Department of Education

Optional pathways and electives


The School of Education and Social Work currently offers three 'pathways' which can be taken in addition to and alongside the regular modules of your undergraduate course to enhance your studies, help you specialise in an area of particular interest to you, and make your course more targeted to your own interests. Pathways are worth 60 academic credits and, when you graduate, will be reflected in the title of your award.

The 'Education' Pathway: 60 academic credits

This pathway is made up of four separate modules, each worth 15 credits. Two modules are taken in Year 1 and the other two in Year 2.

This pathway provides an historical, political and theoretical background to current educational policy and practice in the UK. In Year 1, the module ‘Education: History, Politics and Practice’ introduces historical and contemporary aspects of the English Education system, expanding to briefly cover the similarities and differences between the nation states. This is followed by ‘Cross-cultural Perspectives on Teaching, Learning and Assessment’ - a critical and comparative study of how curricula are constructed and how this frames teaching and assessment as well as learner identity across the Global North and South. It also examines alternative forms of educating young people in non-formal education contexts. 

In Year 2, ‘Inclusion, Diversity and Equity in Education’ explores how constructions of gender, ‘race’, social class, poverty, disability, sexuality and behavioural norms contribute to the inclusion and/or exclusion of particular groups of young people in education. Finally, ‘Knowledge, Power and Society’, engages at a theoretical and policy level with the development of institutionalised education in modern times with a focus on the post-welfare state.

Assessment is through coursework only and includes a concept note, learning diary, case study and critical analytical review.

What will I achieve?

This pathway provides you with knowledge and understanding of different education systems, the ability to discuss and critically assess policy and practice, to reflect on your own learning and to use research to back up your opinions. 

Career paths

The Education Pathway helps you start your career in teaching at either primary or secondary level, in counselling, youth work, educational psychology or in educational environments such as charities, Children’s Services or Children’s Rights in the UK or overseas. 

The 'International Education and Development' Pathway: 60 academic credits

This pathway is taught by staff across the Centre for International Education (CIE). Each module can also be taken as a free-standing elective.

The pathway explores the issues faced by governments in the Global South in getting all children to get into school, to stay there and to learn effectively, and so support children to achieve, through education, the social and economic development of the individual, their families and society. It provides an excellent introduction to the major institutions that direct aid and influence policy and practice, such as UNESCO and the World Bank.    

The first elective (Year 1: autumn), ‘Education for Development: Aid, Policy and the Global Agenda’, introduces basic ideas about the contribution that education can make to the development process, including economic development, social inequality, gender relations and citizenship.

The second elective (Year 1: spring), ‘Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Teaching, Learning and Assessment’, examines what and how children learn and how they are assessed in formal and informal education systems across the Global South and North. 

The third module (Year 2: autumn),  ‘Access, Equity and Gender’ analyses large data sets that reflect patterns of access and transition into primary and secondary schools,  while more qualitative approaches explore theories and concepts around gender, children with disability, those marginalised through ethnicity or language and the very poor and how schools and communities include or exclude them.

The fourth and final module (Year 2: spring), ‘Education, Peacebuilding and Conflict’ considers the role that education, schools and teachers play in continuing or preventing conflict and in the reconstruction of society in post-conflict contexts.

These modules are assessed via a Portfolio, Learning Diary, Policy Brief and Essay.

What will I achieve?

On this pathway, you will explore the difference education can make to individuals, their families and their societies, and the national and international structures that can prevent or contribute to education. You will also gain skills in analysing and interpreting statistics, tables and figures central to education in developing countries; the ability to present, argue and collaborate with students from different disciplines; and the ability to write in forms other than essays, such as policy briefs and concept notes.

Career Paths

The International Education & Development pathway supports students who may wish to work in teaching at either primary or secondary level in the UK, perhaps with the aim of gaining productive skills that can be transferred to Global South contexts; who would like to work in educational environments, such as charities, international NGOs (e.g. Save the Children or Oxfam), Children’s Services or Children’s Rights in the UK or overseas; or who want work in politics and policy-making around education and development in the Global South.

The 'Wellbeing' Pathway: 60 academic credits

This pathway is made up of four separate modules, each worth 15 credits. Two modules are taken in Year 1 and the other two in Year 2.

