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The Self Fulfilling Prophecy

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The self-fufilling prophecy
A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that comes true by virtue of it having been made. Interactionists argue that labelling can affect pupils’ achievement by creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The teacher labels a pupil (e.g as being very intelligent) and on the basis of this label, makes predictions about him (e.g. he will make outstanding economic academic progress).
The teacher treats the pupil accordingly, acting as if the prediction is already true (e.g. by giving him more attention and expecting a higher standard of work from him)
The pupil internalises the teachers expectation, which becomes part of his self-concept or self-image, so that he now actually becomes the kind of pupil the teacher believed him to be in the first place. He gains confidence, tries harder and is successful. The prediction is fulfilled.
The self fulfilling prophecy can also produce under achievement. If teachers have low expectations of certain children and communicate these expectations in their interaction, these children may develop a negative self-concept. They may come to see themselves as failures and give up trying, therefore fulfilling the original prophecy.
Streaming and self-fulfilling prophecy
Streaming involves separating children into different ability groups or classes called ‘streams’. Each ability group is then taught separately from the others for all subjects. Studies show that the self-fulfilling prophecy is particularly likely to occur when children are streamed.
As Becker shows, teachers do not usually see working-class children as ideal pupils. They are more likely to find themselves put in a lower stream class.
Once streamed it is usually difficult to move up to a higher stream. Children in lower streams ‘get the message’ that their teachers have written them off as no-hopers.
This creates a self-fulfilling prophecy in which the pupils live up to their teachers low expectations by under achieving.
By contrast, middle-class pupils tend to benefit from streaming. They are likely to be placed in higher streams reflecting teachers view of them as ideal pupils. As a result, they develop a more positive self-concept, gain confidence, work harder and improve their grades.
Pupil Subcultures
A pupil subculture is a group of pupils who share similar values and behaviour patterns. Pupil subcultures often emerge as a response to the way pupils have been labelled, and in particular as a reaction to streaming.
Colin Lacey’s (1970) study shows concepts of differentiation and polarisation to explain how pupil subcultures develop.
Differentiation is the process of teachers catorgoring pupils according to how they perceive their ability, attitude and/or behaviour. Streaming is a form of differentiation, since is catogorises pupils into separate classes. Those that the school deems ‘more able’ are given high status by being placed in a high stream, whereas those deemed ‘less able’ and placed in low streams are given inferior status.
Polarisation, on the other hand, is the process in which pupils respond to streaming by moving towards one of two opposite ‘poles’ or extremes.
In his study in a grammar school, Lacey found that streaming polarised boys into a pro-school and anti-school subculture.
The pro-school subculture
Pupils places in high streams tend to remain committed to the values of the school. They gain their status in the approved manner, through academic success. They tend to form a pro-subculture.
The anti-school subculture
Lacey found that those placed in low streams suffer a loss of self esteem: the school has undermined their self-worth by placing them in a position of inferior status.
This label of filure

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