Factors Affecting a Label
Gender is a socially constructed concept that has a significant influence on how individuals interact with one another and their environment. Gender roles are the expected behaviours and attitudes associated with being male or female, and they are learned through socialization from a young age. Gender socialization occurs through a variety of sources, including family, peers, media, and education. Angela McRobbie has identified the concept of the "bedroom culture" as a form of gender socialization that girls are often exposed to. The bedroom culture is characterized by keeping girls indoors, protecting them from outside influences, and encouraging them to engage in quiet and passive activities, such as reading, crafting, and baking. This socialization creates a perception that girls are fragile and need protection, and it may discourage them from pursuing more active and adventurous activities. In contrast, boys are socialized to be more outgoing and risk-taking, often engaging in more physical activities such as sports or roughhousing. They may be encouraged to take risks and be adventurous, as these behaviours are deemed more masculine.
These gender roles and the associated behaviours and attitudes can influence how teachers perceive their students in the classroom. Teachers may have preconceived notions about how girls and boys should behave, based on their gender roles, which may impact their expectations of their students and their teaching methods. For example, in a class with a higher proportion of boys, a teacher may be more likely to encourage active participation and physical movement, while in a class with a higher proportion of girls, a teacher may focus more on quiet and passive activities. These gendered expectations may perpetuate gender stereotypes and limit the potential of students to pursue activities or behaviours that do not conform to their assigned gender role.
In sociology, social class refers to a group of people who share similar economic, social, and cultural characteristics. Social class can be determined by various factors, such as income, occupation, education, and lifestyle. The education system plays a crucial role in shaping individuals' social class and their educational outcomes.
One way teachers can tell a student's social class is through their language. Bernstein, identified two types of language: restricted and elaborated code. Restricted code is often used by working-class people, while elaborated code is used by the middle class. Elaborated code features more complex vocabulary, grammar, and abstract concepts and does not rely heavily on contextual cues. On the other hand, restricted code is simpler, relies more on context, and tends to be more literal.
The education system favours elaborated code. As a result, textbooks, teachers, and materials use this code more often. However, this preference for elaborated code can create the idea that those who use restricted code are not intelligent, which is not true. People who use restricted code may simply require more time to understand complex ideas, similar to someone who speaks English as a second language. The education system's emphasis on elaborated code can also create barriers for individuals who use restricted code. Individuals who are not familiar with elaborated code may find it more difficult to understand, leading to lower academic achievement. However, this does not mean that individuals who use restricted code are less intelligent. It simply means they may need additional support and time to understand complex ideas.
In addition to language, a teacher may also determine a student's social class through their access to resources and eligibility for compensatory policies such as pupil premium and free school meals. The working class are more likely to face economic barriers that limit their access to essential learning resources such as stationery, textbooks, or supplementary learning materials. The inability to access these resources can have a significant impact on a student's academic performance, leading to a negative perception from their teacher due to their unpreparedness for learning. This perception can be further perpetuated by societal stereotypes that view the working class as less motivated and less capable of academic success. The effects of limited resources and negative labels on working-class students can be profound, potentially leading to lower academic achievement, self-esteem, and aspirations.
Ethnicity is one of the most common ways that labelling occurs in the educational system. Stereotypes and biases can lead to teachers and other school personnel labelling students based on their ethnicity, such as assuming that a student of Asian descent is naturally good at math, or that a Black student is more likely to be disruptive. Such labelling can have a negative impact on the student's academic performance and overall experience in the classroom. For instance, a student who is labelled as "lazy" or "disruptive" due to their ethnicity may be subject to lowered expectations from teachers, which can in turn affect their self-esteem and motivation to succeed. This can create a self-fulfilling prophecy, where the student internalizes the label and starts to behave in ways that conform to the stereotype, perpetuating the cycle of negative labelling.
Moreover, ethnic labelling can also lead to discrimination and exclusion, as students may be treated differently based on their ethnicity. This can result in the creation of cliques or social hierarchies based on ethnicity, which can further exacerbate the negative effects of labelling on students' academic and social experiences.
