To attach a meaning or definition to someone. Teacher label according to their assumptions.
SECONDARY SCHOOL - BECKER
(interactionist study of labelling)
interviewed 60 Chicago high school
teachers. Found that teachers judge
students according to how closely they
fitted the image of an 'ideal student'.
Important factors: a student's work,
conduct and appearance. M/C children
were seen as closer to the ideal. W/C
generally seen as badly behaved.
CICOUREL &KITSUSE studied educational counselors in an
American high school. The counselors play an important
role in deciding which students get into which courses.
Counselors' assessments of students were inconsistent
because instead of being based on ability, their judgements
were based on the students' social class/race. Even when
students had similar grades, counselors were more likely to
label M/C students as having college potential.
PRIMARY SCHOOL - RIST (study of an American
kindergarten) The teacher used info about the
child's home background and appearance to place
them in separate groups. Fast learner were
labelled 'tigers' and they were M/C with neat
appearance. She put them closest to her and gave
them the greatest encouragement. The other two
groups were 'cardinals' and 'clowns'. They were
seated further away and W/C. They were given
fewer opportunities and lower'level books to read.
SHARP &GREEN studied 'Mapledene' a child-centered primary school where
children choose their own activities and work at their own pace. If teachers
beieved that children weren't ready, they were allowed compensatory play. But in
reality, it meant M/C children started reading earlier and therefore gained more
help than the W/C children were ignored. Supports the INTERACTIONIST VIEW -
children of different class backgrounds are labelled differently. Negative labelling
of W/C children are the result of inequalities between social classes in society.
High and low status knowledge
Labelling can be applied to the knowledge children are taught.
KEDDIE (comprehensive school) found that both students and
knowledge can be labelled as high/low status. Classes were streamed
by ability and they covered the same course but pupils in the 'A'
stream were taught abstract, theoretical and high status knowledge.
Pupils in the 'C' stream were given more commonsense, low status
knowledge. These students were usually W/C so the withholding of
high status knowledge increases class differences in achievement.
GILLBORN & YOUDELL found that schools used teacher's
notions of ability to decide the potential of pupils. W/C
pupils are less likely to be perceived as having ability, so
they are more likely to be placed in lower sets. They are
therefore denied the knowledge and opportunity to gain
grades and again, it widens the class difference in
When a prediction is made
about a person/group comes
true because it has been
made. A form of labelling.
ROSENTHAL & JACOBSON [Study of oak primary community school]. They told the school
and teachers that the test was designed to identify pupils who would spurt ahead. They
tested all the pupils with a standard I.Q. test, then they picked a random 20% and
told the school (falsely) that these children were spurters. The next year they found that
47% of the spurters had made significant progress. This suggested that
teachers' beliefs about pupils had been influenced by the test results. They conveyed these
beliefs through the way they interacted with the pupils. This is a demonstration of the
self-fulfilling prophecy. IMPORTANT INTERACTIONIST PRINCIPLE: What people believe to be
true will have real effect even if the belief was not originally true. SFP can also produce
underachievement. Low expectations = Negative self-image = Give up on trying.
STREAMING involves separating children into different ability groups called streams. Each
group is taught separately. W/C children are more likely to find themselves in the lower
stream. The teachers have lower expectations of them and therefore it is usually difficult
for them to move to a higher stream. This creates SFP where pupils underachieve, living up
to their teacher's low expectations. M/C pupils tend to benefit from streaming. They are
likely to be placed in higher streams and as a result, they develop a more positive
self-image and so they work harder and their grades improve. DOUGLAS found that
children placed in a higher stream at age 8 had improved their I.Q. score by age 11.
A group of pupils who share similar values and behaviour
patterns. They emerge as a reaction to being labelled/streaming.
LACEY - explanation on how pupil subcultures form.
DIFFERENTIATION - The process of teachers categoriing pupils according to how they
perceive their ability, attitude and behavior. Streaming is a form of differentiation.
POLARISATION - The process in which pupils respond to streaming by moving towards
one of two opposite poles or extremes.
Study of a boys grammar school. PRO-SCHOOL SUBCULTURE - Pupils placed in high streams
(tend to be M/C) tend to remain committed to the values of the school. They gain their status
through academic success. ANTI-SCHOOL SUBCULTURE - Pupils placed in low streams (tend to
be W/C) suffer a loss of self-esteem and are placed in a position of inferior status. The label of
failure means they gain status through alternative ways e.g. not doing homework, stealing,
being late. However, joining this subculture can lead to educational failure. A more
competitive atmosphere and streaming meant that some boys who were successful in primary
school are now labelled failures, so therefore, by the next year, they had become anti-school.
Abolishing streaming - BALL, study of a comprehensive school that was in the process of moving from
banding to mixed ability groups. He found that when the school abolished banding, the pupils didn't
polarise into subcultures. However, differentiation continued. The study shows that even without
subcultures and streaming, class inequalities still continued as a result of labelling.
WOODS - there are other responses to labelling and streaming.
INGRATIATION: Being a teacher's pet. RITUALISM: Going through the
motions and staying out of trouble. RETREATISM: Daydreaming and
mucking about. REBELLION: Rejection of everything the school stands
for. FURLONG observes that pupils are not permanently committed
to one response. They move between different type of responses
according to different lessons with different teachers.
Marketisation and selection policies
Marketisation brought in: A FUNDING FORMULA that gives a school
the same amount of funds for each pupil. EXAM LEAGUE TABLES
that rank each school according to its exam performance. e.g.
secondary schools are ranked in terms of what percentage of their
pupils succeed in gaining five or more A*-C GCSE grades.
COMPETITION among schools to attract pupils.
The A to C economy and educational triage - this is a system in which schools
ration their time, effort and resources, concentrating them on those pupils that
they predict to have the potential to get five grade Cs at GCSE and so will boost the
schools league table position. This economy produces the educational triage.
Schools categorisetheir pupils into 'those who will pass anyway', 'those with
potential' and 'hopeless cases'. The triage and the policies, along with teachers'
stereotypical ideas about pupils abilities, lead to differences in achievement.
The pressure from marketisation has lead to many pressures and as a result, there's an
increase in social class segregation between schools. BARTLETT argues that marketisation
leads to popular schools: CREAM-SKIMMING: Selecting higher ability pupils, who gain the
best results and cost less to teach. SILT-SHIFTING: Screening out pupils with learning
difficulties, are expensive to teach and get poor results. Selective schools often require
parents to sign demanding home/school contracts before being offered a place. This can be
a disadvantage to working W/C children as they may not be able to fulfill the requirements.
Some schools have responded to marketisation by creating a traditional image to attract M/C parent.
There is evidence that marketisation and selection processes have created a polarised education
system. Successful, well-resourced schools have a more able and large M/C intake and 'Failing",
Under-resourced schools have mainly low achieving W/C pupils. GEWIRTZ describes this as a 'blurred
hierarchy'. FITZ studied foundation schools, which were allowed to opt out of local education authority
control and found them reinventing tradition. He concludes that the reason most schools adopt a
traditional image is to attract M/C parents. BALL ET AL found that schools have had to spend more on
marketing themselves to parents, often at the expense of spending on special needs or other areas.
MACRAE saw a similar pattern in post-16 education. Top colleges attract M/C
students and provide courses for professional careers. Government funded
training organisations provide low level courses leading to low paid jobs.