The (BASICS) study examines how an introductory computer science program, Exploring Computer Science (ECS) is implemented in school districts with a focus on identifying the key supports for and barriers to that implementation and endurance.
The Outlier approach to measuring status of implementation recognizes that no two teachers’ curriculum enactments will look exactly the same because teachers make adaptations based in their local needs, contexts, and conditions (factors). In the BASICS study, we are primarily interested in describing the range of ways that ECS is used during classroom instruction, and identifying the key supports or barriers that influence use and endurance. The study is not an evaluation of ECS; rather our research seeks to systematically document and describe implementation status and a deeper understanding of the supports for and barriers to implementation. Instead of asking the question, “Is the program being enacted as intended?” data analysis for BASICS focuses on “What is being enacted, and what factors affect that enactment?”
Implementing and expanding opportunities for CS education is an issue of educational equity, particularly for students traditionally underrepresented in CS. Those already working to make K12 CS happen know that bringing change to school systems is complex. As states and school districts explore the role of CS in K12 education, understanding how ECS came to be implemented in a range of sites can have great impact on the implementation and endurance of introductory CS courses today and in the future.
The fundamental goal of all Outlier projects is to provide schools, districts, and policy makers with useful, practical information to continually improve education efforts. In the BASICS Study, we collaborate with NSF CS10K project leaders, CS education advisors, and school and district practitioners to produce findings and share relevant and practical information to help grow and sustain CS education. Our work contributes to the growing portfolio of CS education efforts. We encourage feedback on our project throughout the research study.
To see more of Outlier’s computer science education work, visit our Projects page.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number CNS-1339256
The BASICS Study is a mixed-methods research study. We use a range of both qualitative and quantitative strategies to answer our primary research questions and accomplish our project goals. Our research design collects data via teacher and student questionnaires; ECS developer, school district personnel, school leader, and teacher interviews; student focus groups; informal observations; and document reviews.
This project builds on Outlier's previous NSF-funded work rigorously studying implementation of educational innovations (new practices and programs) and the factors (contexts and conditions) that affect innovation implementation and sustainability. Earlier projects yielded a suite of instruments for measuring implementation of science and mathematics programs and a conceptual framework and accompanying instruments for identifying and measuring the factors that support and inhibit implementation of school-based innovations. The BASICS Study began with these instruments and customized them for use with a CS-specific innovation (the ECS program). The project also stems from a previous CS-focused study (OS4CS) that established a more comprehensive understanding of our nation’s current high school CS teaching and learning environment.
Although implementation measures can be used to examine program impacts, for the purposes of this research, we are interested in looking at the relationships between supports and barriers to implementation and implementation itself, not the quality, efficacy or impact of ECS on student outcomes in CS courses or pursuance of CS careers.
Sarah is a researcher at Outlier committed to improving STEM education. Prior to joining Outlier in 2010, Sarah worked in the Education Department of the Field Museum of Natural History, where she collaborated with Illinois Institute of Technology Math & Science Education faculty to develop materials and PD experiences for Chicago Public Schools science teachers, and lead social science programming for educators. Sarah was an Associate Instructor at Indiana University and continues to serve as an adjunct researcher at The Center for Archaeology in the Public Interest, IU. She has worked on archaeology projects in Belize, Egypt, the Southwest, and Midwest US. Sarah received her MA and PhD in Anthropology from Indiana University.
Prior to coming to the University of Chicago in 2005, Jeanne Century was a Senior Researcher at Education Development Center (EDC) in Waltham MA. Jeanne has a BA in general science from Brandeis, and a MEd and doctorate in science education curriculum and teaching from Boston University. During her 25-year career, Jeanne has developed science instructional materials for the elementary and middle school levels and has provided professional development, technical assistance and strategic planning for teachers and school, district, and state administrators. Her research has focused on the impact of inquiry science instruction, strategies for improving utilization of research and evaluation, sustainability of reform efforts, measurement of intervention fidelity and innovation implementation, STEM schools, and computer science education. Century served on the Education Policy and Department of Education Agency Review transition teams for the Obama-Biden administration where she was responsible for STEM education and education research and development issues. In 2010, she shared the National Association for Research in Science Teaching award for the most significant publication that year. Jeanne has served on numerous committees and advisory boards for work focused on improving STEM education.
Heather is a researcher with nearly ten years of experience in biology. She came to Outlier after completing her Ph.D. in Organismal Biology and Anatomy at the University of Chicago in 2012. Heather’s graduate work focused on the evolution of locomotion, and her 2011 paper on walking in lungfish received attention from the international press. She created and led dozens of hands-on, student-centered science lessons for middle and high school students in collaboration with Project Exploration during graduate school. These experiences were partly facilitated through her position as an NSF IGERT (National Science Foundation’s Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship) fellow. Heather is also the co-founder of the STEM Bridge Network, an emerging group of scientists that work in education, and who are committed to making education career paths accessible and transparent to early-career scientists.
What factors affect student engagement in CS?
ECS students in Chicago and Washington, DC completed a questionnaire in Spring 2014 focused on student engagement, teacher instruction, and student attitudes and characteristics.
What are supports and barriers to teaching introductory CS?
Computer Science teachers in Chicago and Washington, DC completed a questionnaire in Spring 2014 that, among other things, asked them to identify the three biggest supports for and barriers to their computer science classes. All of the teachers were using Exploring Computer Science (ECS) instructional materials.