To explore reasons why the middle class benefit more from their relationship with teachers than the working class. From a functionalist perspective the education system is based on a meritocratic theory, in that if you work hard you achieve success. However, there are many factors that can hinder this process. The focus of my study is from an interactionalist perspective and the way teachers relationships, including expectations, labelling and streaming has a positive impact on the middle class.
(Word Count: 78)
Concepts and Concepts:
Labelling is my first concept. Labelling results from a certain group of people being categorised. For example, those pupils with elaborated speech are less likely to be criticised and also understand what is being taught therefore may be labelled as achievers. This can eventually lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, my second concept. This is when the original prediction or label activates itself and becomes true. For example the pupils labelled, as achievers will respond to the expectations of the teacher and subsequently become high achievers.
My first context is a study carried out by the sociologist R.C. Rist, 1970 ‘Labelling and social class.’ He studied several Kindergarten schools in North America. Rist observed that by the 8th day of a new academic year the children had been permanently seated. Table one were the fast learners and tables two and three were the less able children. Rist believed that it was not ability that determined the seating plan but it was conformity to the teacher’s own middle class standards that separated the children. Obviously the middle class children conformed more so than working class because they look and sound better, i.e. Rist concluded that teachers evaluated and labelled pupils on the basis of their social class, and subsequently the children were seated on ability based tables; this is like a streaming process.
My second context is a study carried out by Rosenthal and Jacobson in the 1960’s in an elementary school, California. They informed the teacher of a group of children who were known as ‘spurters’, the teachers believed this was based on IQ tests, however, the ‘spurters’ were picked by random sampling. 12 months later, 47% of the ‘spurters’ achieved a 20+ IQ score compared to only 19% of the other children.
Rosenthal and Jacobson believed,
“This difference was due to expectation advantage- teachers expected and so got more from the ‘spurters'”
As identified in my 1st context, middle class are perceived as intelligent, therefore expectation advantage can be applied to the middle class, subsequently they benefit more from education.
(Word Count: 340)
Main Research Method
My main method of research is an overt observation. The reason I have chosen to do an observation is that my hypothesis is based on an interactionalist approach. The basis of an interactionalist approach is interaction. In my observation the interaction between teachers and pupils would be observed, therefore, I believe this is a suitable method of research. The reason why I have decided that I would carry out an overt observational study is that I believe this to be more morally and ethically correct, as it is not deceitful to any of the people involved.
I would observe one class with the same teacher for a period of 350 hours over one academic year. The class of pupils would be from a comprehensive secondary school. The reason why I chose a class from a comprehensive secondary school was because there will be a mixture of middle and working class pupils as entrance is based on geographic catchment areas rather than ability. The reason I have chosen to observe just one class with the same teacher is to keep the study to a micro scale where possible.
The same class could be observed with a number of different teachers; however, this would give a wide range of results that would be hard to analyse. I have chosen the period of 350 hours as this roughly works out at 10 hours per week throughout an academic year. I see this as sufficient observation without causing grave disruption to the class. Also, with the observation being carried out over the period of one academic year I would be able to compare progress of the children from the start of the year to the end of the year and see if there are any noticeable patterns in accordance with the behaviour schedule. Also, over the period of a year the students and teacher would get used to seeing an observer and eventually normal behaviour would be seen.
The chosen school is my sample frame; I will choose the class by random sampling.
I would carry out my observation using a behaviour schedule that would measure frequency of the following towards both working class and middle class children:
o Child picked to answer question
o Sent out of lesson
o Personal help given
Example of behaviour schedule.
(NOT ACTUAL RESULTS)
I would have to gain permission to look at school records in order to find the social class of pupils. This poses ethical issues, as it is an invasion of privacy.
The reason why I have chosen to observe using a behaviour schedule is that this will produce, in the positivist tradition, quantitative results that can be easily graphed and subsequently analysed. This would make it easier to draw conclusions from. I also believe that the things I am observing in the classroom such as encouragement would show how the teacher expectations benefited that certain child, and my observation would also show whether encouragement occurred more with working or middle class pupils.
(Word Count: 495)
The first potential problem is that consent is needed before the observation can be carried out. Permission would be needed from the head teacher of the chosen school, the teacher of the children, consent from the pupils parents and the permission of the pupils themselves would also be needed. Also, the fact that information on the class of each pupil is required also posses a problem because the information may be hard to obtain, and also ethics posses the problem that it may not be appropriate to ask someone’s status.
Another problem before the observation begins is that the catchment area would have to be carefully thought about. If the school was situated in a declining area this may affect the results as there is more likely to be a higher percentage of working class children. Therefore the school needs to be in an area where there is a proportionate distribution of both working class and middle class children, this would again involve background research.
A problem that may be encountered with the behaviour schedule is that some behaviour may be missed while the table is being filed out, this may lead to misleading results.
The fact that only one class is being observed in one comprehensive school means that the study is very small scale, a micro approach. If the study is small scale this means that no sound conclusions can be drawn from the observation and this makes it very difficult to generalise the information.
The observation is overt, this means that an observer will be sitting in the classroom for a number of hours every week. The presence of this observer could cause several problems. It could affect the learning of the children and also cause the pupils and teachers to act in a different way, therefore not giving conclusive results. However, one way to improve the valid ness of the data would be triangulation, this involves more than one research method so data can be cross checked.