Dimensions of Science Capital: Exploring its potential for understanding students’ science participation

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As concerns about participation rates in post-compulsory science continue unabated, considerable research efforts have been focused on understanding and addressing the issue, bringing various theoretical lenses to bear on the problem. One such conceptual lens is that of ‘science capital’ (science-related forms of social and cultural capital), which has begun to be explored as a tool for examining differential patterns of aspiration and participation in science. This paper continues this line of work, attempting to further refine our conceptualisation of science capital and to consider potential insights it might offer beyond existing, related constructs. We utilise data from two surveys conducted in England as part of the wider Enterprising Science project, a broader national survey and a more targeted survey, completed by students from schools generally serving more disadvantaged populations. Logistic regression analyses indicated that science capital was more closely related than cultural capital to science aspirations-related outcome variables. In addition, further analyses reflected that particular dimensions of science capital (science literacy, perceived transferability and utility of science, family influences) seem to be more closely related to anticipated future participation and identity in science than others. These patterns held for both datasets. While these findings are generally in alignment with previous research, we suggest that they highlight the potential value of science capital as a distinct conceptual lens, which also carries particular implications for the types of interventions that may prove valuable in considering ways to address disparities in science engagement and participation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2431-2449
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education
Issue number16
Early online date15 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2016


  • Science
  • Science Capital


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