For AQA GCE Sociology Unit 2 Class differences in achievement (1)


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For AQA GCE Sociology Unit 2 Revision. Print out as a handout, it is a good way to revise. Application, Interpretation and Analysis tips are also included. All derived from the AS Sociology Revision Guide. Good luck!!!

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For AQA GCE Sociology Unit 2 Class differences in achievement (1)

  1. 1. Unit 2: Education (1) Class differences in achievement
  2. 2. Class patterns of achievement • W.C. pupils in general achieve less than M.C. pupils in education • For example, children of higher professionals are 2-3 times more likely than children of routine manual workers to get 5+ grades at GCSE, and about 5 times more likely to go to university • Sociologists have put forward a range of explanations for these differences which can be divided into: 1. External factors (or home background): that lie outside the school 2. Internal factors: within the school and the education system
  3. 3. Achievement and home background Class differences in pupils’ home background may play a key role in causing differences in achievement. Home background includes many things, but these can be grouped into two different types of factor: 1. Cultural factors 2. Material factors
  4. 4. 1. Cultural factors • These include class differences in norms and values acquired through socialisation, attitudes to education, speech codes etc
  5. 5. 2. Material factors • These are the physical necessities of life, such as adequate housing, diet and income
  6. 6. Interpretation • Be very clear about these two terms, because questions sometimes ask you to define or give examples of one or other of them
  7. 7. Cultural deprivation The main cultural explanation for class differences in achievement is cultural deprivation theory.
  8. 8. Cultural deprivation theory • ‘Culture’: refers to all the norms, values, beliefs, skills, and knowledge that a society or a group regards as important •  this culture is transmitted to the next generation through socialisation • Different classes socialise their children differently and this may affect their achievement • According to cultural deprivation theory, some W.C. parents fail to transmit appropriate norms, values, attitudes, knowledge, skills etc. – that is, the ‘right’ culture – needed for educational success
  9. 9. • Cultural deprivation theorists see 3 factors as responsible for W.C. under-achievement: 1. A lack of intellectual stimulation, 2. The restricted speech code, and 3. W.C. subculture cont. Cultural deprivation theory
  10. 10. 1. Intellectual stimulation • W.C. parents are less likely to give their children educational toys and activities that will stimulate their thinking and reasoning skills, and less likely to read to them • This affects their intellectual development so that when they begin school they are at a disadvantage compared with M.C. children
  11. 11. 2. Speech codes • Basil Bernstein (1975) distinguishes between elaborated and restricted speech code • The W.C. use the restricted code: • This is less analytical and more descriptive, has limited vocabulary and is formed of simple sentences or even just gestures • It is PARTICULARISTIC – it assumes that the listener shares the particular meanings that the speaker holds, so the speaker doesn’t spell them out
  12. 12. 2. Speech codes (cont.) • The M.C. use the elaborated code: This is more analytic, with a wide vocabulary and complex sentences • It is UNIVERSALISTIC – speakers spell out their meaning explicitly and don’t just assume the listener shares them
  13. 13. • Crucially, the elaborated code is the one used in education, by teachers, exams, textbooks, university interviews etc. • This gives the M.C. an educational advantage 2. Speech codes (cont.)
  14. 14. Analysis • Explain the meaning of the 2 codes, and then explain why the elaborated code is used in education – • E.g. ‘Textbooks use it because they don’t know who their readers are, so they have to spell out their meanings very explicitly in a way that will be understood ‘universally’ – i.e. by everyone’
  15. 15. W.C. subculture • Cultural deprivation theorists identify 3 aspects of W.C. subculture that contribute to under-achievement: 1. Immediate gratification 2. Fatalism 3. Low value on education
  16. 16. 1. Immediate gratification • Wanting rewards NOW rather than being willing to make sacrifices and working hard for future rewards – unlike ‘deferred gratification’ practised by the M.C.
  17. 17. • A belief that ‘whatever will be, will be’  W.C. children don’t believe they can improve their positions through their own individual efforts 2. Fatalism
  18. 18. • Hyman argues that the W.C. don’t value education (and don’t believe they will benefit from it), so they don’t try • Douglas argues that W.C. parents show less interest in their children’s education and give them less support; e.g. they are less likely than M.C. parents to attend parents’ evening 3. Low value on education
  19. 19. Evaluation • Critics argue that W.C. parents don’t attend parents’ evenings because they work long hours, OR because they feel inferior to the teachers – NOT because they aren’t interested in their children’s education
  20. 20. Criticisms of cultural deprivation theory • It ignores the importance of material factors such as poverty • It ignores the impact of school factors, e.g. negative labelling by teachers • It blames the victim for their failure - Critics argue that the W.C. are not culturally deprived – they simply have a different culture from school and this puts them at a disadvantage
  21. 21. Material deprivation Material deprivation (or poverty) can cause W.C. under-achievement because of factors such as: 1. Poor housing 2. Poor diet 3. Low income
  22. 22. 1. Poor housing • Overcrowding or cold and damp rooms mean pupils have nowhere quiet to do homework • Similarly, being homeless or living in temporary accommodation may mean frequent moves and changes of school
  23. 23. 2. Poor diet • Poor diet can lead to illness, absence from school and lack of concentration in class due to hunger
  24. 24. Evaluation • NOT all poor children fail – those with supportive parents may have high levels of motivation • Material deprivation theory also ignores factors in school such as teacher labelling and streaming, which may cause under- achievement
  25. 25. 3. Low income • Such problems (under-achievement of the W.C.) are often caused by low income • This can affect educational achievement in several ways, e.g: 1. Lack of educational materials – books, PC with internet access etc. 2. Lack of the right uniform or the latest fashion items, which can lead to bullying 3. Not being able to afford university fees
