Research-Engaged Practice Network



How science outreach contributes to students’ science capital: Teachers’ perspectives

Seminar on 25th April 2019

Presented by Robert Zivtins

Thursday, 25th April 2019, 12:00-13:00
Room 12.3.18, Charles Street Building, Sheffield Hallam University

Outreach efforts aim to widen participation and address the social inequality in the science sector. This research evaluates the work of the Wohl Reach Out Lab (WROL), Imperial College London’s dedicated outreach space, and investigates the perspectives of the teachers who bring students to science outreach activities at the WROL. By asking what teachers hope their students will gain from outreach we clarify the views of important stakeholders. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with visiting teachers and analysed using science capital theory (Archer et al., 2015).

Findings indicate that teachers have a largely redistributive social justice approach to science outreach. Teachers visit the WROL so their students to complete practical work which they would otherwise not complete at school. They see practical science (and the associated science capital) as a scarce resource which formal education systems do not equally provided to students. However, teachers reject the idea that practical work at the WROL develops students’ curricular knowledge for improving their stock of institutional capital (i.e. qualifications). Instead, teachers value the access to the social practices of university. Access to members of the scientific community allows students to observe the tacit social norms therein and teachers want to their students to develop their stock of embodied science capital.

Implications of this study suggest that outreach efforts should not try to replicate school science practices, instead outreach practitioners should focus on their capacity to build science capital which students may not otherwise have access to.


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