Year 1:
Spirituality, Wellbeing and Health: Understanding Practices and Connections
Mental Health and Madness: Exploring Socio-Cultural Approaches

Year 2:
Migrant and Refugee Wellbeing: Theory and Practice
Exploring Death and Dying: Cultural, Theoretical and Practice Perspectives

What will I achieve?

  • Knowledge and understanding of the ways that wellbeing features in different aspects of society
  • The ability to think critically about wellbeing and the practices that support or undermine it
  • Insight into the ways that culture and society shape knowledge and experience of wellbeing
  • Skills with which to discuss and analyse wellbeing practices.

Career Paths

The Wellbeing Pathway helps to support your entry into careers in areas including:

  • Public Health
  • NGOs
  • Social Work and Social Care
  • Wellbeing Teams
  • Youth Work
  • Mental Health
  • Teaching
  • Policy Work

'Pathways' are part of Sussex Choice. See the Sussex Choice pages for more details about how pathways fit into your study schedule and are reflected in your degree.


'Electives' are the individual modules that make up 'Pathways'. In most cases, they can be taken independently, ie. you can take one or more modules from a pathway gaining only the credits each module is worth (usually 15). If you do not take the full pathway, the additional modules you take will not be reflected within the name of your final degree. The following is a list of all the 'elective' modules currently offered by the School of Education and Social Work:

Year 1 


Education: History, Politics and Practice

Module leader: James Williams

This module explores and introduces historical and contemporary aspects of the English Education system, expanding to briefly cover the similarities and differences between the nation states. It critically examines the interplay and interrelationships between policy theory and practice in education. The module is divided into four sections:

Section 1: History of Education covers the establishment and development of independent and state run education systems in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Section 2: Education Policy considers the development and effects of the various education acts, from the 1870 act through to the latest legislative changes.

Section 3: The Philosophy of Education and Theories of Learning examines the purposes of education, how we approach education from either a traditional or progressive viewpoint. The underpinning psychological theories of teaching and will also be scrutinised.

Section 4:  The Impact of Policy, Practice and Theory on Education looks the interplay and interrelationship between policy, practice and theory, for example in academies and Free Schools and parental choice.  

Mode of assessment: 2,500 word essay

Education for Development: Aid, Policy and the Global Agenda

Module leader: Professor Kwame Akyeampong

This module provides a grounding in education and international development, with a particular focus on the challenges facing low income countries and those developing in conditions of fragility and conflict with resource-constraints. Students will acquire an introduction to the field of education and development and an entry point into the relevant theoretical and evidence based literature and major sources of information and advocacy.

Mode of assessment: 1,500 word portfolio

Spirituality, Wellbeing and Health: Understanding Practices and Connections

Module leader: Dr Tish Marrable

How spirituality is associated with health and wellbeing in contemporary societies and seen in the growth of wellbeing practices in a range of health, social care and educational settings. Consideration of ‘belief’ - and ‘non-belief’ - in wellbeing and the difference between religious and spiritual perspectives. How practices - such as mindfulness, martial arts, chanting, yoga, and shamanic work - have emerged from a spiritual foundation and are used to support wellbeing. Examination of concepts such as ‘flow’ and ‘self-compassion’ and the linking of theories of wellbeing to spiritual practices,

On this module you will consider the construction of spirituality within contemporary society and be introduced to theories of wellbeing that relate to spiritual approaches. You will also explore a range of spirituality-based wellbeing practices and consider their links with theory.

Mode of assessment: 1,500 word essay

Discovering Role Models: Peer-Led Mentoring in Schools

Module leader: Dr John Parry

About the Role Models Project

The Role Models Project is a peer-led mentoring project training students to create and facilitate workshops for groups of young people (aged 12-15) at local secondary school, BACA (Brighton Aldridge Community Academy). The aim of the Project is to provide young people in the local community with role models, a safe space to be listened to and ask questions, and an appropriate environment in which to engage with important PSHE topics. We deliver workshops with a 1 to 1 ratio of Sussex students to young people to enable peer-mentoring, rethink traditional education models, and focus on small group work and 1 to 1 conversations.

