Just Sociology

The Impact of Social Factors on Academic Performance and Grading: Understanding Complex Theories

Social factors play a crucial role in shaping various outcomes, including academic performance, mental health, personality development, and self-esteem. These factors encompass a broad range of variables, such as parental income, social class, ethnicity, gender, cultural beliefs, and social media use.

Understanding the ways in which social factors interplay with these outcomes is essential for developing effective interventions and solutions. This article will explore five complex theories related to the impact of social factors on exam results, the fairness of exams in relation to individual effort and ability, the impact of socioeconomic status on mental health, the role of culture and ethnicity in shaping personality, and the influence of social media on self-esteem.

Social Factors and Exam Results:

Exam results are one of the primary measures of academic achievement. However, several social factors contribute to differences in outcomes.

Parental income is the most significant predictor of exam results, with students from wealthier families generally achieving better grades. Social class background also plays a crucial role, with students from higher social classes achieving higher grades than those from lower social classes.

Ethnicity and gender also impact exam results, with some groups experiencing better outcomes than others. It is important to note that exam results partially reflect the class, ethnic and gender background of students.

Moreover, schools and teachers also contribute to differences in exam results. Teachers’ expectations and teaching quality, school funding and resources, and access to extracurricular activities all have an impact on students’ academic performance.

Addressing these social factors must be considered to create a more equitable and fair education system. Fairness of Exams in Relation to Individual Effort and Ability:

Exam results are hailed as a fair measure of individual effort and ability since all students are assessed based on the same standards.

However, this overlooks the fact that students have different abilities and levels of preparation. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds, for example, often lack the resources and support needed to perform well in exams.

While students can improve their rankings based on individual effort and ability, the extent to which these efforts are recognized can be limited based on social factors. As such, while exams may be fair in terms of individual assessment, they remain skewed overall.

Socioeconomic Status and Mental Health:

Socioeconomic status refers to an individual’s or family’s economic and social standing, reflecting their access to resources, employment opportunities, and education. There is considerable evidence to suggest that lower socioeconomic status is associated with higher rates of mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and substance use.

This can be attributed to the environmental stresses associated with poverty and social exclusion. Higher rates of social isolation, fewer social supports and the inability to afford quality healthcare services are often cited as factors contributing to poorer mental health outcomes in those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

Interventions targeting the social determinants of health, such as poverty reduction and improving access to education and health care, can have a significant impact on improving mental health outcomes among individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. Culture and Ethnicity in Shaping Personality:

Culture and ethnicity influence personality development in numerous ways.

Cultural values, such as individualism versus collectivism, predict personality traits such as assertiveness or compassion. Ethnic identity, including ethnic beliefs and practices, can also shape personality traits and patterns of behavior.

Individuals’ acculturation can influence personality development as they are exposed to new cultural values and beliefs. While research in this area is complex and multifaceted, it is clear that cultural and ethnic factors play an important role in shaping who we are as individuals.

The Influence of Social Media on Self-esteem:

Social media has become increasingly pervasive in our daily lives, and its impact on self-esteem is a growing concern. Social media use can contribute to low self-esteem and poor body image, particularly among women and girls.

Social comparison, whereby users compare themselves to others on social media, creates unrealistic beauty standards, leading to negative self-perception. Idealized portrayals of individuals on social media exacerbate these issues, perpetuating harmful beauty standards.

Mindful social media use, meanwhile, can improve self-esteem. Positive interactions, such as supportive comments and virtual friendships, can help individuals feel connected and valued.

In summary, social factors play a crucial role in shaping various outcomes, including academic performance, mental health, personality development, and self-esteem. Understanding the ways in which social factors interplay with these outcomes is essential for developing effective interventions and solutions.

Addressing social factors in education, healthcare and our daily lives is essential for creating a fair and equitable society for everyone. Grading is an essential component of the education system.

It is used to assess students’ academic performance and track their progress. Historically, grading was done manually by teachers who assessed students’ work and assigned them a corresponding grade.

However, recent advancements in technology have led to the development of algorithms that use data to calculate grades, replacing manual grading in some cases. While this method has some benefits, including consistency and decreased bias, there are also problems associated with grading based on teacher predictions and an algorithm.

Teacher Predictions and Assessment Standards:

Teacher predictions are educated guesses of a student’s likely grade based on their performance in class, on tests, and other assignments. However, teacher predictions may vary in their standards of assessment.

