Institute of Education


Science capital teaching approach - text version


The science capital teaching approach was co-developed by researchers and 43 secondary teachers over four years. This summary presents headline findings from the 2016-17 implementation of the approach in schools with low science capital scores across three cities in England.

The evidence base

Surveys with 1,871 students whose teachers either implemented the approach (intervention students) or did not (comparison students).

Regular classroom observations, discussion groups and interviews with 16 intervention classes and teachers over one academic year.

Key findings

Increase in students wanting to study science at A Level

Following one year of implementing the science capital teaching approach, the percentage of students expressing an interest in studying at least one science A level increased significantly.

Percentage of students aiming for one or more science A level

Before Science Capital Teaching Approach16
After Science Capital Teaching Approach21.4
Comparison students19.5
National average23.9

Closing the gap: Significant increases in students' science capital

The approach has significantly increased the science capital of students with previous scores considerably below the national average.

Mean science capital scores

Before Science Capital Teaching Approach38.18
After Science Capital Teaching Approach40.8
Comparison students40.58
National average43.65

Improved student science attitudes

Implementing the approach has led to students seeing science as more relevant to their lives.

Percentage agreeing with statement 'science lessons relate to my life'

Before Science Capital Teaching Approach27
After Science Capital Teaching Approach42.2

Reduction in non-participation in science outside of school

Following the intervention year, students are less likely to report 'never' taking part in science activities outside of school.

Percentage of students never doing out of school science activities

'Never talk with others'
Before Science Capital Teaching Approach42
After Science Capital Teaching Approach33
'Never engage with science online'
Before Science Capital Teaching Approach40
After Science Capital Teaching Approach33
'Never go on nature walk'
Before Science Capital Teaching Approach36
After Science Capital Teaching Approach27

More inclusive classroom participation

Teachers and students report wider participation and engagement in classes, including improved participation among quiet and/or previously disengaged students. 

Changing teaching practice

Participating teachers' practice changed significantly in line with the ethos of the approach.

Percentage of students who report that their teachers ask about their experiences and ideas in every lesson

Before Science Capital Teaching Approach17.7
After Science Capital Teaching Approach26.2

Positive teacher experiences

Teachers are overwhelmingly positive about the approach - it has generated positive changes in their professional identities and sense of purpose. The approach has provided space for reflection and given them agency. Almost all have cascaded the approach to colleagues and departments.