Behavioral expectations or, in the language of the sociologist, roles may be laid out in an interlocking pattern which can be conceptualized as the social structure, but how are they actually learnt?
Learning has been seen very much as a part of the province of the psychologist.
What has the sociologist to say about learning that is of help to the teacher In beginning to answer these questions must be switched from looking at social structure to an examination of the manner in which people interact at a face-to-face or interpersonal level.
Once something has been understood of the way in which learning takes place in a model situation where two people interact, then the possibility exists of extending this process to socialization in all parts of the social structure and at all stages of the life cycle.
Basically, what has to be explained is how an individual indicates to another his definition of what social reality is in such a way that the other learns this version and makes it his own.
One useful model for examining the way in which socialization takes place at the interpersonal level is to use the idea of ‘feed-back’. This concept may be applied to the way in which two persons steer each other as they interact with one another.
Let us take as an example a teacher in a primary school. She has expectations of herself in her role as teacher and of the behavior of the children aged, say, seven in her class. Her pupils likewise have expectations of their teacher and are willing to imitate or to obey her in order to learn what they take to be socially acceptable behavior. They may be willing, and this is important, either because they value their teacher or because they see her as powerful enough to insist that they do as she wishes.
In either case they interpret the cues that the teacher feeds back to them consequent upon any action that she observes or knows them to have made. The teacher signals to them by a nod or a smile that to throw papers into the waste paper basket is valued behavior; it meets the value of tidiness which she wishes to teach to her pupils. But she may also indicate to them by a from or by words of disapproval that to throw paper darts even into the waste paper basket is not acceptable; it contradicts the value of orderliness upon which she puts great emphasis and which she hopes will become a valued part of the social reality that she will recreate in her pupils.
A point worth noting is that the range of behavior tolerated in any role is usually quite wide. There are strict and less strict, tidy and less tidy teachers.
Because of this each individual has some chance to make, rather than just to take, his own role. When one remembers the very large number of positions that anyone person has to fill at any point in his life – for example, son, customer, holiday-maker, adolescent and so on – it is clear that there is considerable room for individuality in the way in which interpretations of each role are combined.
Social devices do, however, exist to restrict the range of tolerated behavior in certain positions.
Thus, many schools insist that their pupils wear uniforms that ensure that they are highly visible and cannot, therefore, easily deviate from the behavior desired by the school authorities.