‘Science capital’ and ‘identity’ as mediators of student engagement with mathematically demanding programmes at university

In this talk Dr Paul Hernandez-Martinez will critically analyse the notion of ‘science capital’ as defined by Archer et al (2015) as part of their ASPIRES and Enterprise Science projects.

These projects highlighted that access to science capital is perhaps more important than prior achievement in shaping students’ aspirations and their future trajectories in STEM. Drawing on data from the TransMaths project, I will argue that there is a need to re-conceptualise science capital so that the dialectic relationship between its exchange and use value is theorized more fully.

Whilst some students may access science capital as a means to accumulate capital (e.g. qualifications) for its own sake (exchange value), others appear to recognize the ‘use value’ of science learning and knowledge and this produces different forms of engagement with science (and mathematics in particular). I will then argue that authoring oneself in the name of a STEM identity is crucial in mediating how one perceives science capital.

Finally, I will argue that mathematics should be a central part of this framework since it significantly contributes to the exchange value of science as a form of capital but it also offers use value in scientific labour (e.g. in modelling scientific problems).