School Girls' Peer Groups
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School Girls' Peer Groups book
There has recently been a challenge, led by some interactionists, to the notion of peer groups and to their usefulness in the study and understanding of educational processes particularly that of classroom interaction. Furlong (1976) criticises the approach of both Hargreaves (1967) and Lacey (1970) because of their assumption that informal peer groups are the basis of pupils' social relations. Furlong (1976) claims that the approach has three major weaknesses-that 'interaction does not just "happen" in friendship groups but is "constructed" by individuals' (p. 161) and so pupil interaction will not necessarily include friends all the time. Furlong uses the term 'interaction set', in describing these fluid groupings, to mean those that share a common definition of a situation at a particular point in time, however short lived this may be. He points out that these common definitions may be communicated by smiles, nods, looks, etc., as well as verbally. Furlong's second criticism is that the norms and values of groups of friends are not necessarily consistent. 'It would be obvious even to the most casual observer of classroom behaviour that there is no consistent culture for a group of friends' (p. 161). Thirdly, he claims that the model posited by Hargreaves (1967) and Lacey (1970) based largely on the American small group social psychology, suggests that there is pressure on members of a group to conform to the group norms and values. In refuting this, Furlong (1976) argues that
the culture is presented as an external reality, and social behaviour is shown not so much as an interaction between two or more individuals, but as one person responding to some reified group. The implication is that the individual has little choice in his actions as he is controlled by something outside h im-the group. (p. 161)
In summary, Furlong claims that 'consistent groups do not exist in reality and observation has also shown that there is no consistent culture for a group of pupils' (p. 163).