Secondary school students’ acquisition of science capital in the field of chemistry
Research has shown that students’ science capital has a large impact on their science aspirations and their development of science identities. In this study, we apply the notion of science capital to chemistry education in order to investigate how students make use of science capital in the field of chemistry. We define chemistry capital as a person's resources that help him or her to succeed in the field of chemistry (e.g., parents know chemistry content, sharing chemistry-related activities at home,…). We interviewed 48 secondary school students in Germany and conducted a thematic analysis. It reveals the following. (i) Chemistry capital in the home environment is unevenly distributed. Students who do not have family members who can connect with the mainstream conception of chemistry tend to be concentrated in schools with the lowest entry requirements (Hauptschulen, lower secondary education). Chemistry capital, therefore, tends to be reproduced. (ii) In most cases, families’ chemistry capital translates into students’ individual chemistry capital. This shows up in a multitude of links between families’ chemistry capital and students’ individual chemistry capital. (iii) The German school structures tend to aggravate the existing inequalities: this tends to deprive the students from Hauptschulen of qualified chemistry teachers. (iv) In some exceptional cases, students acquire chemistry capital independently from their families’ capital. They do so either by following chemistry-related YouTube channels or by developing a chemistry identity as part of a general learner identity. In order to reduce the existing inequalities, there is an urgent need to provide Hauptschulen in Germany with qualified teaching staff for chemistry. If this precondition is met, teaching approaches that focus on identity building and engaging students and their parents in a dialogue about chemistry could potentially be fruitful.