Roles and processes


Labelling theory

Ethos: The climate, character or atmosphere of a school. This is built up by the hidden curriculum and helps sell a school to parents. Pupils learn the attitudes and values of the ethos simply by participating in the daily routines of school life.

Labelling: the process of defining a person/group in a certain way - as a particular 'type' of person/group. Teachers actively judge and classify pupils in a variety of ways over a period of time.  They interpret their behaviour, form impressions of them, such as whether they are bright or slow learners, ideal or troublesome pupils, hard working or lazy.  Classifying pupils as a ‘certain type’ of person.

The process of labelling is: 
Speculation  - guessing
Elaboration - testing
Stabilisation - fixed 

Stereotype: a generalised, oversimplified view of the features of a social group, allowing for few individual differences between members of the group.

Halo effect: pupils become stereotyped favourably/unfavourably, on the basis of earlier impressions. A teacher who has formed a good impression of student in one way (e.g. polite) can see them more favourably in another unrelated, and not necessarily true way (e.g. bright and hardworking) and therefore support them more!  This can work in the opposite way too.

Self - fulfilling prophecy: pupils behaviour is influenced by the way teachers react to them. people act in response to predictions whicch have been made regarding their behaviour, thereby making the prediction come true. This can lead to teacher- pupil conflicts, classroom confrontations and a formation of both pro- and anti- school subcultures.

Rutter 15,000 hours ~ secondary schools and their effects on children. A study in 12 schools, aiming to show that good schools could make a difference to life chances of ALL pupils.

An 'ideal' pupil

Becker (1971)- teachers initially evaluate pupils in relation to their own stereotype of an ‘ideal pupil’.  This then sets the standards for teachers’ judgements of the quality of the young people as pupils and represent the typical normal  or conforming pupil.

Hempel-Jorgensen (2009)- generally teachers value hard work, concentrating, listening to teachers, performing well academically, good behaviour, conforming to rules. pupils share this conception of and ideal learner and this influences how they view themselves and educational motivation, aspirations, and therefore achievement.

How can teacher stereotyping harm a students process in school?

Waterhouse (2004): 

‘Pivotal identity’ formed for pupils- impacts on the way teachers interpret pupil behaviour.  E.g. someone labelled as ‘normal’ displaying poor behaviour is likely to have this explained away as a ‘phase’.  May lead to the self-fulfilling prophecy.


Four primary and secondary schools- very small sample. 
Too deterministic- some schools may actively seek to address this- consider Rutter et al.- effective school has high expectations for all.

Becker (1971), Rist (1970): 

Whole range of non-academic factors can make up the stereotype of an ‘ideal pupil’- social class (but also gender and ethnicity), and the extent to which they conformed to the middle class standards of teachers, rather than abilities were the


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