Assess the strengths and limitations of experiments for the study of labelling.

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5. Using material from item A and elsewhere assess the strengths and limitations of experiments for the study of labelling.

Labelling is where a teacher treats a certain group of children differently due to predictions or stereotypes that have been previously made. The predictions can either be damaging or positive towards a child’s self-esteem and educational achievement.

Item A suggests that teachers are unlikely to admit to labelling students; therefore experiments which are conducted outside of the classroom may be invalid. The research outside of the classroom may only include interviews or surveys that the teacher would have answered because the researcher requested it. This may have a negative impact on the reliability of the research, because if you take the teacher out of their natural setting, they may feel pressured to not tell the truth, therefore giving false information. When teachers are taken out of the classroom this has an impact on the answers. Teachers feel authority being in the classroom, which they have control and are in charge to being questioned within a laboratory.

A negative aspect of researching within a school is the sociologist may not be able to blend into the background. Teachers and pupils may act differently when being observed. The teacher may deliberately not do or say anything that could be perceived as labelling. This is known as the “Hawthorne Effect.”  

The validity of the experiment in the classroom may be affected by the teachers acting differently around the children then usual if the researcher is studying them in the room, this can cause the information found by the sociologists to be an incorrect study of what really happens within the classroom.

Positivists find that laboratory experiments may cause ethical concerns; this can include a lack of consent needed from the children’s parents, as they are unable to give consent themselves. Students may come across as vulnerable, they might lack understanding about the experiment, and this could cause the children to act differently to the label the teacher has given them.

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The limitations of conducting field experiments may include invalid research, Rosenthal and Jacobson in America deliberately labelled random students as “sputters”. The students who were believed to have high IQ made progress, because they were believed by their teachers, then those who had low IQ. This experiment proves the self-fulfilling prophecy and raises the ethics of freely labelling students.

Harvey and Slatin used photographs of children from different social class backgrounds and asked teachers to rate their educational achievement. Pupils from middle-class backgrounds were seen as more likely to be successful than pupils from a working-class background, ...

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