Some teachers may be more lenient in their grading, while others may be harsher. This inconsistency can lead to inaccuracies in the grading process, particularly when these predicted grades are used to determine a student’s educational trajectory.

Inflated Predicted Grades:

In some cases, teachers may inflate predicted grades to improve a student’s educational prospects. This practice can lead to inaccurate results and negatively impact other students who may have earned better grades but were not provided with inflated predicted grades.

Additionally, inflated predicted grades can place undue pressure on the student to live up to the expectations set by their teacher, leading to feelings of stress and anxiety. Algorithmic Moderation and Institutional Bias:

The education sector is not immune to institutional biases.

For example, students from lower socio-economic backgrounds or minority groups may face systemic discrimination such that their test scores and educational outcomes often suffer. The UK’s 2020 controversy over the use of an algorithm to moderate predicted grades brought up questions about the automation of grading practices.

In this case, grades were calculated using a combination of teacher predictions and an algorithm to ensure students in disadvantaged areas were not unfairly penalized based on their inferred location. The algorithm would moderate the grades, and the teacher predictions would be used as an initial guide.

However, when the grading algorithm was applied, it caused a significant number of students from poorer schools to receive lower grades than what their teachers had predicted. As a result, the British government was criticized for the algorithm’s use, which many claimed perpetuated institutional bias.

Negative Impact on School and Student Outcomes:

The use of teacher predictions and algorithms to calculate grades can have significant negative impacts on school and student outcomes. For instance, when the algorithm was introduced, many students’ grades were reduced, and universities had significantly fewer available spaces.

This situation led to uncertainty, disappointment, and confusion among students, parents, and educators. It also created an unfair advantage for students from affluent backgrounds who had the resources to appeal their grades, while students from lower-income households could not.

Moreover, the controversy surrounding the use of algorithms and teacher predictions has undermined the trust and confidence of students and parents in the education system. The inconsistency and unpredictability of grading can have long-term effects on student motivation, academic performance, and overall mental health.


Education institutions must take a comprehensive view of grading practices by considering the benefits and disadvantages of various grading techniques. They must work in collaboration with educators, policymakers, and students to ensure that grading methods are grounded in good practices and do not institutionalize actual biases.

While algorithms may improve consistency and decrease bias in grading, they must be used with caution, taking into account the social and economic contexts of a student’s educational journey. Teacher predictions should be based on objective assessment standards, and grade inflation must be stopped to ensure fair play.

Finally, institutions must be mindful of the long-term negative effects that grading practices can have on students’ development and be nimble enough to make changes when necessary. By examining grading practices, our educational systems can ensure improvements in student outcomes and the delivery of quality education for all students.

In conclusion, social factors play an important role in shaping various outcomes such as academic performance, mental health, personality development, and self-esteem. Social factors encompass a broad range of variables, including parental income, social class, ethnicity, culture, and social media use.

This article has explored complex theories related to these social factors’ impact, emphasizing their significance in developing effective interventions and solutions. With a better understanding of the role of social factors, educationists and policymakers can work together to create a fair, equitable, and responsive educational system for all students through identifying problems and proposing solutions.


Q: How do social factors impact exam results? A: Social factors, including parental income, social class background, ethnicity, and gender, have been found to impact exam results.

Q: Why are exams fair in terms of individual assessment, but not overall? A: Although exams assess students based on the same standards, they do not consider individuals’ differing abilities or levels of preparation, leading to overall skewed results.

Q: How does socioeconomic status affect mental health? A: Lower socioeconomic status is associated with higher rates of mental health problems due to environmental stressors such as poverty and social exclusion.

Q: Can culture and ethnicity shape personality? A: Yes, cultural values, beliefs, and ethnic identity can have an influence on an individual’s personality traits and patterns of behavior.

Q: How can social media use impact self-esteem? A: Social media use can contribute to low self-esteem and poor body image, particularly among women and girls, by creating unrealistic beauty standards through social comparison and idealized portrayals.

Q: What are the problems with grading based on teacher predictions and an algorithm? A: Teacher predictions can vary in their standards of assessment, and grades can be inflated, leading to inaccuracy.

Algorithmic moderation can eliminate institutional bias but can also negatively impact school and student outcomes.

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