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  • Term Mode
  • Semester 2Online Unscheduled



Unit rationale, description and aim

Education research is a distinct ‘stand-alone’ multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary field that is underpinned by a variety of theoretical discourses. Understanding theory in research guides design, supports interpretation, facilitates generalisation, and informs future research. Increasingly, contemporary educators are required to draw upon, and apply educational research to better understand not only teaching and learning but also a range of other concerns impacting on schooling and society. 

In this unit novice researchers will be introduced to the considerations and challenges of theory in education research and the importance of understanding the foundation of these discourses when applying research to practice. Supported by engagement with close readings of seminal and contemporary research, they will be introduced to different ways of looking at education research through the lens of theory with a focused case study of the relationship between social theory, education research and social change. Students will be encouraged to critically examine questions related to equity, opportunity, access, and social change. The unit is structured to allow students to engage with the complexities of relationships between theory and practice in education research through the design of a project problem statement framed by theory.

The aim of this unit is to provide students with an advanced understanding of the role of theory in research and to equip them with the knowledge to frame a theoretically informed research project that is of relevance to schools and that also contributes to the broader aims of human dignity and the common good.

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
LO1Interpret education research focussing on theory in the areas of teaching, learning, teacher development, and societal, cultural or critical studies in education (APST 7.1)GC1, GC2, GC3, GC7, GC9, GC11
LO2Critically evaluate educational theory that addresses questions related to equity, opportunity, access, and / or social change in schools (APST 4.1, 7.1)GC1, GC2, GC3, GC6, GC7, GC8, GC9, GC11
LO3Design a practitioner led research project framed by theoretical discussion in an area related to equity, opportunity, access, and /or social change in school (APST 1.3, 7.4)GC1, GC2, GC3, GC6, GC7, GC8, GC9, GC11


On successful completion of this unit, students should have gained evidence towards the following standards:

1.3 Students with diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds

Evaluate and revise school learning and teaching programs, using expert and community knowledge and experience, to meet the needs of students with diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds.

4.1 Support student participation

Demonstrate and lead by example the development of productive and inclusive learning environments across the school by reviewing inclusive strategies and exploring new approaches to engage and support all students

7.1 Meet professional ethics and responsibilities

Model exemplary ethical behaviour and exercise informed judgements in all professional dealings with students, colleagues and the community.

7.4 Engage with professional teaching networks and broader communities

Take a leadership role in professional and community networks and support the involvement of colleagues in external learning opportunities.


Topics will include:

Module 1. The challenges of theory in education

  • Key approaches in the philosophy of education research including positivism, critical theory, phenomenology, poststructuralism
  • Debates in the aims of education research
  • Identifying theorical discourse in education research

Module 2. Social theory, education research and social change: A case study

  • Exploring philosophical, theoretical, and empirical readings on education and social change
  • Using social theory in education research: Examine the relationship between school and society
  • Commonly used theoretical frameworks in research for social change and equity
  • Diverse methodologies used in research for social change

Module 3. Planning a practitioner led research project: The dilemmas of theory and practice

  • Formulating a problem statement and project design
  • Framing a theoretical informed research project
  • The relationship between educational theory and practice in social change research
  • Using social theory in education research: Examine the relationship between school and society

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit is offered in multi-mode and uses an active learning approach to support students in the development of knowledge and skills related to their development as researchers, particularly those intending on undertaking a post graduate research thesis. Students will attend online tutorials to participate in the construction and synthesis of this knowledge. Students will communicate online individually or in allocated groups with the unit teaching team to guide them as they plan and execute their scholarly projects or endeavours.

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 semester.

The unit will draw on close readings of theoretical and text-based inquiries, as well as empirical studies to provide a basis for understanding the purpose and practice of exploring the role of theory in education research. Additionally, the unit integrates principles of problem-based learning by emphasising critical thinking and analysis, problem solving across disciplines, explaining concepts, and applying course content to real-world examples. This approach will provide both the theoretical and practical knowledge and skills on how to theoretically frame and design a practitioner led research project for social change.

Mode of delivery: This unit will be offered in one or more of modes of delivery described below, chosen with the aim of providing flexible delivery of academic content.

