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Theory and Research in the Sociology of Education

An analysis of an article by Alan R. Sadovnik by Mireia Ramón-Car for Ph D. assistant professor Daniel Gabaldón-Estevan's SFE's class

Mireia Ramón-Car

on 21 April 2013

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Transcript of Theory and Research in the Sociology of Education

Theory and Research in the Sociology of Education an article by ALAN R. SADOVNIK Major theoretical perspectives in the sociology of education:
Conflict theory
Symbolic interactionism What does it discuss?
Contemporary theoretical approaches:
the Code theory by Basil Bernstein
the Cultural capital theory by Pierre Bourdieu
the Status-competition theory of Randall Collins the Institutional theory by John Meyer
the Postmodern critical theory As well as: The functionalist theory
- Society as a machine where one part articulates with another to produce the dynamic energy to make society work.

- Stresses the interdependence of the social system.

- Although aware that change is inevitable, social order is maintained by stressing consensus and agreement.

- Functionalists acknowledge conflict between groups however consider that, without bonds to unite groups, society would disintegrate. Main principles of functionalism The origins: Émile Durkheim French sociologist Émile Durkheim (1858-1917)
explored the effects of the decline of the traditional rituals in the transition towards modern societies. Durkheim was not a reactionary: the solution wasn’t going back to the strict forms of social control and regulations from the past. Individualism as a consequence
of the decline of
collective conscience Organic solidarity Functionalists assumed consensus as the normal state in society.
Conflict represented a breakdown of shared values.

Schools as functioning in the interest of the majority of citizens (within democratic societies).

Educational reforms and curricula were technically advanced and rational and encouraged social unity. Schools as socializing agents Schools socialize students into the appropriate values and sort and select students according to their abilities.

Schooling as a way to maintain the social order: meritocracy and technocracy.
They also teach students how to learn so they will be able to adapt to new work roles. School Political purposes Social purposes Economic purposes −Teach basic cognitive skills (reading, writing, mathematics)
−Transmit specific knowledge (history, literature)
−Help students acquire higher order thinking skills (analysis, evaluation and synthesis). Intellectual purposes −To inculcate allegiance to the existing political order (patriotism)
−To prepare citizens to participate in this political order
−To help assimilate diverse cultural groups into a common political order
−To teach children the basics laws of the society. −To socialize children into the various roles, functions and values of society.
SOCIALIZATION key ingredient in stability:
−Enables members to help solve social problems
-In order to socialize, schools work along with other institutions such as families, churches, temples, etc. −To prepare students for their futures occupational roles
−To select, train and allocate students into the division of labor. Obvious clash between intellectual and political purposes of the school If the school teaches higher order skills such as critical thinking and evaluation...
Can it simultaneously engender patriotism and conformity to social rules? Modern functionalism Origin in the work of Talcott Parsons (1959):
"Education is vital to maintain modern, democratic societies, especially in terms of promoting and offering equality of opportunity for all citizens". A democratic and just society should generate the former (equality of opportunities) where all individuals have an equal opportunity for social and economic advantages.

Individual merit and talent replace ascriptive and class variables.

Meritocracy (a system in which the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement) is seen as a laudable goal and schools are institutions which guarantee a fair competition for unequal rewards. Dominant paradigm in sociology and the sociology of education until the 1960's. Conflict theory's main critics and conflicts with functionalism Conflict theorists argued that schools functioned in the interest of dominant groups, rather than the whole of the society. Functionalists were confusing what is with
what ought to be:
Schools ought to be democratic and meritocratic, although empirical evidence did not support this thesis. Conflict theorists considered the relationship between schooling, skills and jobs far less rational than functionalist considered. The role of schools providing equality of opportunities is far more problematic than suggested by functionalists. The conflict theory As opposed to functionalism, they don't believe that society is held together by shared values and collective agreement but in the ability of dominant groups to impose their will through force and manipulation. Ideologies or intellectual justifications are created by the powerful to enhance their position and legitimize inequality and the inequal distribution of material and cultural goods. Conflict theorist see the relationship between society and school as problematic: they don't emphasize cohesion to explain social order, but STRUGGLE. students struggle
against teachers teachers struggle against
administrators and so on... School as a battlefield These antagonisms are muted by the belief that schools really select students according to their abilities and not to their social status. Marxism and school Although Karl Marx (1818-1883) did not write much about education, he is believed to be the founder of the conflict school in the sociology of education.

