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Curriculum, learning and society: investigating practice

This module supports a wide range of professionals, including teachers, working in informal and formal learning environments including educational institutions and workplace settings, to evaluate and develop their practice to support learning. It introduces some of the major issues dominating the areas of learning and its assessment in educational research. In the module, curriculum includes the knowledge base of what is learned or demonstrated in particular activities, subjects or professions. Through your study you will develop a theoretical framework that relates views of learning, knowledge and pedagogy, which can be applied to analyse and evaluate your own and others’ practice.


E846 is an optional module in our:

  • Postgraduate Certificate in Professional Studies in Education (C27)
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Professional Studies in Education (D52)
  • Masters degree in Education (F01)
  • MA in Online and Distance Education (F10)

Some postgraduate qualifications allow study to be chosen from other subject areas. We advise you to refer to the relevant qualification descriptions for information on the circumstances in which this module can count towards these qualifications because from time to time the structure and requirements may change.

Excluded combinations

Sometimes you will not be able to count a module towards a qualification if you have already taken another module with similar content.  To check any excluded combinations relating to this module, visit our excluded combination finder or check with an adviser before registering.


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
Find out more in Why the OU?
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

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What you will study

This module investigates practice and policy in relation to learning and its assessment and the theories that underlie them to better understand learners and how to support them. It draws on sociocultural theories that are increasingly influential as educational tools that offer an understanding and analysis of learning. Sociocultural theories of learning shift the focus of attention from being solely on the learner to thinking about the settings that learners are in and how the resources and the participants including teachers, mentors, colleagues and peers, influence what is made available to learn. Taking account of the wider social context in which learning occurs shows how structures – policies and practices, and beliefs about people and society that underlie them – at institutional level and beyond determine what knowledge and ways of being a person are valued. The module considers how these beliefs, values and structures shape teaching and assessment practice in educational and workplace settings. The module uses sociocultural research in a range of educational and workplace settings to challenge traditional views of the goals for learning and the pedagogic means to achieve them and to offer alternative ways of thinking about how to enhance learning and assess it more validly.

This approach offers a way to better understand:

  • how learners’ different ways of knowing and being mediate their experiences in educational and workplace settings
  • how practices in settings can limit or open up the possibilities for learning for different learners
  • the tasks and practices that enable those responsible for supporting learning and its assessment to open up practice in settings where learning is the goal, be it in a school subject, or in the context of the workplace and professional development.

The module framework relates views of learning, knowledge and pedagogy that are developed through the Study Guide and applied to understand practice as it emerges in settings. This allows you to:

  • develop an understanding of the theoretical perspectives that underpin policy in learning and its assessment
  • relate these to a sociocultural perspective
  • critically examine your views in relation to these.

The module approach allows you to maintain an important connection between theory and practice, in that practice is understood as dynamic and emergent. The module will provide you with the tools to develop a critical understanding of the perspective which can be applied to analyse and evaluate your own and others’ practice in any kind of educational institution or situation, including the workplace.

The Study Guide is in five sections:

Section 1 Introduction to the course explains the learning pathway that you will take through the module, and to the module framework and its key concepts. These include: the concepts of theory and practice; the relationship between collective and individual learning and the location of meaning; and the dialectical relationships between people, social activity and the world.

Section 2 Learning and practice offers a sociocultural view on learning and its assessment, and asks you to consider the evidence for the usefulness of examining learning from this perspective. In making these claims, alternative views are explored. Examples drawn from practice highlight the way that an individual agency can be constrained, and offer tools for opening up practice so as to enable participation and learning.

Section 3 Understanding pedagogy takes forward your understanding of learning, and you begin to consider what that might mean for your approach to pedagogy. To help with this, the section introduces you to ideas and tools to use to interrogate your own and others’ practice in order to further develop your view of learning and begin to relate it to practice and pedagogy.

Section 4 Knowledge and practice asks you to consider views and representations of knowledge from both educational and workplace perspectives. This examination is deepened through a study of assessment policy and practice, and how knowledge and achievement are represented and valued within them. There is discussion of the challenge presented by sociocultural views of knowledge to the goals of learning, and how these are addressed is exemplified through case studies that take account of learners’ multiple identities and ways of knowing.

Section 5 Cultural bridging provides you with opportunities to develop your understanding of culture, to synthesise your views about learning and knowledge, and to consider what they suggest about your pedagogy and, in turn, about the practices that you value. Your study is supported with case studies of practice spanning educational and workplace settings, and you are offered a number of ways of examining them to allow you to begin thinking about issues in your own practice.

The Study Guide is supported by three readers and a module DVD which includes a range of audio-visual resources spanning educational and workplace settings. The module Study Planner includes the study timing for each section of the Study Guide and the associated elearning aspects of the module.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and who will mark and comment on your written work. You can also ask your tutor for advice and guidance. You may have contact with your tutor and tutor group through online forums and there are group tutorials that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. The location of these tutorials depends on the distribution of students taking E846.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Your end-of-module assessment (EMA) must be submitted electronically.

Course work includes

5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2015 when it will be available for the last time.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Entry requirements

This module can only be studied as part of a qualification (see below for the relevant qualifications). 

You must hold a bachelors degree from a UK university or other recognised degree-awarding body, or a qualification at equivalent level.

The module is taught in English, and your spoken and written English must be of an adequate standard for postgraduate study. If English is not your first language, we recommend that you seek assessment under the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Please see their website for details.

You are expected to have experience in education or an allied field as a practitioner.You need not be a currently practising teacher, but you must want to develop your practice and have access to a curriculum and learners (not necessarily in an educational institution) so that you can analyse, implement and evaluate your own practice on a small scale. If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.


Start End England fee Register
10 Oct 2015 Oct 2016 £1416.00

Registration closes 17/09/15 (places subject to availability)

October 2015 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

Additional costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

Ways to pay

We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options. To find out more see Fees and funding.

Study materials

What's included

Study Guide, DVD, supplementary materials (presented online), online forums, dedicated website.

You will need

The DVD can be viewed on PCs with a DVD drive. Alternatively, it can be watched on a DVD player and television.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as the study materials and activities are accessible via a web browser. Any other computer-based activities you will need to carry out, such as word processing, using spreadsheets, taking part in online forums, and submitting files to the university for assessment, are specified in the module materials. If any additional software is needed for these tasks it will either be provided or is freely available.

We recommend either of the following:

  • Windows desktop or laptop computer running Windows 7 or later operating system
  • Macintosh desktop or laptop computer running OS X 10.7 or later operating system.

A netbook, tablet, smartphone or Linux computer that supports one of the browsers listed below may be suitable. The screen size should be at least 1024 (H) x 768 (W) pixels. If you intend to use one of these devices please ensure you have access to a suitable desktop or laptop computer in case you are unable to carry out all the module activities on your mobile device.

We recommend a minimum 1 Mbps internet connection and any of the following browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 9 and above
  • Apple Safari 7 and above
  • Google Chrome 31 and above
  • Mozilla Firefox 31 and above.

Note: using the latest version for your browser will maximise security when accessing the internet. Using company or library computers may prevent you accessing some internet materials or installing additional software.

See our Skills for OU study website for further information about computing skills for study and educational deals for buying Microsoft Office software.

If you have a disability

Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and musical notation and mathematical, scientific, and foreign language materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. Alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future. 

You will need to spend a considerable amount of time using a personal computer and the internet. 

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.