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Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Arts
August 29, 2016
Canadian Excellence

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Cultural Capital and Summer Learning Gaps - A Talk by Dr. Scott Davies

Jan 24/12

Dr. Davies is an Ontario Research Chair in Educational Achievement and At-Risk Children at McMaster University in Sociology and the Offord Centre for Child Studies.

Cultural Capital is French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu's signature concept for
explaining educational disparities between more and less affluent children. Over
several decades, it has been defined and measured in a variety of ways in empirical
studies. This presentation applies the concept in an examination of school
achievement gaps, focusing on the role of unequal opportunities to learn outside of
school. Opportunities to learn can be particularly unequal during the summer, when
some children entertain themselves while others enjoy a menu of enriching
activities. American research finds that many poor children's literacy skills erode over
the summer while many affluent children gain skills, and traces later achievement
gaps mainly to such summer setbacks that compound over several years. I report
findings from Canada's first large scale study that distinguishes school year versus
summer rates of learning. Since June 2010 and 2011, Janice Aurini and I have collected
literacy data on over 2000 Ontario children in grades 1
3. We find that literacy gaps
widen by children's socioeconomic background over the summer and that summer
literacy programs can reduce those gaps. We are currently exploring the role of
cultural capital in producing and mediating those gaps, and I will report findings from
that investigation.


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