He believed that the proletariat would finally rise up and overthrow the capitalists and establish a new society where men and women were no longer alienated from their labor. Some political economists believe there is a direct correspondence between oganization of schools and the organization of society, so... Until society is fundamentally changed, there is little hope of real school reform. However, most sociologist of education argue that traditional Marxism
overlooks the power of culture
and human agency
in promoting change. A social model where the modern individual would be able to exist within a cohesive modern society (balance between individualism and community). Industrialization, urbanization and modernization traditional methods of social control
and the loss of social solidarity
and cohesion. Equality of opportunities
vs. equality of results Also believed that power relations between dominant classes and subordinate groups structured society, however were not the only variables which formed hierarchies. Pierre Bourdieu John Meyer Randall Collins Willard Waller Max Weber Main conflict theorists Status Key sociological concept which indicates that people identify their group with:
What they consume
Whith whom they socialize Bureaucracy It progressively became the dominant type of authority.
Bureaucratic ways of thinking were to shape educational reforms. What should be the goal of education?
Training individuals for employment or for thinking?
are these two compatible? One of the first American sociologists of education His way of relating school and society became a tradition in sociological research Schools are autocracies in "perilous equilibrium" since students are forced to go against their will.

Without vigilance, schools would erupt into anarchy.

Students' noncompliance is seen as a form of resistance. Follower of the Weberian approach Introduced the Institutional theory approach to sociology of education. Follower of the Weberian approach Educational expansion is best explained as status group struggle.

Education credentials (diplomas) are status symbols rather than indicators of achievement.

Education is used by dominant groups to secure more advantageous places for themselves and their children. Rupture with the Webeariab approach Expansion of education responds to the worldwide process of citizenship and the democratic belief that educational development is a requirement of a civil society.

He does not believe this is a proof of democracy, but that educational expansion is necessary. "New socilology of education",
or the school of social reproduction. Unlike Marxists, who emphasized the economic structure of society, Bourdieu and social reproduction's authors argued that school reflects the interests of cultural and social elites. They propose to link micro and macro processes into a comprehensive theory of school and society. cultural capital Forms of culture such as knowledge of music, art and literature Is passed on by families and schools. Key concept: significant indicator of status and class position. Schools pass on to students specific social identities that either enhance or hinder their life chances. Human culture cannot be understood as an isolated object of study but must be examined as part of a larger social and cultural structure. Basil Bernstein Synthesized macro and micro sociological approaches, primarly using a conflict perspective. holistic approach
of the educational
system structural aspects interactional aspects He combined a class analysis with an interactional analysis (linking language and education) which demonstrated how SCHOOL processes at the micro-level in the reproduction of SOCIAL STRATIFICATION at the macro-level. Interactionist Theory Mainly critiques of the functionalist and conflict theory's macro-sociological perspectives on education, since they... They help understand the "big picture" of education... ...but not what shools are like on an everyday level... Its main goal is to examine the micro-social o interactional aspects of school life (relationships between students, between students and teachers, between teachers and parents, etc.) Interactionism theory has its basis in the works by George Herbert Mead and Charles Horton Cooley on social psychology in the early 20th century. Mead and Cooley's symbolic interactionism Examined the ways in which the individual is related to society through ongoing social interactions. the social self is an active product of ongoing negotiation of meanings with other humans, rather than a product of a social structure. inspired by the philosophical school of Phenomenology Key concept, first
introduced by Mead in 1913 Interactionist theory would combine functionalism and conflict theory perspectives in order to produce a more comprehensive theory of society. Erving Goffman His work examined the microsociology of everyday life and the functions of interactional rituals in holding the society together. Strongly influenced by functionalism since he believed social interaction served to maintain the society together.
He introduced the basics of the labeling theory. Developed the labeling theory Applied on the study on how teacher's expectations on students affects the latter and, not only their educational achievement, but also their perception of themselves.

