Accessibility navigation

“Science capital”: a conceptual, methodological, and empirical argument for extending bourdieusian notions of capital beyond the arts

Archer, L., Dawson, E., DeWitt, J., Seakins, A. and Wong, B. ORCID: (2015) “Science capital”: a conceptual, methodological, and empirical argument for extending bourdieusian notions of capital beyond the arts. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 52 (7). pp. 922-948. ISSN 1098-2736

Text (Open Access) - Published Version
· Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.
· Please see our End User Agreement before downloading.


It is advisable to refer to the publisher's version if you intend to cite from this work. See Guidance on citing.

To link to this item DOI: 10.1002/tea.21227


This paper sets out an argument and approach for moving beyond a primarily arts-based conceptualization of cultural capital, as has been the tendency within Bourdieusian approaches to date. We advance the notion that, in contemporary society, scientific forms of cultural and social capital can command a high symbolic and exchange value. Our previous research [Archer et al. (2014) Journal of Research in Science Teaching 51, 1–30] proposed the concept of “science capital” (science-related forms of cultural and social capital) as a theoretical lens for explaining differential patterns of aspiration and educational participation among young people. Here, we attempt to theoretically, methodologically, and empirically advance a discussion of how we might conceptualize science capital and how this might be translated into a survey tool for use with students. We report on findings from a survey conducted with 3658 secondary school students, aged 11–15 years, in England. Analysis found that science capital was unevenly spread across the student population, with 5% being classified as having “high” science capital and 27% “low” science capital. Analysis shows that levels of science capital (high, medium, or low) are clearly patterned by cultural capital, gender, ethnicity, and set (track) in science. Students with high, medium, or low levels of science capital also seem to have very different post-16 plans (regarding studying or working in science) and different levels of self-efficacy in science. They also vary dramatically in terms of whether they feel others see them as a “science person.” The paper concludes with a discussion of conceptual and methodological issues and implications for practice.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Institute of Education > Improving Equity and Inclusion through Education
ID Code:69983
Additional Information:Open access


Downloads per month over past year

University Staff: Request a correction | Centaur Editors: Update this record

Page navigation