  26. 26. Cultural capital theory • This approach combines aspects of BOTH cultural and material explanations • Marxists such as Bourdieu (1984) argue that the M.C. pupils are more successful than W.C. pupils because their parents possess more capital or assets • The capital comes in 2 forms: 1. Economic capital: The wealth that M.C. families own 2. Cultural capital: The attitudes, values, skills, knowledge etc. of the M.C
  27. 27. Analysis • You can make the point that Bourdieu shows how material factors (economic capital) and cultural factors (cultural capital) are not separate but link together to produce class inequalities in achievement (educational capital)
  28. 28. Educational capital • The M.C. use their greater economic and cultural capital to give their children an advantage by using it to obtain educational capital – qualifications • This allows their children to get M.C. jobs and more economic capital •  thus, reproducing the advantages of the M.C. from generation to generation
  29. 29. School factors and achievement Factors and processes within schools and the education system also influences class differences in achievement. Most sociologists who have studied the role of school factors are interactionists who focus on small- scale interactions between teachers and pupils. They identify a number of related causes of under-achievement: • Labelling • The self-fulfilling prophecy • Streaming • Pupils subcultures
  30. 30. Application • Don’t just list these factors, explain the way each can produce under-achievement • Use phrases such as ‘this leads to... because...’
  31. 31. Labelling • Labels: are meanings or definitions we attach to someone or something to make sense of them – • E.g. M.C. pupils are labelled ‘bright’, ‘motivated’, ‘cooperative’ etc. • Becker (1961) argues that teachers label M.C. children as ‘ideal pupils’ and prefer to teach them rather than W.C. children • The key idea of labelling underlies many of the other processes within schools that cause under-achievement
  32. 32. The self-fulfilling prophecy • Prophecy: is a prediction made about something or someone (e.g. “he’s stupid – he’s bound to fail”) • The key feature of a self-fulfilling prophecy is that it comes true simply because it has been made (e.g. he goes on to fail all his exams) • Teachers can create self-fulfilling prophecies through the labels they attach to pupils • Studies of labelling show that ‘what teachers believe, pupils achieve’ • That is, while teachers believe M.C. pupils to be bright (and therefore succeed), W.C. pupils are likely to be labelled negatively and thus fail
  33. 33. Evaluation • Labelling theory is too deterministic: NOT ALL pupils who are labelled as failures fulfil the prophecy – some reject the label and succeed • Nor do ALL teachers label W.C. pupils negatively
  34. 34. Streaming • Streaming: is an extreme and institutionalised form of labelling • It works by putting all pupils of similar ability together into the same class or ‘stream’ for all subjects: ‘bright’ pupils are grouped together in the top stream, ‘thick’ ones in the bottom • Lacey (1970) describes streaming as ‘differentiation’ – a way of separating the sheep from the goats and then educating them differently • Streaming often creates a self-fulfilling prophecy
  35. 35. • Douglas found that the IQ of pupils labelled as less able and placed in the bottom stream actually fell over time, whereas that of pupils put in the top stream increased • Those placed in lower streams may be denied access to the same curriculum – e.g. not being put in for higher levels exams 3. Streaming (cont.)
  36. 36. Application • In questions on differences in achievement, you need to apply this by noting that W.C. pupils end up in lower streams and M.C. pupils in higher ones because of teacher labelling •  thus, widening the achievement gap between the classes
  37. 37. Pupil subcultures • A subculture: is a group whose beliefs, values and attitudes differ to some extent from the culture of wider society • Pupils may form their own subcultures in response to labelling: 1. Pro-school subcultures 2. Anti-school subcultures
  38. 38. 1. Pro-school subcultures • Pro-school subcultures are usually formed by pupils in higher streams • They accept the school’s values and goals of hard work, regular attendance, respect for teachers etc. • Typically they enjoy school, participate enthusiastically in its activities and intend to continue into education
  39. 39. 2. Anti-school subcultures • Anti-school subcultures are often formed by those who in lower streams • They REJECT the school’s values and often INVERT them (turn them upside down) • They dislike school, flout its rules, disrespect teachers, avoid doing schoolwork, play truant, sabotage their uniform etc.
  40. 40. Lacey: Status and subcultures • Lacey argues that lower-stream pupils form or join anti-schools subcultures because school deprives them of status by labelling them as failures • Therefore these pupils create their own status hierarchy: they gain status from their peers by rejecting the school’s values and breaking its rules
  41. 41. Status and subcultures (cont.) • Pupils subcultures often lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy: members of pro-school subcultures work hard and are successful, while those in anti-school mess about, truant and  fail
  42. 42. Evaluation • Focusing on internal factors may mean we neglect the role of home background factors such as poverty and cultural deprivation • An adequate account of under-achievement needs to take these into consideration too
  43. 43. Educational policies • What goes on in schools isn’t just a product of what teachers decide to do • It is also greatly influenced by government policies, and these can have an important effect on class differences in achievement • For example, some sociologists argue that marketisation policies have increased the amount of streaming in schools
  44. 44. • Likewise, policies on issues such as grants, fees, maintenance allowances, the school leaving age, compensatory education etc. have an impact on home background factors such as material or cultural deprivation Educational policies (cont.)
  45. 45. Interpretation • If a question asks about factors in schools, focus on labelling, the self-fulfilling prophecy, streaming and pupil subcultures • If it asks about factors in the education system, talk about policies AS WELL (see Topic 6)