You will be expected to bring passion, ideas, and reflections of your own experience, values and “what you wish you’d known”. You will receive training to build your skills and confidence in participatory facilitation and working with young people, as well as the project’s social pedagogic theoretical framework, topic specific training around mental health and wellbeing, and essential training around safeguarding and boundaries. This will enable you to then combine academic learning with practical application, in order to research, design and deliver workshops as a team to the young people at BACA, and become involved in a national dialogue on PSHE education.

In the Discovering Role Models elective, mental health and wellbeing is the broad focus of workshops you will create. You will also research contemporary approaches, and - most importantly - listen to the young people in order to create workshops that are relevant, interesting and useful for them. Previous workshop topics have included emotional literacy, supporting your peers and body image ideals on Instagram.

Can be taken as a stand-alone elective, or coupled with Developing Role Models: Mentoring in the Spring Term, which will enable you to develop your experience and skills. Check out the Students' Union website for more information, or contact the Role Models Project Coordinator:

Mode of assessment: 2,000 word portfolio

Year 1 


Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Teaching, Learning and Assessment (for both Pathways)

Module leader: Dr Jo Westbrook

This module introduces key concepts around the construction of the curriculum, its relationship to official and dominant knowledge, and its translation in schools.  It looks at theories of learning that frame different pedagogies dominant in developed and developing countries, historically and currently.  There will also be discussion of how different groups of students are positioned and included/excluded within curricula.

Alternative approaches to designing and implementing the curriculum are studied in the final sessions.

Mode of assessment: 2,000 word portfolio

Mental Health and Madness: Exploring Socio-Cultural Approaches

Module leader: Dr Tish Marrable

Understanding experiences of emotional distress and wellbeing, normality and insanity, and how they shape our attitudes and practices in relation to people diagnosed with a mental health difficulty. Exploration of the social influences that make up our understandings of madness, using this term to purposefully position the module within social-cultural contexts. You will learn about the effect of gender, ethnicity, culture and class on mental health and its governance within society, and reflect on the dynamic interactions between identity, wellbeing and ill-being. Teaching will draw on examples from literature, film, the press, autobiography and scholarship in order to relate theory to lived experiences.

On this module you will learn to recognise different theories of mental ill-being and the debates which they incite, and the significance of gender, ethnicity, culture and class in relation to mental wellbeing and ill-being. You will consider ways in which madness has been responded to in different times and places, and explore representations of madness in art, writing, film and media.

Mode of assessment: 2,200 word portfolio

Health Inequalities: What's Social Justice Got To Do With It?

Module leader: Dr Laia Becares

Where we are born, grow, live, work, and age determine our health and life chances. In this module you will critically examine the social patterning of health, and understand how social, economic and political determinants influence health and health inequalities. Lectures will first examine patterns in the distribution of health and its determinants, describing the multiple interacting factors that influence health. Later lectures and seminar discussions describe the theories underpinning health inequalities, and the methods applied to examine them. The module ends with discussions on the actions and policies required to address the social determinants of health and reduce inequalities in health.

Mode of assessment: 2,500 word essay

Widening Participation: Linking Theory with Practice

Module leader: Dr Louise Gazeley

This module provides an opportunity to critically explore the links between theory and practice in current approaches to widening participation. It begins with a focus on widening participation as a key area of policy interest in England. Subsequent sessions provide opportunities to critically reflect on dominant assumptions around who should be supported in accessing higher education, why and how. Each session includes opportunities to discuss and critique a key reading, facilitating the making of connections between theory and practice. The module culminates in an opportunity to make recommendations for future policy and practice, informed by critical reflections on the strengths and limitations of current approaches. 

The module will be of particular interest to students working as student ambassadors and/or interested in going on to work in a widening participation role in the future. It is also likely to appeal to those with broader interests in educational inequalities and inclusion. 

Mode of assessment: 1,800 word portfolio

Developing Role Models: Peer-Led Mentoring in Schools

Module leader: Dr John Parry

About the Role Models Project

See above for details of the Role Models Project.

Developing Role Models: Mentoring builds on the skills and experience gained in the Autumn Term's Discovering Role Models elective - but it can be taken as a stand-alone elective. It offers you the opportunity to create more in-depth workshops with a focus on developing young people’s agency and critical thinking. The topics and type of workshops created will be led by what you are passionate about within the broad PSHE framework, reflections and feedback received in the Autumn Term (if relevant), and what the BACA pupils feel is relevant and interesting to them. Previous workshop topics for this elective have included gender identity, sexuality, relationships and the media.

