Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of experiments for the study of teacher labelling

Both field and lab experiment can be used to study teacher labelling. Harvey and Slatin use lab experiment, and a sample of 96 teachers to assess preconceived ideas about social class - finding that lower class pupils were rates less favpurably - based on the similarities between their own pupils and those in the photos. Similarly, Rosenthal and Jacobsen used field experiments to assess teachers expectations, where certain expectations were planted in teachers heads about pupils and the effects were assessed. However, there are still weaknesses to both types of experiments when studying teacher labelling, as the item states 'one problem is that laboratory experiments are not neutralistic and can affect how pupils act'.

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  • Created on: 15-04-19 16:27

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  • Lab experiments rarely use real  pupils, so there are fewer ethical problems, Harvey and Slatin used photographs and Mason used reports and videos to asses teachers expectations. Fewer ethical problems as no children are suffering from negative effects, self fulfilling prophecy etc.
  • Lab experiments help researchers isolation and examine a variable in large detail as they usually examine one specific aspect - body language etc. Helps to ensure that the correct cause-and-effect is identified.
  • R and J's research design was relatively simple to repeat, within 5 years of the study - it had been repeated no less than 242 times.
  • In Rosenthal and Jacobson's field experiment, they looked at the whole labelling process, from the teacher's expectations through to the effect on their pupils - the study is also longitudinal so can identify trends over time. Even if Claiborn;s study showed a different result, Field experiments will adapt to fit the social factors of the time.


  • When researchers do use real pupils in lab experiment, as seen with Charkin et al, many ethical concerns have been raised. As a group, young people are more vulnerable to deception and psychological damage. Much older students were manipulating their behaviour towards a ten year old boy, acting on their expectations given - could cause lasting effects.
  • Similarly, when assessing pupil's obedience, Milgrim saw pupils display physical signs of distress as a result of what they were being asked to do - digging nails into flesh, trembling.
  • Such a narrow focus of lab experiments means that teachers expectations aren't seen in a wider process of labelling, Charkin found that body language was an example of teacher's expectations, but didn't examine the effect of this on the student.
  • There are a number of practical problems when using lab experiments to assess teacher labelling, schools are very large - a number of variables can contribute to their prejudices. Class size, streaming an type of school are amongst the factors - it is impossible to attempt to control any of these variables
  • However, as seen with lab experiments, there are many variables in different schools affecting results, it is unlikely that the original could have been replicated exactly. The researchers also didn't carry out any observations of classroom interaction - there is no data to support their claims, Claiborn used observation in a later study and found no evidence of teacher expectations.


References to the item:'they often give negative labels to pupils based on the pupil's social class''with covert field experiments, the real purpose of the research is not known and this may help to overcome the Hawthorne effect'


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