We are a diverse and deeply experienced team of scientists, teachers, methodologists, writers, artists, and researchers. We stand in and across the boundaries of academic, public school, museum, industry, and policy settings. The strengths in the areas of our expertise enable us to do things differently and develop innovative, robust approaches to our projects.
Director of Outlier Research and Evaluation
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.
Associate Director of Outlier Research and Evaluation
Melanie joined the Outlier team in July 2011 and works on a range of research and evaluation projects. She currently is PI on S3 (The STEM School Study, a National Science Foundation-supported study of inclusive STEM high schools) as well as several evaluation projects. Prior to joining Outlier, Melanie worked as a quantitative researcher at the Chicago Postsecondary Transition Project, a joint project between the Consortium on Chicago School Research and The School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. She has also previously worked as a research analyst at Chicago Public Schools in both the Office of Math and Science and the Department of Postsecondary Education. She received her PhD in Social Psychology from Loyola University and holds a BA from Ohio University.
Associate Project Director
Liz joined the Outlier team in November 2012 with a variety of experience as both a researcher and an educator. She currently serves as Co-Principal Investigator on Outlier’s S3 project. Prior to coming to Outlier, Liz worked as a Research Assistant on the NSF-funded Life on Earth project at Northwestern University, and with the Chicago Children's Museum on an exploratory study of the Museum's early learning-focused Pritzker Playspace. Her graduate work focused on young children’s learning and interactions in both formal and informal settings. Liz is also a trained Montessori teacher, and taught in three to six year-old classrooms for several years. Liz has her MA in Learning Sciences from Northwestern University and a BA in Psychology from Denison University.
Senior Research & Evaluation Scientist
Amy Cassata, PhD, has worked with Outlier Research & Evaluation since 2010. As Senior Research & Evaluation Scientist and Director of Implementation Research, she develops and applies conceptual frameworks and rigorous measures that explore how and why educational innovations (instructional materials, strategies, programs, and policies) are implemented, spread, and sustained over time. Amy is a mixed methodologist specializing in qualitative research design, data collection and analysis. Her work draws heavily from implementation sciences, educational psychology, and human development. Her publications appear in peer-reviewed journals Review of Research in Education, Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research, and International Journal of Learning. She holds a Ph.D. in education with specialization in Human Development from the University of Rochester and User Experience (UX) Certification from the Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g).
Amy’s current research explores issues of educational change in complex school systems as both investigator and change agent. In a research-practice partnership study with the 6th largest US school district, funded by the Hewlett Foundation, she is co-designing a research-based approach to increase critical thinking practices among 1,600 elementary teachers by intentionally building individual and organizational readiness for change. As co-PI of a collaborative IES-funded study with the UChicago Consortium on School Research, she is exploring Chicago Public School district’s professional learning initiatives focused on achieving the goals of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and Next Generation Science Standards, investigating whether these efforts have led to district-wide instructional changes and corresponding growth in student outcomes, and identifying key supports and barriers to change.
From 2011-2015, Amy served as PI and Co-PI on three complementary studies funded by NSF and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) developing and validating instruments for measuring mathematics and science instructional materials implementation and investigating factors that affect their use and sustainability in different contexts. In this role, she produced a website of practical tools and resources for school and district leaders seeking to understand EM program implementation, co-developed an interactive data visualization highlighting key influences on teachers’ EM use.
