CLASS IN THE CLASSROOM

Unlike much research on stratification in schools, Class in the Classroom takes an in-depth look at what actually happens in classrooms, examining how social class shapes children's classroom interactions and how those interactions contribute to inequalities. Drawing on more than two years of ethnographic research in one public elementary school, I show how middle-class and working-class students respond differently to similar challenges and how they reap unequal rewards for their efforts. When managing problems, rules, and impressions, middle-class students activated strategies of influence. They tried to adjust classroom environments to meet their individual needs. Working-class students instead activated strategies of deference. They tried to adjust their behavior to the needs of others. The teachers, in turn, wanted to give all of their students the same opportunity to succeed. But the challenges teachers faced, including accountability pressures, time constraints, and large class sizes, made it hard for them to respond similarly to influence- and deference-based strategies. As a result, middle-class students tended to receive more assistance, more accommodations, and more attention from their teachers, all of which created real advantages in the classroom. After presenting these patterns with evidence from fieldnotes and interviews, I go on to discuss why students activated different strategies of action, describing the class-based logics students used to make sense of challenges they encountered at school and the coaching they received from their parents at home. I also discuss the implications of these findings for research on educational inequalities and for policy efforts aimed at alleviating those inequalities. 

Photo Credit: freeimages.com/Carlos Gustavo Curado

Photo Credit: freeimages.com/Carlos Gustavo Curado

SAVE ME A SEAT

This working paper examines the relationship between friendship behaviors and student achievement in elementary school. Using data from two years of observations in elementary school lunchrooms, we identify the relationship between friendship nominations and friendship behaviors (with whom students choose to sit at lunch). Using grade and test score data from students' school records, we also examine the relationship between friendship behaviors and school achievement over time. 

Photo Credit: freeimages.com/Bob Smith

Photo Credit: freeimages.com/Bob Smith

GENDER REPLAY

This working paper uses data from a longitudinal, ethnographic study of elementary-aged children to revisit Barrie Thorne's classic work, Gender Play. It considers how changing gender dynamics in education, society, and popular culture may be subtly altering the nature and salience of gender in children's interactions at school.