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How Does Social Class Affect Educational Attainment?

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Tom Doherty 12JA - Sociology Investigation How Does Social Class Affect Educational Attainment? Introduction My intentions in this project are to demonstrate research into the relationship between class and educational attainment. I will include previous studies by well-known sociologists and the outcomes of their research, as well as creating my own research methods. My research methods will include how I intend to gather information on my study of social class. The Aim of the project is to find relationships between social class and educational attainment and explain the out come, previous studies indicate that working class pupils do less well academically and my project explains the reasons why, and how one might go about gathering useful information about it Concepts It is believed that difference in class culture can contribute to educational success or failure. Douglas believed parental interest was the most important factor in educational success, his research suggested middle class parents showed more interest than working class parents. However, his research has been criticised, as he measured parental interest by attendance at open days, and job difference between middle class and working class parents may account for this. These and other findings came to be known as cultural deprivation, believing that those at the bottom of the class structure are deprived of certain values and skills that are vital for educational success. ...read more.


This has been illustrated in studies by Rosenthal & Jacobson, where it has been shown that a teacher perception of a pupil's abilities strongly affects how that pupil progresses. This labelling doesn't just apply to class differences; teachers also label those from ethnic minorities. Methodology Participant observation within classrooms would be my form of research, I would spend lessons within a classroom observing the interaction of working and middle classes with the teacher, and observe the labelling theory at first hand, and I would also observe the working class students' behaviour in comparison to that of middle class. The type of participant observation I would chose would be overt because I believe that covert participant observation is morally and practically unacceptable and that being honest and declaring ones intentions within the classroom would be the best way forward, although to gather information once this has been announced would be very hard because pupils would consider me to be somewhat of an inspector and would act differently, meaning my research would not be accurate, so compromises often have to be made between the two. I would also question pupils from both social classes (determined on their location within the city, and their past record of behaviour, participation etc) about the facilities available within their homes and their parent's interest in their schoolwork, through indirect questions such as 'do your parents get on your back about homework?' ...read more.


The pros would be that participation observation is the best way of observing how pupils act and interact with each other. It creates a valid picture of social reality. Getting information solely on questioning the students would not be very accurate, actual observation of behaviour, attention, punctuality, participation and attainment gives a much better set of information. Questionnaires for the students and teachers to fill in, with disguised questions on to help gain insight into the home-lives of the students. The bad side, the con's to my practical methods of gathering information is that it is time consuming and I would have to spend many weeks in the classroom for 1) the pupils to get used to me and 2) to gather enough information on both social classes. Participation observation is very qualitive and not quantitive so I might not have any relevance to the occurrences in other schools or cities. The main con to participation observation is that it is not repeatable and that it is a one-off study. This means that the events that occur within the observation become useless because they can't be proven and they cant be replicated. Questioning the students about their education and what their parents to do contribute may lead some deviant pupils into not participating in the study. Choosing an ethically and morally acceptable form of research whilst still being valid is not an easy task, but I think overt participant observation would be the best form. ...read more.

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