Using Material from Item a and Elsewhere, Assess the View That Social Class Differences in Educational Achievement Are the Result of School Processes Such as Labelling

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Sociologists argue that social class differences in educational achievement are the result of school processes such as labelling and how well a pupil fitted their label, through subcultures – the pupils’ reactions to labels and streaming or even streaming where pupils are taught in groups according to their ability. Other sociologists would say deprivation of both material and cultural factors could be responsible. This essay will assess all views of social class difference in educational achievement. Item A states that labelling is to be considered when discussing social differences in educational achievement. Howard Becker studied the way teachers judged pupils according to how close they were to being the ‘ideal pupil’. He found that middle class children were closest to the ideal pupil image where as working class students were furthest away due to unruly behaviour. Labelling causes social class differences as teachers label the middle class as more able and ready to learn so they tend to receive more attention than the working class. For the working class, it means that they never get the chance to prove themselves and work towards coming out of the working class bracket - even if they are willing and capable. They are then ignored, remain behind and the negative stereotypes of working class children being less able and unruly continues. Labelling also leads onto the self-fulfilling prophecy. The self-fulfilling prophecy is when the pupil internalises the label or expectation given to them by a teacher. Rosenthal and Jacobson (1968) studied self-fulfilling prophecy by introducing a new test designed to identify pupils who would ‘spurt’ ahead. All pupils were tested but 20% were picked at random and were identified as ‘spurters’. Later on it was discovered that 47% of those ‘spurters’ had made significant progress, even though the whole study was based on
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