We often view ourselves as a reflection of how others see us. Positive praise could lead to confidence. Negative comments could lead to unconfidence. Being given a label could cause a tendency for the person to adopt and act in terms of it. Take education as an example. Teachers labelling has been shown to have a huge impact on student success. There are researches that teacher’s assumptions for their students tend to live up to the expectations that their teacher said to them. The studies have been thoroughly investigated by the Interactionist as they have examined the day-to-day interplay of teachers and students in schools (Holborn and Langley, 2004). On this occasion, this essay will be looking at how labelling affects the students social class, gender and ethnicity in explaining educational achievement.
Interactionists in the UK have different explanations of educational achievement based on labelling theory. According to their studies, teachers initially evaluate pupils in relation to their social backgrounds (Browne, 2002). When it comes to educational achievement the children from middle-class background have positive labelling or better assessment than the children from working-class background. Famous study by Becker (1971) has proven that teachers in Chicago were operating with a definition of the “ideal pupil” as a positive label. These “ideal pupil” were manifested by the children from middle- class background as they are seen to be interested in lessons; they have a good conduct and appearances. They work hard, they are co-operative and polite. Those from the working- class background were seen as less able or the opposite of ‘ideal pupil’ (Browne, 2002).
Another analysis was done in America by Ray Rists (1970) where he found out that children had been allocated according to their social background and ability. Teachers used the children’s home background and appearance to different group. Those middle-class children who have neat and clean appearance were placed on ‘higher-ability’ table, with working-class children being placed on the ‘lower ability’ table (Holborn and Langley, 2004).
Research by Neil Keddie 1971 presents a similar picture. Keddie found that teachers taught those in higher-stream classes differently from those in lower streams. Higher-stream classes involve middle class background whilst lower streams include working –class background. Higher-stream classes ere expected to behave better and do more work, and teachers gave them more, and different types of, educational knowledge which gave them greater opportunities for educational success. Working-class pupils might therefore underachieve in education partly because they have not been given access to the knowledge required for educational success (Browne, 2002).
As a result, teachers prefer to label middle-class children as bright and highly motivated as they are more likely to be successful in education. So teachers spend more time to them. Whereas, working-class children were labelled as slow or of low ability, teachers expect less from these pupils and deny them with the knowledge and skills they deserve (Pilkington et.al, 2005).
If middle rather than working-class pupils are labelled ‘able’ and ‘well behaved’, this may well disadvantage working-class pupils. These pupils may see themselves in terms of the label and act accordingly- so fulfilling the prophesy teachers have made about them (Browne, 2002). Research done by Rosenthal and Jacobson (1968) in California provided useful evidence of self-fulfilling prophecy. They found that a randomly chosen group of pupils whom teachers were labelled as bright and could be expected to make good progress, did in fact make greater progress than students not so labelled. Rosenthal and Jacobson claimed that the teachers’ expectations significantly affected their pupils’ performance (Browne,