These labels, based on ethnic group, class or gender, become LIFE SENTENCES which have profoundly negative effects on the achievement of the low-income students who remained in low ability groups for the rest of their careers.

Some school practices such as labeling and ability grouping CONTRIBUTE TO THE REPRODUCTION OF EDUCATIONAL AND SOCIAL INEQUALITIES which mirrors the larger society structures.
So, please... Ray Rist But then... Appeared as a reaction to functionalism in the 1960's. Bernstein's Code theory Pierre Bourdieu's cultural capital and Symbolic violence Randall Collins' Status competition and Interaction ritual John Meyer's Intitutional theory Attempted to produce a theory of social and educational codes (systems of meaning) and their effect on social reproduction. His works were controversial since they discussed social class differences in language that some labeled as a deficit theory. The code
theory Examined the relationships between social class, family and the reproduction of meaning systems. Discovered that there were social class differences in communication codes of working class and middle-class children He determined this reflected the class and power relations in the social division of labor, family and schools. Two kinds of codes:
Restricted code of the working class: context dependent and particularistic. Not deficient, but related to the division of labor, where context dependent language is necessary in the production scenario.

Elaborated code of the middle-class: context independent and universalistic. Represents functional changes in the division of labor and the middle classe's position in reproduction (rather than production) of the system. Schools require an elaborated code for success, which means that working class children are disadvantaged. Attempted to provide empirical understanding of culture, which he considered "an economy", and that together with stratification formed the "realm of power struggle". Cultural capital: Symbolic violence: Concepts which explain how schooling is a mechanism of cultural social reproduction Power that imposes some meanings over others as legitimate through the use of power.

Although schools are supposed to be neutral, they actually advantage the upper and middle classes. His theory provided more of a neo-Marxist conflict which demonstrates that cultural capital reproduces
social classes, and that schooling reproduces cultural capital unevenly amongst
different social classes. Role of society: to understand scientifically the relationships between macro-power relations and micro-social processes. Weberian analysis that defines group formation as defined by cultural and political forces. He argues that the expansion in educational credetials has been a result of status-competition amongst groups over the few cultural, political or economic rewards of education.
As groups which historically did not attended college gained access, advantaged groups raised the entry level requirements by using a rational-functional argument that such credentials were needed by increased skills of the professions. Status competition: He argued that schools are global institutions which have
developed similarly throughout the whole world following a
pattern of globalization (not necessarily democratic).

The belief in education in a democratic civil society is what
fuels demands for mass schooling. Lyotard's and other author's Postmodern critical theory Postmodernism developed out of a profound dissatisfaction with the modernist project of Enlightenment and reason.

Social theorists, particularly in France, questioned the appropriateness of modernist categories to understand an already postmodern world rejected the Marxist perspective. a world that trascended the economic and social relations of the industrial world that modernism proposed Lyotard
postmodernists: Rejection of all metanarratives: all-encompassing explanations of the world need to be replaced with more localized and particular theories.
Necessary connection between theory and practice as a corrective of the modernist separation of them.
Stresses the democratic response to authoritarism and totalitarism. Schools as sites for democratic transformation.
Modernism was patriarchal and Eurocentric: some critiques emphasized the failure to address women an ethnic groups other than caucasian.
Postmodernist believe all social and political discourses are related to structures of power and domination
Work through differences rather than see them as hopelessly irreconciliable. Well this is the end,
my friends... https://soundcloud.com/scottrek51/mr-mojo-end
Full transcript