Check out the Students' Union website for more information, or contact the Role Models Project Coordinator:

This module introduces key concepts around the construction of the curriculum, its relationship to official and dominant knowledge, and its translation in schools.  It looks at theories of learning that frame different pedagogies dominant in developed and developing countries, historically and currently.  There will also be discussion of how different groups of students are positioned and included/excluded within curricula.

Alternative approaches to designing and implementing the curriculum are studied in the final sessions.

Mode of assessment: 500 word essay + presentation

Year 2 


Inclusion, Diversity and Equity in Education

Module leader: Jacqui Shepherd

This module looks at constructions of gender, ‘race’, class, poverty, ability/disability and behavioural norms in society and the ways in which education policy, systems and teachers can exclude and include particular groups of learners. 

Case studies of particular students designated as having ‘special education needs’ will be used to analyse the issues involved  in ensuring equality of access, provision and learning.

Mode of assessment: 1,500 word essay 

Access, Equity and Gender

Module leader: Dr Sean Higgins

Access to education is at the heart of development and is central to the Millennium Development Goal. Lack of education reflects poverty while access to quality education is a means for poverty reduction.

This module covers Education for All and commitments to improve access; transitions and equity; gender and inclusion; access to education for marginal groups; low price privatised schooling and alternative forms of education to meet the development targets.

Some sessions will be shared with  the module on Inclusion and Diversity in UK Education within the Education Pathway.

Mode of assessment: 2,000 word essay

Migrant and Refugee Wellbeing: Theory and Practice

Module leader: Professor Charles Watters

Examination of the wellbeing of migrants and refugees with consideration of the historical and political contexts in which different groups of migrants are placed - including the specific situations of asylum-seekers and refugees. Examination of the welfare contexts of different receiving societies, including the impact of current debates on welfare provision for migrants and refugees. Within these contexts, contemporary services for migrants and refugees are examined, including the roles played by central government, local authorities and NGOs. Discussion of models of good practice in health and social care, and prospects for its transferral across countries.

Mode of assessment: 1,500 word essay + 3,000 word essay

Contemporary Debates in Social Policy: Theory and Practice

Module leader: Dr Tish Marrable

This elective explores and questions the ways in which social policy shapes and is shaped by society, taking a critical approach to investigate contemporary issues in areas such as mental health, disability, parenting, family intervention, education, employment, poverty, youth justice, ageing society, consumerism and choice. While the main focus will be on UK social policy, comparisons from contrasting international social policy models will help to provide rich discussion and debate. The elective looks at the struggles over equality and social inclusion which characterise contemporary social policy positions, using a research-led approach to consider the ways that policies evolve and affect the social well-being of a nation. Throughout 12 weeks it will explore concepts of `social justice,` need, `fairness and `well-being' in relation to UK social policy and policy-driven practices, taking note of the voices of recipients of social policy practices through the involvement of key contacts from those using health and other services in some of the lectures. Learning will take place through a combination of lectures, online activities and student-led seminars. Online learning will include formative assessment through involvement in forums and self assessment quizzes, as well as the opportunity to access discussion groups around case studies and key topics of interest. Students will be expected to prepare work for seminars, and case studies around current issues will be used to promote active problem based engagement with the effects of social policy practice. The module will be formally assessed by an essay incorporating knowledge from research, theory and policy-in-practice.

Mode of assessment: 3,000 word essay

Exploring Community Engagement and Volunteering

Module leaders: Irene Dalloway Gonzalez & Hannah Woodin

This module that gives you an opportunity to make a difference in our local community as part of your studies. It brings together classroom learning and the experience of volunteering in a local community organisation such as a charity or community group.

The first part of the course will look at volunteering in the UK context and ideas about what volunteering is and the impact it can have. There are a choice of volunteering opportunities with a range of vetted partner community organisations, and you will be matched with one based on your interests, ability and timetabling availability. You must spend at least 30 hours in the volunteering placement in order to pass the module.

