Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

To ensure excellence and equity in primary and secondary education, teachers need a developed understanding of the theoretical foundations for education that are drawn from multiple disciplines.

This unit provides an overview of the theoretical foundations of the discipline of Education. These fundamental building blocks serve as pillars that underpin the work of teachers and draw on key ideas generated within the areas of educational psychology, sociology, philosophy, ethics, policy studies and governance. A key thread within this unit is blending knowledge derived from theories of child and adolescent development with understandings of how ethical and cultural contexts impact upon the education systems, and by default on educational opportunity. This unit begins by introducing pre-service teachers to seminal bodies of knowledge from educational sociology and psychology that have framed the profession of teaching and helped educators describe the role of schools and how they connect with society. The unit then moves on to unpack key historical and contemporary educational debates occurring in Australia and the tensions existing around contested notions of equity, quality, efficiency and parental choice.

The aim of this unit is to build professional knowledge and understanding of the complexities of Education, with a particular focus on issues of equity and excellence, for it is only through an awareness of the interrelated nature of the discipline are you be able to respond in an informed, ethical and professional manner as a primary and secondary school teacher.

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.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - investigate the key features of the Australian educational system and demonstrate this understanding in solving problems likely to confront graduate teachers. (GA1, GA3, GA4; APST 1.3, 1.4, 6.4)

LO2 - understand and draw connections between current and future Australian educational policy issues, including that of equity and excellence, and relate these to a variety of audiences associated with schooling, including students, other teachers, parents and the wider community. (GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4; APST 1.4, 3.7, 7.1, 7.2, 7.3)

LO3 - Apply foundational theories in the discipline of education to practical problems involving curriculum, teaching and learning. (GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5; APST 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 2.4, 4.4, 6.1, 7.1, 7.2)

LO4 - Synthesise a personal and professional view of what constitutes excellence and equity in education, informed by foundations of the discipline of Education. (GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10; APST 1.1, 1.2, 1.3)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


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.

1.3 Demonstrate knowledge of teaching strategies that are responsive to the learning strengths and needs of students from diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds.

1.4    Demonstrate broad knowledge and understanding of the impact of culture, cultural identity and linguistic background on the education of students from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds.

2.4 Demonstrate broad knowledge of, understanding of, and respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and languages.

3.7 Describe a broad range of strategies for involving parents/carers in the educative process.

4.4 Describe strategies that support students’ well-being and safety working within school and/or system, curriculum and legislative requirements.

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

6.4 Demonstrate an understanding of the rationale for continued professional learning and the implications for improved student learnings. 

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.

7.3    Understand strategies for working effectively, sensitively and confidentially with parents/carers.


Topics will include:

  • a range of educationally relevant theories and concepts drawn from psychology/learning, philosophy/ethics, and sociology/cultural studies
  • educational policy and governance in advanced liberal societies
  • contemporary education issues and debates in Australian education
  • working with students, parents and the wider community in diverse contexts in order to facilitate cultural awareness and sensitivities

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the teaching period, comprising directed tasks and self-study. An emphasis is placed on 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 enquiry-based, learner-focused and student-centred.

The unit will be delivered through a combination of lectures, tutorials, audio/visual resources and various online activities during the teaching period. This combination ensures that participants can engage with critical literature pertinent to learning outcomes and explore and develop critical understanding by engaging in critical conversations with students to promote learning through a theory-to-practice approach that will be responsive and relevant to the diversity of participants’ current knowledge and ongoing contextual experiences with a key component being the reflexive link between theoretical knowledge and previous/subsequent professional experience placements. Regular engagement with peers and tutors through a range of collaborative activities is essential to achieve the learning outcomes, as successful achievement of the learning outcomes is likely to require participants to challenge pre-conceived notions of education and gain exposure to alternative perspectives generated by collaborators in their learning processes within the unit.

Developmentally, the unit will first engage participants with a range of theoretical perspectives across multiple disciplines that shape the foundations for education in general and within it, the specific discipline of teaching, drawn out of both seminal literature and contemporary research. They will then begin to situate these perspectives in an analysis of educational issues, both broadly (by exploring contemporary issues in education) and specifically (by analysing the specific context of a school). The unit culminates with the participants synthesising their understanding of the content, shaped into a view of educational equity and excellence, informed by the theoretical bases they have studied within the unit, their own personal critical reflections, and their more recent direct experiences engaging in a relevant school context.

