Presentation of the project
In the contemporary society, science and technology have high status and are seen as crucial both for the individual, in order to make informed decisions about complex socio-scientific issues, and for the society at large. Hence, the lingering uneven participation in the disciplines is both a question of national economic security and a social justice issue. As such, a nuanced understanding of processes of inclusion and exclusion in science education are vital.
The project’s aim is to contribute to the understanding of more equitable STEM-education practices, by exploring what has enabled students from under-represented groups to continue to higher physics education.
The project addresses the research questions:
- What has enabled individual students to make a trajectory into higher physics education?
- Which aspects of ‘science capital’ (Archer 2015) can be identified as particularly relevant to which student categories?
- How can science teaching in school be designed to widen participation in higher education science?
- How can the theory of science capital contribute to the development of didactic models?
The project is consists of two sub-studies:
- Life history interviews with first-year HE physics students, participating in Engineering Physics or Bachelor of Physics Programmes.
- A participatory study where models for inclusive science teaching are developed in dialogue between researchers and experienced secondary school science teachers. The participatory project will be informed by focus-group interviews with secondary school teachers and physics undergraduates from the first sub-study.
The project takes a multi-theoretical approach, in the intersection between sociology of education and didactics. The project as a whole is inspired by sociocultural theories of activity and identity, which posit that identity is co-produced with social, cultural and material activities (Holland et al. 1998) and is based in an intersectional, post-structural understanding of social categories (cf. Phoenix 2006).
The project draws on Archer et al.’s (2015) development of the concept ‘science capital’ (based in Bourdieu’s social reproduction theory) in combination with an intersectional, post-structural understanding of social categories (cf. Phoenix 2006). In addition, the second study is informed by a transactional and pragmatic approach to didactics (Östman and Öhman 2010). In order to allow for a more refined analysis of the workings of inclusion and exclusion in science classrooms in relation to the different dimensions of ‘science capital’ the project is also informed by a pragmatic approach to meaning-making.
Thus, it develops the emerging field of ‘science identities’ by utilising theories from didactics and by a broadened intersectional perspective, and the field of didactics by using ‘science identities’ work as the basis for didactic modelling. As such, by letting science identities research directly influence a participatory research study the project takes a novel approach and is also able to provide a more fine-grained understanding of disciplinary-specific identity work.