  • On Campus: Most learning activities or classes are delivered at a scheduled time, on campus, to enable in-person interactions. Activities will appear in a student’s timetable.
  • Intensive: In an intensive mode, students require face-to-face attendance on weekends or any block of time determined by the school. Students will have face-to-face interactions with lecturer(s) to further their achievement of the learning outcomes. This unit is structured with required upfront preparation before workshops. The online learning platforms used in this unit provide multiple forms of preparatory and practice opportunities for you students to prepare and revise. 
  • Multi-mode: Learning activities are delivered through a planned mix of online and in-person classes, which may include full-day sessions and/or placements, to enable interaction. Activities that require attendance will appear in a student’s timetable.
  • Online unscheduled: Learning activities are accessible anytime, anywhere. These units are normally delivered fully online and will not appear in a student’s timetable. 
  • Online scheduled: All learning activities are held online, at scheduled times, and will require some attendance to enable online interaction. Activities will appear in a student’s timetable.

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment tasks for this unit are designed for students to demonstrate achievement of each of the learning outcomes. In addition, the tasks represent an opportunity to align with the needs of students and their professional and research contexts. An emphasis on responses to close readings of texts and case studies connected to current educational issues will support the praxis-based assessment strategy taken in this unit. Assessment one requires students to analyse the complexities of theory in education research. By engaging with a variety of social theoretical frameworks used in education research students enlarge their theoretical cache and understanding of powerful concepts with the ultimate intent of enriching their developing practitioner led research projects. Assessment two requires students to bring their theoretical knowledge into conversation with a practitioner identified educational issue. After connecting wide reading with professional practice, students develop a project problem statement in an area related to equity, opportunity, access, and / or social change. Students are to clearly identify an education problem, explaining the importance of the topic, how the topic is framed in theoretical discussion, how theory is brought into dialogue with empirical findings and why addressing this problem could assist the area of education and social change.

In order to pass this unit, students are required to demonstrate achievement of the unit learning outcomes by submitting all assessment tasks, obtaining a combined final mark of at least 50 per cent, and receiving a passing grade on Assessment Task 1 and 2.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Assessment Task 1 - Analytic discussion

Analysis of the complexities of theory in education research through a discussion of social theoretical frameworks used in education research.


LO1, LO2

Assessment Task 2 - Practitioner led research problem statement

Development of practitioner identified educational issue problem statement framed by theoretical knowledge. 


LO1, LO3

Representative texts and references

Anderson, J., & Boyle, C. (2019). Looking in the mirror: reflecting on 25 years of inclusive education in Australia. International Journal of Inclusive Education23(7-8), 796–810.

Anyon, J. (2009). Theory and educational research: Toward critical social explanation. Routledge.

Anyon, J. (2005). Radical possibilities : public policy, urban education, and a new social movement. Routledge.

Anderson, J., & Boyle, C. (2019). Looking in the mirror: reflecting on 25 years of inclusive education in Australia. International Journal of Inclusive Education23(7-8), 796–810.

Biesta, G.J. (2004). Education, accountability and the ethical demand: Can the democratic potential of accountability be regained? Educational Theory, 54(3), 233-250.

Bourn, D. (2022). Education for social change : perspectives on global learning. Bloomsbury Academic.

Bridges, D. (2003). A philosopher in the classroom. Educational Action Research, 11(2), 181–196.

Gerwitz, S. (1998). Conceptualizing social justice in education: Mapping the territory. Journal of Education Policy, 13(4), 469-484.

LÆgaard, S. (2010). Recognition and toleration: Conflicting approaches to diversity in education? Educational Philosophy and Theory, 42(1), 22-37.

Mills, C., & Gale, T. (2010). Schooling in disadvantaged communities: Playing the game from the back of the field. Springer Netherlands.

Molla, T., & Gale, T. (2019). Positional matters: school leaders engaging with national equity agendas. Journal of Education Policy34(6), 858–876.

O’Donoghue, T. A. (2009). Colonialism, education and social change in the British Empire: The cases of Australia, Papua New Guinea and Ireland. Paedagogica Historica45(6), 787–800.

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