Annette Hemmings, a UC Professor in Educational Studies in the School of Education, has spent the past 20 years researching the impact of society and culture on students in school, especially in urban settings. She has especially focused her work on social groups and “cliques” that develop among students. “I’m an ethnographer, so my research is going into the schools and hanging out with the kids,” explains Hemmings. “In the course of all that, you figure out the schools and communities, and the social hierarchies in these places. The social labels that go along with this have a tremendous impact on how kids achieve in school.”
Hemmings’ research has become even more important with a strained economy and governmental budget cuts that threaten education. “What happens is that we have simplified ideas on how to fix education, and we usually ignore all of the social, cultural stuff that goes on,” explains Hemmings. “Culture, ethnicity, race, gender, and social class; all that stuff is in the mix.”
Hemmings was recently quoted in Newsweek, explaining that increasing external pressures of college applications and job markets are putting more stress on youth. This causes further rifts across groups and social structures in schools. But it is not all doom and gloom, as many schools are working to bridge these gaps by focusing on individual educations of students, rather than educating through a tiered system of classes. That way students have the tools they need to succeed, and are better prepared.
Watch Hemmings’ video as she further explains her research.