The Critical Perspectives on Education programme aims to provide students with the opportunity to engage with a number of disciplines that inform educational theory and practice. In addition it aims to equip students with the knowledge and capacity to undertake empirical and/or non-empirical forms of research related to their chosen domain. The course is comprised of a range of modules that reflect the current research and teaching interests within the School of Education.

Who is this course for?

The programme is intended for persons who wish to gain a comprehensive and contemporary understanding in a number of disciplines that inform educational theory and practice. It is appropriate for practitioners working at all levels in education (primary, post-primary and tertiary) as well as those who have a professional interest in education.

Course Details

In the 22/23 academic year the Critical Perspectives on Education strand will consist of one core module entitled Thinking Education, and three further strand modules chosen from a range of courses to include: Assessment and Evaluation in Education: Issues and Applications, Educational Psychology, Education and Social Policy, History and Historiography of Education, ICTs in Education, Introduction to Language Education, Sociology of Education and Teacher Leadership for 21st Century Schools. However, not all modules may be offered in any given academic year.

The taught component contains four strand modules, with each module containing approximately 25 hours of contact time. Modules will be offered on week day evenings in Trinity College normally from 4-6pm during both Semesters. The modules will take an interactive approach based around relevant readings and student participation. Assessment will be by means of academic papers of approximately 4000-5000 words in length (or equivalent). Activities such as student presentations, case-studies or portfolio type projects may form part of the assessment of some of the modules. Students who have attained a satisfactory level in their module assignments may progress to the dissertation year. This is a research year and the student will be involved in the writing of a dissertation under the guidance of a supervisor. A course in Academic Literacy and Research Methods (ALRM) is a core part of the first year.

Course Modules

The modules are as follows. Please note that not all modules may be offered in any given academic year.

Module Credits
Academic Literacy and Research Methods (ALRM) (core module) 5
Assessment and Evaluation in Education: Issues and Applications 15
Educational Psychology 15
Education and Social Policy 15
History and Historiography of Education 15
ICTs in Education 15
Introduction to Language Education 15
Thinking Education (core module) 10
Sociology of Education 15
Teacher Leadership for 21st Century Schools 15
Total for 5 Modules 60


Students normally select two modules per semester in the case of those intending to complete the course over two years, and one module per semester in the case of those intending to complete it over three years. Please see below for a brief description of each module. These descriptions are designed to assist student in choosing the modules they wish to pursue.

Introduction to Language Education

This module provides an introduction to language education with a special emphasis on language acquisition and classroom discourse. The course will examine first and second language acquisition research and how these are borne out in language acquisition data. It will also explore issues relating to language use in the classroom.

Sociology of Education

This course aims to explore with students (in an active way) a range of sociological perspectives and concepts and their relevance and application to varying contexts of contemporary education. These perspectives are set in an increasingly broad social context: moving from an initial focus on the individual, the family and community (a microscopic view), through to the wider community, society and world (a macroscopic view). Between these will be the role of education and schooling today and an exploration of how society moulds schooling and how individuals/families/communities mould schools (a mesoscopic view). This will be done by looking at key concepts, theorists and questions from sociology over the past century, before looking at more recent theories involving issues such as technology, globalisation, and ecological concerns in today's world. Students will be encouraged to engage in dialogue throughout the course based on distributed readings and class slides and notes, and to either make presentation on readings (individually or collectively) or present finding from their own research.

Assessment and Evaluation in Education: Issues and Applications

This module explores a range of topics associated with student assessment in education. Students are provided with the opportunity to relate contemporary assessment theory with applied practice in Ireland and abroad. Analysis ranges from practice and implications of assessment at the individual and classroom level to more general policy and evaluative functions of assessment at national and international levels. A discursive methodology is employed that encourages students to engage in critical discussion within the class on the basis of focused reading of the literature.

Thinking Education

This module is in two parts. In part one, a series of introductory lectures reviews some of the central ideas of ancient and modern philosophers that have influenced educational theory. Some of the key thinkers include: Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Descartes, Kant, Hegel, Heidegger and Wittgenstein. This background then informs the seminars in the second part which are based on readings in contemporary theory. Students make a presentation on readings in: the nature and status of knowledge in the 21st century, education and the formation of self, critical pedagogy, feminist and post-modernist theory in education, and the ethics of teaching and learning.

ICTs in Education

The module ICTs in education is mainly research/literature based. Consideration of the rationale for technology in education, critique of current policy developments and the learning theories which underpin the use of technology in education are the central foci of this module. Students who have completed this course will have an informed perspective on the issues that surround the use of ICTs in education. In addition, they should be informed decision makers capable of recognising the potential benefits and limitations of using ICTs for teaching and learning purposes.

History and Historiography of Education

The module in history of education assumes a knowledge of the "acts and facts" of Irish and European education from the classical period to the mid-20th century and, for those interested in pursuing research in this field, provides an opportunity to explore issues and debates in historiography as applied to education. Within the module there is an opportunity for students to present their own research in seminars. Topics for study include feminist historiography, Marxist historiography (both as applied the history of education [HoE]) and sources and methods in HoE, including oral history and the 'visual turn'.

Educational Psychology

This course explores psychological theories of development and learning. Biological, behavioural, cognitive, humanistic and psychodynamic theories are considered. There is an emphasis on theory-practice links. The course addresses typical and atypical development (cognitive, social, emotional and physical) especially in childhood and adolescence. There will be a focus on learning issues, for example, learning styles, motivation, individual differences, the nature of intelligence, as well as input on specific topics such as self-esteem, loss (separation and bereavement) and bullying and aggressive behaviour.

Teacher Leadership for 21st Century Schools

The OECD (2007) report Improving School Leadership highlights the growing complexity of schools as learning communities. It identifies the practice of distributive leadership as significant in improving school effectiveness. The role of the teacher in the leadership and management of schools is seen as pivotal to providing quality education for every student. This module addresses the theory and practice of teacher leadership from multiple perspectives: the concept of education and school improvement under broad principles of purpose, values and vision; the theory and practice of school leadership and management; teacher professionalism and professionalisation. Bridging theory and practice, particularly through practitioner inquiry, is central to this module.

Education and Social Policy

As a factor in influencing and impacting upon what occurs in educational institutions, policy in all shapes and forms, is highly significant. The purpose of this module is to critically explore the perpetually changing educational and social policy landscape not only in Ireland but also in Europe and globally as well By drawing on a range of theoretical models both classical and contemporary, students will be encouraged to investigate how these policy environments effect and affect their own professional lives and work.

Teaching and learning strategies

A variety of teaching and learning strategies may be used throughout the programme, including group discussion, presentations, e-learning and online resources, case-studies, lectures and individual reading and research.

Further information

For enquiries about course content please email Keith Johnston Tel: 01 896 3589