Sociology - Case Studies


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Hargreaves, Hester and Mellor


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  • Teachers label students through 3 Stages
  • Speculation: Teachers guess about students based on appearance, motivation and friends.
  • Elaboration: Teachers test their ideas to prove or disprove their hypothesis
  • Stabilisation: Teachers labels become fixed.
  • Carried out in Northern England- not representative therefore unable to generalise.
  • Overt Observation- participants may change their behaviour because they know they are being observed (Hawthorne Effect)
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Self Fulfilling Prophecy (SFP)

Rosenthal and Jacobson


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  • Administered IQ tests to school children.
  • Picked 20% at randon and told teachers that these students were high ability.
  • Re-administered the same IQ Test 1 year later and found that the students that were previously labelled as high ability, had improved their scores more than the others.
  • People have suggested that IQ Test was not administered properly.
  • Results invalid
  • Not Representative, therefore cannot generalise
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Reject Label



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  • Studied Black girls in a comprehensive school.
  • Found that they resented the negative labels linked to them- they felt that people expected them to fail.
  • Instead of living up to the labels (SFP), the girls worked hard to succed and prove them wrong.
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Ability Grouping- Banding



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  • Pupils put into bands in Year 7 based on information from primary schools.
  • Pupils with middle class fathers were more likely to be put into the higher bands
  • Lower band pupils behaviour worsened and they were pushed towards lower level exams.
  • Teachers had lower expectations.
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Ability Grouping- Streaming



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  • Knowledge witheld from lower streams.
  • Teachers assumed that those in lower sets were not interested in their learning.
  • Middle class children more likely to be in higher streams as they fitted the ideal pupil model.
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Anti-School Subcultures



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  • Anti-School Subcultures form as a response to negative labels
  • Meant that students could only achieve a low status in the school
  • Students created their own norms and values to replace the schools
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School Subculture Formation

Mac an Ghaill


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3 Working Class Male Subcultures

1. Macho Lads: Poor achievers. In lower sets; developed a subculture that acted tough and 'had a laugh' in lessons.

2. Academic Achievers: High achievers in top sets

3. New Enterprisers: Worked hard within the vocational curriculum

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Female Subculture



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  • The girls notes contained female stereotypes 'bitching', 'falling out' and rituals of exclusion.
  • Those who did not conform to the stereotype were marginalised.
  • *Marginalised: Considered to be outcasts
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Material Deprivation

Smith and Noble


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Barriers to Learning related to parents income:

1. Not enough money to buy uniforms or pay for school trips

2. Poor Diet and Nutrition

3. Ill Health, affecting school attendance

4. Overcrowding at home, making it difficult to study

5. Insufficient money for books, and aids such as computers, music lessons and private tutors.

6. Greater family stress and breakdown

7. Cost of transport to school (so only the closest school could be chosen)

8. Not being able to afford education after 16

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Material Deprivation- Poor Quality Housing



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Studied the links between poor-quality housing and overcrowded housing and educational attainment:

1. Less space to play leading to poor development

2. Less space to study

3. Increased bullying at school leading to truancy

4. Disruption to schooling owing to moving house more often

5. Health Hazards e.g damp leading to days ill from school

6. Higher rates of stress and depression amongst parents who are therefore less supportive

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Cultural Deprivation



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Middle Class Parents are:

1. More likely to stimulate young children e.g reading together, playing educational games .

2. More likely to reward children for improving skills e.g Speech

3. More likely to encourage older children to have high aspirations and continue their education.

4. More likely to be interested in the child's schooling e.g attending parents evening

  • Could be outdated
  • Cannot generalise
  • Working Class parents could not afford to have their children stay on in education
  • Working Class parents have to work and so cannot attend parents evening
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Cultural Deprivation- Working Class and Middle Cla



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  • Studied British Working Class values and attitudes and how they can affect educational attainment
  • British Working Class people lack values and attitudes that are neeed to succeed in education.
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Cultural Deprivation- Language



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1. Restricted Code- Spoken by Working Class Students

  • Limited vocabulary (words)
  • Incomplete sentences
  • Lack of explanation
  • Context Bound

2. Elaborated Code- Spoken by Middle Class Students

  • Varied Vocabulary
  • Full Sentences
  • Explanation and detail
  • Context Free
  • (Rewarded in schools as these are middle class institutions with middle class teachers)
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Cultural Capital

Pierre Bourdieu


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3 Types of Capital

1. Economic Capital- Money

2. Educational Capital- Qualifications

3. Cultural Capital-

  • Middle Class values, attitudes and language e.g Books, Newspapers, Theaters, Galleries, Museums, Classical Music
  • These are rewarded in the education system
  • Giving middle class students an advantage
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Immigrant Parents



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  • Immigrant parents are more likely to encourage post 16 education
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Immigrant Students



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  • Newly immigrated Caribbean students:
    • had grammatical errors
    • were labelled by teachers as 'stupid'
    • failed to understand instructions
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Asian Material Deprivation



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  • Asian students often left school sooner than their parents wanted because of financial problems e.g needed to work in the family business
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Ethnocentric Curriculum



