Processes in Schools (Sociology Education)

These cards cover the taught curriculum, the hidden curriculum, Teacher-pupil relationships, Labelling, Pupil subcultures, setting and streaming. They are also linked to studies which may be useful when talking about these subjects in exams.

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The National Curriculum (The taught Curriculum)

The Curriculum before 1988:

Prior to the National curriculum schools decided individually what they felt was important to teach to students and therefore there was no set way of being able to compare the abilities and results of students.

The current curriculum:

Ensures that basic skills such as English, Maths and Science are taught consistently allowing students to become employable and to provide a common basis for measuring progress.

Problems with the Curriculum:

Class: The curriculum uses the elaborated code and holds values which give middle class students an advantage e.g deferred gratification

Gender: certain subjects are seen as more suitable for certain genders

Ethnicity: The curriculum neglects both ethnic minority culture and topics therefore lowering the self esteem of those from other ethnicities

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The Hidden Curriculum

Definition: The Norms and values that we learn through body language, expectations and rules in school e.g queuing up to buy lunch. 

Sociological perspectives: 

Marxists: Bowles and Gintis- parallels between school and capitalist work place (correspondence principle) such as hierarchies, this operates through the hidden curriculum as we are taught things such as obedience indirectly. 

Functionalists: School acts as a bridge between family and society. It teaches meritocracy and that roles are achieved rather than ascribed (like at home) It lays down universalistic rules and the idea that everyone is treated the same by society.

Feminists: Argue that gender identities and expectations of different genders are taught creating inequalities.

How it is transmitted: Through awards such as merits for conforming. Through acceptance of hierarchy by obeying teachers. Through external rewards such as wages which motivate students. 

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Teacher-pupil relationships

Rosenthal and Jacobson's study: (Pygmalion in the Classroom)

Study in Oak Community School, California:

Told teachers done IQ test on a class and randomly selected a handful of students to be the 'spurters.' A year later 47% of those labelled as spurters=  made significant progress.


Interviews with 60 Chicago high school teacher & found judged on ideal pupil image (Middle class attitudes) 


Examined the responses and strategies black boys use to cope with racism. Found that teachers had a stereotype of black machoism where they are all seen as rebellious, anti-authority and anti-school.

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Students may be 'labelled' as 'good' or 'problem' students by both teachers and their peers, and this affects their self-image. The label becomes their 'aster status' if they live up to it.

(Becker's Ideal student study)

Alternatively, students may consciously set out to 'prove the teachers  wrong' and reject the label.

Mary Fuller:

A group of girls in year 11 in a London comprehensive school. They were high achievers placed in low streams. Rather than accepting their negative label they channelled their anger in to achieving, however they did not seek the approval of teachers and associated with both high and low achievers. 

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Pupil Subcultures

There is a lot of evidence to suggest that pupils form subcultures that either support the values of the school or oppose them.

There are 4 possible responses:

Ingratiation: being the 'teachers pet'

Ritualism: going through the motions and staying out of trouble

Retreatism: daydreaming and mucking about

Rebellion: outright rejection of school

(Gender) Laddish subcultures: Lead to underachievement as achieving not seen as macho

Ethnicity subcultures: The rebels, The conformists, The retreatists, The innovators

Social class: Paul Willis's study on working class boys

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Setting and Streaming

Setting- where students are put in to different groups of abilities in a class

Streaming- putting students in different classes based on abilities

Arguments for streaming:

Teachers can focus on the needs of a class

Students in top sets can be pushed to their full potential

Arguments against:

Students in lower sets find difficult to move up

Lowers self esteem

Descrimination may mean that working class students or those from ethnic minorities are put in to lower streams.

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