The volunteering may involve preparing engaging activities for children and young people, organising a fundraising event, redistributing surplus food, supporting older people, community gardening projects, campaigning on environmental issues, mentoring LGBTQ+ peers, reducing isolation amongst disabled people, helping a community group with its social media, taking on an administrative task, cataloguing for an archive, etc.

You will be expected to successfully complete an Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service Check. The module is a partnership between the University of Sussex Students’ Union and the School of Education and Social Work, bringing the academic learning of the school together with an opportunity for practical application in different community settings.

More information about volunteering.

Mode of assessment: 1,500 word report

Year 2


Knowledge, Power and Society

Module leader: Dr Barbara Crossouard

This 15 credit module is offered to Year 2 undergraduates as part of the 60 credit Education Pathway. Students will ordinarily have taken its first three modules, and/or have a keen interest in education and society.

The module focuses on the relationships between knowledge, power and society in modern and late modern times. It focuses on the shifting ideologies that informed the development of schooling and higher education in England from 1944 to contemporary times - a period when the UK moved from being a welfare state to a post-welfare state within a globalised economy.

The module takes up issues of social justice and equity in both schooling and higher education as these changes took place. It considers the claims of education to be ‘emancipatory’ and counter-arguments that its dominant rationalities privilege particular identities in ways that produce deficit accounts of black, female, LGBT and working class subjects. Sociologists and philosophers such as Bernstein, Beck, Bourdieu, Butler, Foucault and Skeggs are drawn upon when considering these arguments.

Mode of assessment: 1,500 word report

Education, Peacebuilding and Conflict

Module leader: Professor Mario Novelli

In recent years, the nature of the relationship between education and conflict has emerged on the international development agenda with most development and political interventions focusing on countries in and emerging from conflict.

This module critically explores the relationship between education and conflict in low income countries and problematises the complex and multidirectional ways that education and conflict affect each other and the role that education can potentially play in both the production and prevention of violent armed conflict.

Mode of assessment: 2,000 word essay

Understanding Autism and Education

Module leader: Dr Jacqui Shepherd

This elective identifies the key features of autism, including the ‘triad of impairments’ (social interaction, communication and flexibility of thought) and examines the range of ways in which symptoms are manifested across the spectrum. Different theories are explored to understand psychological, biological and sociological approaches to this condition. You will be introduced to a range of case studies that take into account educational environments, interventions, behaviours and supports. The module will appeal to those who seek to further their understanding of this complex condition and, in particular, those interested in educational strategies used to support autistic pupils.

Mode of assessment: 2,000 word essay

Everyday Digital:Generation, Life-Course and Expertise

Module leader: Dr Liam Berriman

This module examines new thinking about how digital technologies have become part of everyday lives in ways that both create and solve everyday problems. It is interdisciplinary in scope and draws on cutting edge research from across digital sociology and the digital humanities.

In the first part of the module you will be introduced to key concepts for understanding social and technical change, digital culture and the history of technology in the everyday. In the second part of the module we will examine how digital technologies have shaped different stages of the lifecourse from reproduction and childhood, to adulthood and elderly care. The final part of the module will reflect on areas where technology has significantly re-configured everyday living including around romantic relationships, health care and political engagement.

Mode of assessment: 1,500 word essay

Exploring Death and Dying: Cultural, Theoretical and Practice Perspectives

Module leader: Dr Tish Marrable

Exploration of the diverse aspects of death and dying practices, encompassing history, the arts, the impact of technology and anthropological perspectives, as well as social policy and key theories. Underpinning this module is permission to discuss a subject normally viewed as ‘depressing’ or even ‘contagious’ in an open and sometimes fun way, challenging taboos and exploring a wide range of aspects – including the mundane and the bizarre.

Through discussion, course work, external visits and talks by visiting practitioners, you will examine dominant theories around death and bereavement, as well as the language and construction of death - both in contemporary times and in the past. The role of ritual and emotion is also explored, alongside debates around assisted dying and ‘good deaths’.

With a mainly UK focus, this module also includes anthropological perspectives on death, including those in South East Asia, Africa, Latin America and other cultures. The impact of rapidly expanding digital technologies in transforming the experience of death is also explored.

Mode of assessment: 1,500 word essay