures and an ability to inform inclusive practices

5. Active citizenship

5.1) Engage professionally with colleagues, parents/carers and the community with a high level of personal autonomy

5.2) Are professionals with a profound ethical foundation and sense of social responsibility and a commitment to social justice

6. Effective communication

6.1) Assess, provide feedback and report on student learning

6.2) Possess literacy and numeracy skills across a broad range of communication modes and technologies

6.3) Are effective communicators, highly skilled in new literacies, able to justify and interpret professional decisions to specialist and non-specialist audiences

Teaching and learning strategies

Students will experience the learning in this subject through the following collaborative and active processes that involve: a combination of short lectures; tutorial discussions; online communication; group presentations and observations of workplace practices; and research based assignments.

Students are expected to come to tutorials having read set readings on the specific issue ready to engage in discussion on classroom practice being discussed that week. They will be involved in preparing presentations as part of their assessment. They will be required to overview and watch specific videos created with the assistance of the Teaching, Technologies and Innovation Support Unit. Students should refer to UTSOnline for further details on these activities.

Content (topics)

The focus of this subject is on the following issues: The profession of teaching in a changing world and the evolution of our free, secular and compulsory education system. Sociological theories, the construction of knowledge and the process of socialisation in education. Theoretical underpinnings of what constitutes Social and Cultural Capital; The factors and stakeholders that shape and construct the curriculum. Issues related to student achievement and equity; societal constructs related to gender and its impact in the classroom; teaching in diverse contexts – how to deal with multicultural settings in schools working with Indigenous students. Its final session will analyse the nature of 21st Century learning, being global citizens in a technologically enhanced world and what this means for students both in the Australian and international context.


Assessment task 1: Review of article


a, b, c, d, e, f, g and h

Weight: 20%

Maximum 500 words

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Effective summary of the issues under discussion 20 b, c, d 1.3
Discussion of the quality of the ideas presented 30 c, f 2.1
Clarity of review and relevance of the issue to education 20 a, d 3.1
Reference to other academic readings on the issues under discussion 20 b, d, h 5.1
Competence in effective communication, spelling, grammar, punctuation, referencing and essay structure and layout 10 a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h 6.1
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Assessment task 2: Submission to Minister of Education


a, b, c, d, e, f, g and h

Weight: 30%

Part a: 15 minute presentation

Part b: 1000 words

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Clearly present the topic under discussion, the group being represented and the context of the topic 10 a, b 3.1
Effective and relevant use of scholarly readings, lecture notes and online materials 40 d, f, h 2.2
Provide well-considered arguments and recommendations and the resources needed to meet them 30 a, b, e 5.1
Demonstrate technical competence in relation to spelling, grammar, punctuation, essay structure, APA referencing system and layout 10 a, b, c, d, e, f, g 6.2
Engage in online discussion related to your issues in which you engage with your peers 10 c, f, g, h 6.1
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Assessment task 3: Current Issues in Education major essay


a, b, c, d, e, f, g and h

Weight: 50%

2000 words

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Capacity to clearly outline the aims and objectives of the project/task- define the issue under discussion 10 a, b, e 1.5
Relevance of scholarly readings, lecture notes and online communication 20 e, f 2.1
Strength of arguments, evidence based analysis, evaluations of readings and conclusions 30 b, c 5.1
Analysis and understanding of sociological concepts and the interplay between individuals, society and schools 30 a, e, f, h 5.2
Competence in spelling, grammar, punctuation, referencing and essay structure and layout 10 a, b, c, d, e, g 6.3
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Minimum requirements

In order for students to gain a comprehensive understanding of issues complexity of issues in this subject it is important that students attend lectures and tutorials to discuss and share ideas about this topic and its place in contemporary society. Involvement in assessment tasks is mandatory and it is expected that students will engage in collegial activities if required. Students who fail to attend 8 of the 9 classes without a valid reason and documentation in relation to illness or misadventure may be refused to have their final assessment marked (see Rule 3.8)

Required texts

Welch, A., Connell, R., Mockler, N., Sriprakash, A., Proctor, H., Hayes, D., Foley, D., Vickers. M., Bagnall, N., Burns, K., Low, R., and Groundwater-Smith, S., (2017). Education, Change and Society. Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press, South Melb. VIC.