Technology Enhanced Learning

The unit will include a Learning Environment Online (LEO) site with resources and online links, announcements, and a discussion board to post questions and reflections that promote connection between on-campus content and school experiences. It may include:

  • Online review exercises.
  • Discussion board to exchange ideas and refine learning.
  • Online tutorial activities

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.(

Each assessment item will require pre-service to consider the interrelated foundations inherent within the discipline of Education. This will involve applying theories of psychology, sociology and philosophy to the issue under examination and the implications these have for teaching practice as a graduate teacher. The assessment strategy used allows pre-service teachers to demonstrate knowledge related to literature and data analysis in a theoretical and practical manner. Each assessment task and associated weighting will allow the pre-service teacher to progressively demonstrate their success in terms of achieving the stated learning outcomes. The initial task provides an opportunity to demonstrate a broad understanding of the theoretical foundations that inform and influence teaching, and the use of a group presentation will ensure participants develop a peer-informed understanding of the diverse and complex perspectives that teachers must draw upon to make informed pedagogical judgments. A school case study then enables participants to apply this knowledge more explicitly to the context in which theory meets practice, a school. While the first two assessment tasks provide the opportunity to meet learning outcomes by focusing on specific aspects of Australian schooling or examining a school in context, the final task provides the opportunity to synthesise a broad understanding of education, informed not only by the theoretical foundations established within the unit, but also their experiences analysing and applying learning to practical issues and school contexts. The assessment tasks are designed in sequence to allow for feedback and progressive development across the unit. 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.

Electronic Submission, Marking and Return

All tasks will be submitted electronically within the LEO (Learning Environment Online) website for this unit. The presentation component of Assessment Task 1 will be presented live online.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1 

Group Presentation, Discussion and Report 

Small group responsible for preparing a presentation, class discussion and report examining and describing a key aspect of Australian schooling through the contrasting lenses of both psychology and sociology.


LO1, LO2, LO3 

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5

Assessment Task 2

School Case study 

Conduct an in-depth analysis of specific school. This analysis must draw on the issues/concepts/content covered in this unit and demonstrate how this impact the school in distinct ways.


LO2, LO3 

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5

Assessment Task 3

Critical Reflection on Educational Equity and Excellence  

Develop an articulated vision for excellence and equity in education. This reflection must draw connections between theoretical bases covered in this unit, paired with personal reflection and professional experiences to date.


LO2, LO3, LO4 

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10

Representative texts and references

Required texts

Margetts, K., & Woolfolk, A. (2019). Educational psychology (5th ed.). Melbourne, Vic: Pearson Education Australia. Online resource.

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

Recommended references

Andrews, D. J. C., Brown, T., Castillo, B. M., Jackson, D., & Vellanki, V. (2019). Beyond damage-centered teacher education: Humanizing pedagogy for teacher educators and preservice teachers. Teachers College Record, 121(6).

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

Council, E. (2019). Alice Springs (Mparntwe) education declaration.

Emerson, L., Fear, J., Fox, S., & Sanders, E. (2012). Parental engagement in learning and schooling: Lessons from research. A report by the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) for the Family-School and Community Partnerships Bureau: Canberra.

Ewing, R., Kervin, L., Glass, C., Gobby, B., Le Cornu, R., & Groundwater-Smith, S. (2019). Teaching: Dilemmas, challenges and opportunities. Cengage AU.

Freire, P. (2018). Pedagogy of the oppressed (50th anniversary ed.). New York, NY: Bloomsbury Academic.

Labaree, D. F. (1997). Public goods, private goods: The American struggle over educational goals. American educational research journal, 34(1), 39-81.

Ladson‐Billings, G. (1995). But that's just good teaching! The case for culturally relevant pedagogy. Theory into practice, 34(3), 159-165.

Lamb, S., Jackson, J., Walstab, A., & Huo, S. (2015). Educational opportunity in Australia 2015: Who succeeds and who misses out. Centre for International Research on Education Systems, Victoria University, for the Mitchell Institute, Melbourne: Mitchell Institute.  

McInerney, D. M. (2018). Educational psychology: Constructing learning (6th ed.). Frenchs Forest, NSW: Pearson Education Australia.

Tefera, A. A., Powers, J. M., & Fischman, G. E. (2018). Intersectionality in education: A conceptual aspiration and research imperative. Review of Research in Education, 42(1), p.vii-xvii.

Zygmunt, E. M., [CG1] & Cipollone, K. (2019). Community-engaged teacher education and the work of social justice. Journal of Family & Consumer Sciences, 111(1).

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