Learning to label: Socialisation, gender, and the hidden curriculum of high-stakes testing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Although high-stakes tests play an increasing role in students' schooling experiences, scholars have not examined these tests as sites for socialisation. Drawing on qualitative data collected at an American urban primary school, this study explores what educators teach students about motivation and effort through high-stakes testing, how students interpret and internalise these messages, and how student hierarchies develop as a result. I found that teachers located boys' failure in their poor behavior and attitudes, while arguing that girls simply needed more self-esteem to pass the test. Most boys accepted their teachers' diagnosis of the problem. However, the boys who felt that they were already 'doing their best' and 'working hard' began to doubt that educational success is a function of merit and effort. I conclude that students learn about much more than the three Rs through their experiences with high-stakes testing, and argue that future research should attend to the social dimensions of these experiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-160
Number of pages12
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology of Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • Accountability
  • Gender
  • High-stakes testing
  • Socialisation


Dive into the research topics of 'Learning to label: Socialisation, gender, and the hidden curriculum of high-stakes testing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this