UTSOnline will be a major source of learning resoruces for this subject (e.g., assigned readings, videos, YouTube clips). New times will be added over the session so be sure to log in on a regular basis.


NSW DEC (2013). Great Teaching, Inspired Learning. What does the evidence tell us about effective teaching. Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, NSW Department of Education.

Baak, M. (2019). Racism and Othering for South Sudanese heritage students in Australian schools: is inclusion possible?. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 23(2), 125-141.

Bahr, N., & Mellor, S., (2016). Buidling Quality in Teaching and in Teacher Education. Australian Education Review. Australian Council for Educational Research, Camberwell Vic: AECR Press.

Ballantine, J., Hammack, F., & Stuber, J. (2017). The sociology of education: A systemic analysis. New York: Routledge.

Burgess, C., Tennent, C., Vass, G., Guenther, J., Lowe, K., & Moodie, N. (2019). A systematic review of pedagogies that support, engage and improve the educational outcomes of Aboriginal students. The Australian Educational Researcher, 46(2), 297-318.

Burridge, N., Chodkiewcz, A., Payne, AM., Oguro, S., Varnham, S., & Buchanan, J. (2013). Human Rights Education in Australian Schools. Report for the Australian Attorney General’s Office. Sydney: UTS Publishing Service.

Burridge, N., Whalan, F., and Vaughan, K., (2012). Indigenous Education: A learning journey for teachers, schools and communities. Rotterdam: Sense Publishing.

Burridge, N., Buchanan, J., Chodkiewicz, A. (2009). Dealing with difference: Building culturally responsive classrooms, Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Journal, 1(3).

Chodkiewicz, A., & Burridge N., (2013) Addressing diversity in schools: Policies, programs and local realities. In A. Jakubowicz, & C. Ho (2013). ‘For those who have come across the sea’: Australian Multiculturalism Theory, Policy and Practice (pp. 210-22).. Australian Scholarly Publishing.

Gale, T., Mills, C., & Cross, R. (2017). Socially inclusive teaching: Belief, design, action as pedagogic work. Journal of Teacher Education, 68(3), 345-356.

Gilbert, R., & Gilbert, P. (2017). Masculinity goes to school. New York: Routledge.

Jin, J., & Ball, S. J. (2020). Meritocracy, social mobility and a new form of class domination. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 41(1), 64-79.

Keddie, A., & Holloway, J. (2019). School autonomy, school accountability and social justice: stories from two Australian school principals. School Leadership & Management, 1-15.

Leahy, D., & Selwyn, N. (2019). Public Opinions on Australian Schools & Schooling. Education Futures, Monash University.

Mills, C., & Gale, T. (2009). Schools in disadvantaged communities: Playing the game from the back of the field. Heidelberg, Germany: Springer.

Ravitch, D. (2016). The death and life of the great American school system: How testing and choice are undermining education. Basic Books.

Selwyn, N., Nemorin, S., Bulfin, S., & Johnson, N. F. (2017). Everyday schooling in the digital age: High school, high tech?. Routledge.

Smith, L.D. & Lovat, T. J. (2003). Curriculum and sociology. In Curriculum, Action on Reflection. Social Science Press, 61- 76.

Te Riele, K. (2009). Making schools different: Alternative approaches to educating young people. Sage, Warriewood, Sydney, Australia: Sage.

Thomson, P. (2003). Vicki and Thanh. In Schooling the Rustbelt kids: Making the difference in changing times, Paul & Co Publishing Consortium.

Williamson, B. (2020). Datafication of education: A critical appraoch to emerging analytics technologeis and practices. In H. Beetham & R. Sharpe (Eds.), Rethinking pedagogy for a digital age: principles and practices of design (pp. 212-226). New York: Routledge.