Outlier Research & Evaluation
Sarah leads Outlier’s computer science education research efforts. She is currently the Principal Investigator of two National Science Foundation (NSF) research awards to Outlier that aim to increase high school computer science education opportunities for students. The first is a broadening participation study (Computer Science & Students with Learning Differences study, award # 1542963) that aims to expand participation in computer science by making CSP more accessible for students with learning differences (students with learning disabilities and related attention disorders). The second is a study (The BASICS study, award # 1339256) that involves systematically measuring implementation of Exploring Computer Science (ECS) instructional materials and the key supports and barriers to implementation, and refining our study instruments to share with the CS education community. Sarah has worked with Outlier since 2010 on a range of research and evaluation projects focused on increasing and improving STEM+C education. Prior to Outlier, she worked in the Education Department of the Field Museum, leading teacher PD and collaborating with Math & Science Education faculty at the Illinois Institute of Technology in instructional materials development and training for HS science teachers. Her work has always focused on helping bridge research and practice. Sarah received her PhD and MA in Anthropology from Indiana University, and has conducted archaeological research in Belize, Egypt, and in the U.S.
Stephanie Loo joined Outlier as a research assistant in March 2016. She received her BA in Psychology and English and a certificate in Environmental Studies from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. She is currently working on a number of projects including the Amplify arts organizations evaluation project, the Broward County STEM+C research project, the Hive Chicago strategic planning project, and the Lincoln Park Zoo program evaluation project.
As an undergraduate, Stephanie worked in a learning and transfer research lab and completed an honors psychology thesis on the link between word sounds and object properties. Stephanie has also participated in research on urban transportation, wildlife resource management, and the toxicity of household cleaning products.
Akua joined the Outlier team in January 2016 as a Research Assistant after graduating from University of Chicago with a Bachelor of Arts in biological sciences. She is excited to be working on the Code.org evaluation project, the Civic Leadership Academy evaluation project, and the NSF-funded Wolcott Study (Bringing AP Computer Science Principles to Students with Learning Differences, NSF Award #1542963). Prior to coming to Outlier, Akua was a peer health educator with Peer Health Exchange, co-president of the College’s minority pre-medicine RSO, and a member of the International Student Advisory Board. She currently considering graduate work in statistics, research methodology, public health, or data analysis.
Research Specialist III
Huifang Zuo Joined the Outlier team in February 2017 as a Research Specialist III. Currently Huifang is working on the NSF CS10K study (The BASICS study) and S3 (The STEM School Study, a National Science Foundation-supported study of inclusive STEM high schools). Prior to joining Outlier, Huifang worked as a Research Assistant in the Department of computer Science, Center for Applied Geographic Information Science, Urban Institute, and Center for Educational Measurement and Evaluation at UNC-Charlotte. The projects Huifang has worked on included STARS (Students & Technology in Academia, Research & Service) funded by NSF, Math Science Partnership (MSP) grants funded by North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Head Start Program, Assessment of Urban Forests for Water Quality funded by NC Forest Service, United Way Collective Impact Grant, and Charlotte Regional Indicators projects.
Huifang Zuo will receive her PhD in Educational Research Methodology May, 2017 and Master degree in Geography Information Science December, 2017 from UNC-Charlotte. She also had a Master degree in the major of Language Acquisition and Chinese Modern Literature from Beijing Normal University. During 7-year professional training, Huifang has developed strong quantitative, qualitative, and mix method research skills, and her research has focused on STEM education, Neighborhood analysis in relation to mathematics achievement, self-efficacy, and learning English as a second language.
Katie joined the Outlier team in March 2017 after completing a post-doctoral fellowship and Research Assistant Professorship at the Institute for Applied Research and Youth Development at Tufts University. She is currently working on several projects including the S3 and Broward County STEM + C research projects. Her previous work focused on program evaluation of positive youth development outcomes in out-of-school time contexts, particularly those positive outcomes youth receive through participation in sports and Boy/Girl Scouts. She received her Ph.D. in Life Span Developmental Psychology from West Virginia University and a B.A. with Honors in Psychology from Muhlenberg College.
Interested in becoming an Outlier? We aren’t actively looking right now, but please feel free to get in touch and let us know about your interests.
Get in touch
Outlier Research & Evaluation
CEMSE | University of Chicago
1427 E. 60th Street
For questions about computer science education research and evaluation, please contact:
Dr. Sarah Wille, Senior Research & Evaluation Scientist