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Unit rationale, description and aim

To understand the education systems in the 21st century requires knowledge of educational philosophies and theories.

This unit introduces pre-service teachers to foundational ideas in the study of the discipline of education and examines how philosophical schools of thought continue to have relevance for education today. Significant educational philosophies and theories over time, as well as conceptual tools for use in thinking about contemporary issues in educational approaches, will be explored to identify the relationship between philosophy, theory and educational practice. Analysis of key issues will include an understanding of the human person, the nature of educational aims and goals, the history of schooling and prior to school learning in Australia, contemporary approaches to education as well as current educational debates. The unit will also introduce the necessary values, attitudes and professional responsibilities of educators and explore the legal, social and ethical responsibilities associated with being a member of the teaching profession, including child protection requirements, Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (APST), Catholic Social Teaching and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspectives. This unit poses to pre-service teachers the important question of what is at stake in our understandings, beliefs and values of education.  

The aim of this unit is to support pre-service teachers’ acquisition and development of knowledge of influential philosophical and theoretical thought that continues to inform and influence contemporary Education.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome DescriptionRelevant Graduate Capabilities
LO1List some of the central questions and figures in the philosophy of educationGC1, GC2, GC7, GC9
LO2Evaluate the relationship between philosophy, theory and educational practice (APST 6.1, 7.1, 7.2; ACECQA C7, E2, E3, F3)GC1, GC2, GC3, GC11
LO3Explain the legal, social and ethical responsibilities associated with being a member of the teaching profession (APST 6.1, 7.1, 7.2; ACECQA E3, F3)GC6, GC10, GC11
LO4Analyse the historical, philosophical and sociocultural contexts of education (APST 1.1, 1.2; ACECQA A3, E3)GC5, GC8, GC9, GC11


On successful completion of this unit, pre-service teachers should be able to:

1.1 Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics of students and how these may affect learning.

1.2 Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of research into how students learn and the implications for teaching.

6.1 Demonstrate an understanding of the role of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers in identifying professional learning needs.

7.1 Understand and apply the key principles described in codes of ethics and conduct for the teaching profession.

7.2 Understand the relevant legislative, administrative and organisational policies and processes required for teachers according to school stage.

ACECQA Curriculum Specifications

On successful completion of this unit, pre-service teachers should have developed the following specific knowledge:

A Child development and Care

A3 social and emotional development

C Teaching pedagogies

C7 contemporary society and pedagogy

E History and philosophy of early childhood

E2 contemporary theories and practice

E3 ethics and professional practice

F Early childhood professional practice

F3 professional identity and development


Topics will include:

  • Anthropological understanding of the human person
  • Overview of the discipline of education
  • The philosophy of education
  • Studies in educational thought
  • The aims of education: From radicalism and conservatism
  • The history of schooling and prior to school learning in Australia
  • The moral, legal and ethical dimensions of teaching
  • Curriculum, knowledge and pedagogy
  • The social foundations of contemporary learning from birth and beyond
  • Conceptualising the child and family
  • Contemporary debates in education (e.g. globalisation, educational governance; equity, justice and fairness; inclusion; belonging)
  • Imaging education futures: your future in the profession
  • Contemporary Standards Frameworks: Australian Professional Standards for Teachers, National Quality Framework

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit has been designed to require approximately 150 hours of learning in total across the teaching period. It positions pre-service teachers as adult learners with responsibility for their own learning and who are capable of problem solving. The learning in this unit is inquiry-based and learner-focused.

A variety of teaching and learning approaches will be used to meet the learning outcomes, utlising combinations of face-to-face and/or online learning. This includes learning activities such as reading, reflection, discussion, formative writing tasks, and engagement with webinars, podcasts, recorded lecture materials and video resources. Asynchronous communications via the unit’s Learning Management System site also contribute to the overall learning environment. 

Lectures and/or online modules will interactively explain and explore key problems and ideas addressed in the unit. Tutorials involve discussion, analysis and shared application of this material with the aid of education-based case studies. Active learning and engagement is thereby encouraged, in the process of consolidating key content, applying knowledge to problem-solving tasks, and developing skills in analysis and evaluation. In this way, students also gain an understanding of the diverse points of view of their peers.

