14 SES 06 A, The Role of Family and Community in Schools under Challenging Circumstances
The study of STEM subjects has attracted a high level of interest from researchers, educators and policy makers alike because of the crucial role they play in the world at present and their predicted role in the future (Mokyr, 2018). Yet there is a disparity of access to study science to the levels leading to careers in science or from different gender, ethnicity and socio-economic group (Royal Society, 2008). For instance, Black African-Caribbeans are underrepresented in STEM occupations; Black British make up 2.2% of the employment population; only 1.6% are represented in STEM occupations (Royal Society, 2014). According to Cannady et al. (2014) a ‘leakage’ of potential students who could contribute towards the creation of a diverse pool of scientists - this pipeline metaphor illuminating the seepage from minoritized communities. Furthermore, an increasingly popular concept that has been used to explain the lower representation of BME people in the study of STEM subjects at university that could lead to careers either in science or from science is ‘science capital’ (Archer et al. 2013; Wong, 2015), a derivative of Bourdieu’s social capital (Bourdieu, 1977). Higher levels of science capital, it is argued, makes it more likely to lead to science careers.
Whilst a considerable amount of work has been undertaken with pupils (Wellcome, 2017; Wellcome 2011) less is known about how minoritized parents’ guide and support their children with regard to STEM. An exception to this is the small-scale study on parental views of science and science careers by Archer, Dewitt and Osborne (2014) who argue that for many BME pupils, STEM does not constitute a “thinkable” career option and, that there is a need to support BME families in developing knowledge and confidence in science. The increased exposure to science, they argue enables minoritized families to see its relevance and this, in turn, may lead to more BME students developing and sustaining science aspirations.
The ongoing work reported here is part of a larger study which aims to explore the community cultural wealth of BME pupils and how it may advance or restrict their aspirations in science. Integral to the study is the role of parents and their involvement in decisions about their child’s subject choices in STEM and the strategies they deploy in guiding and supporting their children. A community cultural wealth approach recognises both the agency and capitals of parents. In the case of the latter this acknowledges that capital may not always be informed by financial or economic circumstances but that this may also be drawn from ‘funds of knowledge’ (Moll, 1992). We draw on Vincent’s (2001) study on social class and parental agency to explore the complex intersections of race/ethnicity, gender and social class as this enables us to examine parental circumstances and views across a range of school contexts.
Yosso (2005) problematizes Bourdieu’s concept of cultural capital. She advocates a broader view than that argued by social capital and by implication science capital (Archer et al, 2013). Drawing on Critical Race Theory (CRT) Yosso’s community cultural wealth framework (2005j recognises forms of capital, or funds of knowledge, located within individuals and communities but which are not necessarily considered of equal status. Moreover, a CRT lens, challenges the deficit thinking behind explanations which highlight a deficiency in the community and in turn, illuminates structural and/or institutional barriers and by focussing on parents we aim to capture the resourcefulness, perseverance and tenacity of parents in creating and maintaining science possibilities and futures for their children, which are currently unseen and unacknowledged.
Research Questions 1. Do parents have a preference for specific types of science careers so guide their children accordingly? 2. What factors influence BME parents career aspirations for their children? Methodology Our sample is purposively drawn from ten secondary schools with high BME representation (> than 70%) and from selective schools where the proportion of BME students compared to White students is lower but the numbers of BME students attending such schools has increased over time. This latter scenario, we believe will enable us to more explicitly draw conclusions relating to parent’s aspirational capital and how this correlates with social class. The growing literature regarding science capital per se, currently does not include a corresponding analysis of BME parents’ views on science which is crucial in fully understanding the impact of social class – a factor that is not often reported in studies of BME communities and education. Nor the myriad ways that parents, families and communities provide support and guidance. Initially, questionnaires were offered to all parents of students in Year 11 (KS4) studying science at GCSE and IGCSE via various routes (triple, double and combined) and Year 13 (KS5) studying Biology, Chemistry and/orPhysics via A, AS Level or the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. Following this, stratified sampling was employed in order to undertake random sampling of subpopulations of parents of students in both Year 11 and 13 (male, female, African, African Caribbean, Chinese/Asian, Indian/Asian) who had consented to be interviewed further via focus groups. For both year groups, the sample size was representative of the population. Semi-structured interviews enabled the researchers to analyse any relationships or differences between sub groups (Cohen et al, 2014) focussing in particular on the types of community cultural wealth and capital BME parents have in relation to their aspirations for their children’s future career.
This year’s conference theme ‘Education in an Era of Risk – the Role of Educational Research in the Future’ lends itself to the prioritising of voices in communities that are usually silent and unseen. Importantly, it also raises questions about who undertakes such work in the academy and how this work is disseminated. We are keen to hear the voices of parents from minoritized communities and for them to tell their own stories. With this in mind we draw on Vincent’s (2001) study and categorise parental involvement into three areas based on their interaction with schools: high, low and intermediate: high - those who go to meetings in addition to parents’ evenings, and/or who initiate interaction with the school concerning a range of issues; intermediate - those who usually attend parents’ evenings and have perhaps one or two other instances of interaction with the school, not necessarily initiated by themselves and do not generally attend other meetings; and, low - may have attended parents’ evenings but otherwise have minimal contact with the school, unless initiated by school. The findings will shed light on BME parents’ agentic strategies and the impact of this on their children.
Archer, L., Osborne, J., DeWitt, J., Dillon, J., Wong, B., & Willis, B. (2013). ASPIRES: Young people’s science and career aspirations, age 10–14. London: King’s College, 11, 119-132. Cannady, M., Greenwald, E., &Harris, K. N. (2014). Problematizing the STEM pipeline metaphor: Is the STEM pipeline metaphor serving our students and the STEM workforce?Science Education, 98(3), 443–460. Mokyr, J. (2018). The Past and the Future of Innovation: some lessons from Economic History. Explorations in Economic History. Moll, L., Amanti, C., Neff, D., and Gonzalez, N. (1992) Funds of Knowledge for Teaching: Using a Qualitative Approach to Connect Homes and Classrooms. Theory into Practice. Qualitative Issues in Educational Research, Vol. 31 (2): 132-141 Royal Society. (2008). A state of nation report 2008: Science and mathematics education, 14–19.London: Royal Society. Wellcome (2011) Exploring young people’s views on science education. Wellcome Trust and NFER. Vincent, C. (2001) Social class and parental agency, Journal of Education Policy. 16 (4), 347-364 Wellcome (2017) ‘State of the nation’ report of UK primary science education. Wellcome Trust and CFE research. Wong, B. (2015). Careers “From” but not “in” science: Why are aspirations to be a scientist challenging for minority ethnic students?.Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 52(7), 979-1002. Yosso, T. J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race ethnicity and education, 8(1), 69-91.
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