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  • Curriculum lacked black literature, history, music and positive black images and role models
  • Lead african Caribbean students to have a low self esteem and feel school was not relevant to their lives.
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  • Racist name calling occured everyday for Asian Students in UK comprehensives.
  • Physical racist attacks were more common and teachers reactions were inadequate.
  • Ethnic minority students may group together for solidarity and then appear unsociable, or be seen as an anti school subculture by teachers.
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Institutionalised Racism

Gillborn and Youdell


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  • Proportionately more black students were put in for foundation exams at GCSE level.
  • This meant that they were less able to achieve grades that allowed them to complete A Levels or a Degree.
  • This was thought to be based on teacher labels and stereotypes.
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'Them and Us'



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  • Staffroom Comments about Afro Caribbean Students as troublemakers.
  • New teachers then had stereotypes.
  • They were punished more harshly than white students for similar behaviour.
  • Teachers made insensitive jokes. Students formed anti-school subcultures. Black boys spoke patois, teachers felt threatened.
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Criticise Wright



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  • Samples need to be large and carefully selected in order to reflect on typical range of opinions.
  • Only interviewed groups of year 10 students and teachers from 2 schools.
  • Only uses evidence from students that is biased
  • She is a black researcher therefore biased.
  • One teacher that said black students were treated fairly in her school was considered as inaccurate.
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Problems of Researcher Identity

Mac an Ghaill


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  • Criticized other researchers for their Cultural Perspective adopting the 'White Norm' of viewing the black community as a problem.
  • Concluded while well meaning teachers thought that they treated all students the same, ethnic minority students received unfair treatment.
  • Some Afro-Caribbean and Asian students made anti-school subcultures.
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Avoiding Confrontations



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  • Afro-Caribbean boys may be viewed as a threat to teachers' authority
  • Other ethnicities were more often punished for breaking school rules
  • While teachers tried to repress Caribbean Cultural differences such as feautures of dress, speech, reading them as strategies of resistance.
  • This resulted in them creating Anti-School Subcultures.
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Gender Socialisation

Oakley (Feminist)


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  • Studied the primary socialisation of gender roles
  • Girls are given dolls and play kitchens
  • Boys are given chemistry kits and model making kits
  • Boys' activities were better preparation for school work.
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Changing Female Aspirations

Sharpe (Feminist)


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  • Interviewed teenage girls about their futures and priorities
  • 1970s top priorities:
    • Love
    • Marriage
    • Children
  • 1990s top priorities:
    • Career
    • Supporting Yourself
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Nursery School Books

Lobban (Feminist)


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  • Studied Nursery School books.
  • Stories showed women caring for children and making food.
  • They showed men building and exploring.
  • This left males better prepared to schooling.
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Nursery School Books

Best (Feminist)


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  • Studied 132 pre-school reading
  • 71% of heroes were males (only 26% showed females as heroines)
  • Females were shown as the victims needed to be saved by men
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Closing the Gender Gap



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  • Role models and a change in attitudes meant young girls were ambitious and wanted to have a stable family and an interesting job.


  • Many girls still leave school without qualifications
  • Working Class girls are sitill more likely to go into feminine career paths with low pay e.g beauty.
  • Female university students are still less likely to take prestigious science, Technology and ICT courses
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Feminised Education



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  • Schools reward feminine behaviour- discussion skills, focus in lessons and neat orderly work.
  • Schools view masculine behaviour negatively- competitiveness, leadership, physically.
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'Laddish' Behaviour



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  • Working Class boys see masculine behaviour as being tough and physical.
  • Working Class boys that achieved highly were harrassed, called 'Swots' and were victims of homophobic (anti-gay) abuse.
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ICT as a Male Subject



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  • ICT is seen as a boys subject because:
    • It involves machines
    • Teaching requires less group work and discussion
    • Most ICT teachers are male
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Peer Pressure in Sport



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  • Sport seen as a boys subject
  • Girls that partake in Sport are often given a masculine image.
  • They are often referred to as 'sporty' and 'tomboys'
  • This may be why girls opt out or skip P.E
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Problems with Marketisation



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  • Creates a competitive and business like atmosphere in schools and does not meet the needs of all students e.g those who have little hope of or will definately achieve.
  • 5 A*-C's are ignored
  • Money that should be spent on resources go towards marketing e.g. brochures and open evenings
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Catchment Area Selection

Gibbons and Machin


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  • Studied House Sales in the South East based on primary school catchment area.
  • Moving to the Catchment Area of a 'top' school could add £12,000- £16,000 to a house price
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Parental Choice (Working Class v Middle Class)

Gerwitz, Ball and Bowe


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  • Interviewed London parents about thier school choices
  • Middle class parents were able to use contacts and experience to choose which were the best schools.
  • Middle Class Parents were able to appeal admission decisions if needed.
  • Working Class parents tended to make less informed choices.
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Margaret Philip


omg this has been soo helpfull thnk uu soo muchhh :)

Elizabeth B


:) your welcome

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