Monday, January 30, 2012
5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Education Building, Room 1123
Pierre Bourdieu's signature concept "cultural capital" has been defined in a variety of ways in educational research. This paper applies this concept to the phenomenon of summer learning. School achievement gaps stem partly from inequalities among children’s opportunities to learn outside of school, particularly during the summer, when some “entertain themselves,” while others enjoy a menu of enriching activities.
American research finds that many poor children’s literacy skills erode while affluent children tend to gain skills, and attributes much of the achievement gap by high school to early and compound “summer setbacks.” In partnership with Ontario's Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, I have co-launched Canada’s first summer learning project and have collected data on thousands of Ontario children in grades 1-3. Using a “seasonal learning” design, we are finding that i) rates of summer learning loss are substantial; ii) literacy gaps widen between
children from different socioeconomic backgrounds during the summer months; iii) measures of cultural capital do not strong mediate those gaps; iv) some summer literacy programs can reduce achievement gaps. Implications for theory and policy are discussed.
Dr. Scott Davies is Professor of Sociology and an Associate Member of the Department of Political Science at McMaster University. He is an associate editor of Canadian Public Policy, and has been on the editorial boards of Sociology of Education, American Journal of Education, and Sociological Inquiry. Dr. Davies’ research revolves around a core theme: change and inequality in education. He has examined disparities in student outcomes, including rates of dropping out of high school, educational aspirations, access to higher education, and transitions to employment. He has researched longitudinal links between these inequalities and youth delinquency, examining the impact of youth subcultures on school success, job attainment, and criminal labelling. He is also
investigating how emerging school organizations and politics are reshaping educational opportunities.
He is studying school choice initiatives that promise to benefit at-risk students by subjecting schools to market forces and accountability procedures. He is particularly interested in how the demand for educational alternatives reflects changing cultures of parenting and child-rearing. Much of his research is oriented to connecting educational policy trends to globalization, social movements, and public opinion.