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What is science capital?

This concept can help us understand the ways in which a person can engage with science, technology, engineering and maths

Science capital is a concept which can help us understand the ways in which a person can engage with STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) and also why some people feel more involved and connected to STEM whilst others don’t.

Science capital is like a bank account. It’s a concept which can be used to measure how much a person values and feels connected to science and it is accumulated through the engagement and relationships they have with science.

There are 8 dimensions of science capital:

  1. Scientific literacy
  2. Science-related attitudes, values and dispositions
  3. Knowledge about the transferability of science
  4. Science media consumption
  5. Participation in out-of-school science learning contexts
  6. Family science skills, knowledge and qualifications
  7. Knowing people in science-related roles
  8. Talking about science in everyday life

Science Capital Teaching Approach

Research evidence tells us that the more science capital a young person has, the more likely they are to see science as something for them and aspire to follow a science route post-16.

Working with secondary science teachers in England, the Science Capital Teaching Approach was developed by Enterprising Science — a science education research and development project partnership between the University College London (UCL), King’s College London (KCL) and the Science Museum Group.

This teaching approach isn’t just about adding experiences to build the science capital of your students. It’s about adapting what you already do to broaden what counts; breaking down barriers so that students are more able to build a connection with science that draws on their own experiences, and in the process making them feel valued for the contributions they bring to the table.

The Science Capital Teaching Approach is framed around three key pillars:

1 Personalising and localising

Using contexts and examples that relate to the interests and experiences of your students so they can relate to the science.

2 Eliciting, valuing and linking

Using questions that draw out students’ knowledge from their own experiences, making students feel their contributions are valid and demonstrating how their input links to the science.

3 Building the science capital dimensions

Finding ways to incorporate the dimensions of science capital into your teaching. For instance, by encouraging students to talk to their parents at home about what they’ve learnt, or by sharing science events and good documentaries with students that they and their families can engage with outside of lessons.

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