Modes of delivery: This unit may be offered in different modes to cater to the learning needs and preferences of a range of participants:

  • On Campus: Most learning activities or classes are delivered at a scheduled time, on campus, to enable in-person interactions. Activities will appear in students’ timetables.
  • Multi-mode: Learning activities are delivered through a planned mix of scheduled online and on-campus classes, which may include some intensive full-day or half-day sessions.
  • Online scheduled: All learning activities are held via scheduled live online interactive classes, that will appear in students’ timetables.
  • Online unscheduled: Learning activities are accessible anytime, anywhere, and are completed outside of  timetabled classes.
  • ACU Online: The unit may be offered in online unscheduled mode via ACU Online. In this mode, students are encouraged to contribute to asynchronous weekly discussions, and they receive regular and timely feedback on their learning. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

A range of assessment procedures are used to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes and professional standards and criteria consistent with University assessment requirements. (

The assessment tasks for this unit employ a range of approaches which cater for different learning preferences of pre-service teachers. The tasks are designed to demonstrate achievement of each learning outcome and develop graduate attributes consistent with university assessment requirements.

The assessment tasks are designed in sequence so as to allow for feedback and progressive development across the unit. The first assessment task is a low stakes multi media task that enables pre-service teachers to develop a philosophical stance and demonstrate their knowledge of content. It is an early low-weighted assessment task which provides feedback to pre-service teachers within the first six weeks of the standard semester. This task enables the teaching staff to identify pre-service teachers who are experiencing difficulties understanding the unit content and articulating their knowledge. These students will be advised to seek assistance from the Academic Skills unit or their tutor. The second assessment enables the pre-service teacher to build upon, analyse and apply their knowledge of education philosophies. The final task is an extended written task which quantifies the breadth of learning and understanding of the educational philosophies and issues in education.

Minimum Achievement Standards+

The assessment tasks and their weighting for this unit are designed to demonstrate achievement of each learning outcome. In order to pass this unit, students are required to submit all assessment tasks, meet the learning outcomes of the unit and achieve a minimum overall passing grade of 50%.

Electronic Submission, Marking and Return

Electronic submission is used for submitting, marking, and returning of assessment tasks. Assessment tasks will be returned within three weeks of submission.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Assessment Task 1: Short Multi Media task

Development of personal teaching statement to demonstrate reflection and understanding of elements of Module 1.


LO1, LO2

Assessment Task 2: Critical Written analysis

An analysis of a contemporary philosophical theories in education.


LO2, LO3, LO4

Assessment Task 3: Extended Reflection and application task

Conceptualising your professional identity through an examination of  an educational controversy and its relationship to foundational concerns in education:

a. Educational philosophies

b. Contemporary approaches and issues in education

c. Australian Education

d. Legal, social and ethical responsibilities of the teaching profession


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

Representative texts and references

Required text(s)

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). (2022, November). Australian Curriculum

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). (2022, November).

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. (2017).

Relevant State and Territory curriculum documents. A Research Paper to inform the development of an Early Years Learning Framework for Australia (2022, May 25).

Recommended references

Biesta, G.J.J. (2019). Should teaching be re(dis)covered? Introduction[LD1] to a symposium. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 38, 549-553.

Biesta, G.J.J. (2019). What kind of society does the school need? Redefining the democratic work of education in impatient times. Studies in Philosophy and Education., 38, 657-668.

Blair, N. (2015). Aboriginal Education: More than adding perspectives. In Noelene L. Weatherby- Fell (Ed). Learning to Teach in the Secondary School. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp.189-208.

Bryon, W. (1999). Framing the Principles of Catholic Social Thought. Catholic Education: A Journal of Inquiry and Practice. 3, 1, Article 4.

Campbell, C., & Proctor, H. (2014). A history of Australian schooling. Melbourne, Vic: Allen & Unwin.

Campbell, E. (2008). The ethical teacher. Berkshire and New York: Open University Press.

Congregation for Catholic Education. (2017). Educating to fraternal humanism: Building a civilisation of love

Smeyers, P. (2018). International Handbook of Philosophy of Education (1st ed.), Springer International Handbooks of Education. Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Tait, G. (2019). Making sense of mass education (3rd ed.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Welch, A., & Connell, R. (2018). Education, change and society (4th ed.). South Melbourne, Vic: Oxford University Press.

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