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Introduction to Sociology - Essay Example

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Name: Title: Course: Tutor: Date: Effect of Peer Influence on Students’ Academic Performance Problem Statement Social scientists have generally postulated that social interactions do play a critical role in determining the course of human behavior. In the same regard, much research has been conducted to determine the role that peers have in relation to the body weight, substance abuse and – the focus of this paper – academic performance…
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Effect of Peer Influence on Academic Performance Problem ment Social scientists have generally postulated that social interactions do play a critical role in determining the course of human behavior. In the same regard, much research has been conducted to determine the role that peers have in relation to the body weight, substance abuse and – the focus of this paper – academic performance. For long, determination of how social interactions influence the academic performance of students has been elusive. But understanding how peers affect achievement of other students would be critical in policy issues particularly in secondary and elementary education and in its impact on tracking abilities in schools, racial and economic desegregation and school choice programs (Zhang, 2010). It is against this backdrop that this paper seeks to analyze various secondary sources to support the fact that peer influence determines students’ academic performance. Literature Review/Discussion Peer groups have been noted to play a vital role in determining the academic achievement of students. These peer groups would be noted to constitute a critical part of the students’ environment in schools as they create and maintain a separate culture from that experienced at home and community in which these students grow up. A majority of these students would spend a greater portion of their time with their peers as contrasted to the time spent with their families. Tischler (2010) supports this observation noting that the influence from peer groups would be much greater than any influence from other socialization sources. These peers have the potential of extraordinarily influencing one another in the formation and support of their academic aspirations and personal goals. The impact of peer groups on the academic performance of students plays a critical role in different debates on education policies. The current interventions in education potentially influence the outcomes of students due to their impact on peer composition. It is due to these factors that Zhang (2010) affirms the importance of understanding the magnitude and structure of student outcomes due to the impact of the composition of their peer groupings. Nonetheless, in spite of the critical role that peer influence has on educational policies, the current body of research is yet to reach a consensus on the nature of peer effects (Burke & Sass, 2008). While some would argue that positive academic achievement results from peer influence, others cite negative impact. Peer groupings could cause students to achieve better academic performance. It has been noted that intelligent students would assist their peers with low academic capabilities in attaining better academic scores (Burke & Sass, 2008). Positive character traits among one’s peers also enable members of such a peer group to attain high academic achievements. Even so, Contreras, Badua, and Adrian (2012) cite studies in South Korea that found out that sorting, where students possessing similar academic abilities get assigned to same schools or classes, improves on the average performance of the students as opposed to the schools without sorting. In particular, sorting has a significant peer effect among top students. Homophily, describing the inclination to association with similar people, well describes this observation. Despite this study giving insightful findings, the research appreciates the existence of identification issues arising when evaluating peer effects. On the other hand, some researchers found no effect of peer influence on students’ academic performance. In fact, there exists a body of knowledge that postulates that peer influence yields poor academic performance among students. This would particularly be the case with peer groups sharing low aspirations of working hard to excel academically and in other spheres of life. Tischler (2010) notes that urban high schools would particularly harbor a high number of peer groups promoting drug abuse and other forms of social vices that deviate students from academics. Extreme orientation of members of such peer groups towards their peers coupled by willingness to ignore parents and teachers and school work could be detrimental to students’ academic achievement. In the same way, homophily associated with antisocial behavior results in poor academic achievement. The theory of socialization well explains the aspect of peer group influence on students’ academic performance. According to Tischler (2010), socialization refers to the process in which people acquire habits, value and knowledge orientations which would be of use in future. Everyone has a social identity through occupation of socially and culturally defined positions, referred to as statuses, during socialization. This in effect postulates that students balance their goals and predispositions with the normative pressure emanating from various groups in altering and maintaining their values, beliefs and attitudes. Conclusion Through socialization, students would have their academic performance influenced by their peers. Peer groups have a greater influence on students’ achievements as most of their times would be spent together as compared to other socialization forms. Peer influence imparts positively or negatively to the students’ academic performance, depending on the susceptibility of the target to such influence. References Burke, M. A., & Sass, T. R. (2008). Classroom peer effects and student achievement (Working Paper 18). Washington: National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research. Contreras, S., Badua, F., & Adrian, M. (2012). Peer effects on undergraduate business student performance. International Review of Economics Education. Retrieved 16 February 2013 from http://www.economicsnetwork.ac.uk. Tischler, H. L. (2010). Introduction to sociology. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning. Zhang, H. (2010). Peer effects on student achievement: An instrumental variable approach using school transition data. Retrieved 16 February 2013 from http://www.wise.xmu.edu.cn/Labor2010/Files/Labor2010_HongliangZhang_Paper.pdf. Read More
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