Unconscious bias is a key factor that contributes to the issue of ethnic labelling in the educational system. Unconscious bias refers to the unconscious associations and stereotypes that individuals hold towards certain groups, which can influence their perceptions and behaviours towards those groups. In the context of ethnicity, teachers may hold unconscious biases towards certain ethnic groups, such as assuming that students of a certain ethnicity are less intelligent or more likely to misbehave. These biases can lead to the unconscious labelling of students based on their ethnicity, which can then affect their academic performance and overall experience in the classroom. For instance, a teacher with unconscious biases towards a particular ethnicity may have lower expectations of students from that group, and may be less likely to provide them with the support and resources they need to succeed academically. This can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, where the student's performance conforms to the low expectations set by the teacher.
In the process of constructing labels, the interaction between the teacher and student plays a crucial role. It is during these interactions that the teacher evaluates the student's behaviour, and subsequently, assigns a label. The labels may be positive or negative, and the student's behaviour is the primary determinant of the label they receive.
For instance, a student who displays good manners, is respectful, and works hard in class is likely to receive a positive label. Conversely, a student who exhibits disruptive behaviour, is aggressive, or refuses to adhere to the classroom rules is likely to be labelled negatively. It is important to note that the label assigned to a student is not only influenced by their behaviour but also by the teacher's interpretation of that behaviour.
Furthermore, it is worth considering that a student's behaviour in the classroom can be linked to various other labels such as social class, gender, and ethnicity. For instance, students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds may find it harder to conform to the classroom rules due to various socio-economic factors such as lack of resources, poor parenting, or inadequate education. Similarly, students from minority ethnic backgrounds may face discrimination or stereotyping, which can impact their behaviour in the classroom.
In the context of student labelling, it is worth noting that formal labels are not typically assigned to students. However, teachers do engage in conversations about their students, which may lead to informal labels or reputations being attributed to certain individuals. It is important to recognize that such labels may be based on subjective opinions and experiences and can have significant implications for the student's academic and social standing.
When a student transfers to a new school, reports are written to inform the new teachers of the student's academic performance, strengths, and areas for improvement. This information is crucial for providing a personalized learning experience that is tailored to the individual student's needs.
At the beginning of each academic year, teachers may review their class lists and recall their experiences with former students. These conversations can contribute to informal labelling of the students and may affect their social and academic standing within the classroom. It is important to recognize the potential impact of such labels and to strive for a fair and objective evaluation of each student's strengths and areas for improvement.
Conversations among educators regarding past students may persist throughout the year and may contribute to the perpetuation of informal labels. To ensure a fair and equitable evaluation of each student, it is important to encourage teachers to approach their evaluations in a neutral and objective manner, based on the individual student's merits and achievements.
In the school environment, reputations can form labels that students and teachers use to describe and categorize individuals. Reputation can stem from a variety of factors, including academic performance, social behaviour, or family background. These labels can be positive or negative, and they can be difficult to shake off once established. Even teachers who have never taught a particular student may be aware of their reputation through informal channels of communication, such as teacher lounges or hallway conversations.
When teachers form preconceptions based on a student's reputation, it can significantly impact how they interact with the student. For example, a student with a reputation for being disruptive may be treated more harshly than another student who has not gained the same label, even if their behaviour is identical. This labelling is not limited to teachers labelling students, however, as students may also form preconceptions about teachers based on their reputation.
The consideration of data is an important aspect of education. Through the collection of various reports, such as previous academic grades, we are able to gain insights into a student's educational needs, including any additional requirements they may have. This information is particularly valuable when a student has faced external challenges that may have impacted their performance in the past. Such data plays a pivotal role in the education system, allowing educators to set achievable targets for each student. If a student is predicted to attain a low grade, then obtaining such a result is deemed acceptable. However, if a student has been targeted to achieve a higher grade, a lower-than-expected result can raise questions about what may have gone wrong. The use of data, therefore, has the potential to alter a student's experience. The factors that influence a student's educational journey are many and varied, and as such, require consideration of numerous elements to create a comprehensive label.