Assess the strengths and limitations of participant observation for the study of labelling in schools
Participant observation can be completed both overtly and covertly, and it depends on which method is chosen to which strengths and limitations occur. There are many variables to be considered when choosing which method of investigation should be chosen to be acted upon. Such things as; is it likely the researcher will be allowed into the group willingly, is the subject of the investigation likely to be openly expressed by the people involved, are there any ethical issues that could occur and put a negative effect on the interviewee, and which method will receive the best results. Many sociologists choose the method of participant observation due to being able to gain qualitative data which will incidentally obtain more valid results because then the true actions of the group being studied can be revealed. Labelling in schools occurs because the teacher decides whether the child is going to be a hard worker, disruptive or argumentative by preconceived ideas from a stereotype which had made itself known. However, they are only stereotypes and can be proven to be incorrect. For instance, Rosenthal and Jacobson conducted an experiment, however not using the participant observation method, and discovered by changing the teachers ideas of a student can change the way the child is treated and therefore learns. But, by doing this overtly, wouldn’t the teacher pre-judge the researcher and act accordingly, creating the Hawthorne effect? Then, the only option to overrule the Hawthorne effect is to complete the research in a covert manner. This can be done in many ways such as finding a member of the group who you can trust and will help to get accepted into the group you wish to study, just like James Patrick (1973) did when he wanted to investigate Glasgow Gangs. As a result, Patrick was able to study the gang by participating in their daily activities and...
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