school class

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A type of learning situation: a method by which schools function as organization by grouping their pupils according to various pedagogic principles. Learning in school classes entails a clear status distinction between the pupil group, and one or more professionals (teachers, instructors, or lecturers), charged with providing education (that is, a legitimate curriculum). Some of the most important insights into class interaction have come from the Durkheimian tradition, notably through the work of Basil Bernstein, emphasizing the cognitive impact of the hidden (as opposed to the visible) curriculum and pedagogy of the classroom. Ethnographic studies, influenced by symbolic interactionism, have emphasized the roles and moral careers of both teachers and pupils. Both groups create meanings about what is going on: for example, when pupil conformity is negotiated in exchange for relaxation of the demands of the official curriculum; or when self-fulfilling labels are attached to pupils and become the source of fixed behaviours and attainment. Sociologists from the mainstream traditions of sociology have tried to analyse the relation between such micro-processes and the reproduction of function and power on a macro level. A classic paper by Talcott Parsons stressed the progressive shift in classroom dynamics from the particularism of the elementary years (which supposedly mirrors the child's family) to the universalism of later stages (which anticipates the labour-market and employment). More recently, Marxist writing in the United States and Britain, drawing on a range of historical, statistical, and ethnographic data, has claimed that classroom learning is mainly significant in socializing a docile labour-force for capitalist industry. See also elaborated and restricted speech codes.

Subjects: Sociology.

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