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Why it Matters

Despite the rising use of technology, there has been a failure to adequately offer computer science (CS) instruction to K-12 students during the instructional day.

This is especially true for students in the elementary grades. While informal education opportunities certainly exist outside of the school day, youth who might otherwise participate face a range of barriers. Access (including presence and location of opportunities) and attitudes (such as youth attitudes about themselves and adult attitudes towards CS) stand in the way of all students fully participating in and benefitting from computer science experience. Bringing CS into the formal education environment can ensure all students have the opportunity to engage in critical knowledge and skill building that is essential for future “economic opportunity and social mobility.”

Although the increasingly full school day poses challenges at all grade levels and for a range of disciplines, the elementary classroom has particular restrictions that grow from the focus on literacy and mathematics instruction. Thus, this project leverages the time blocked for literacy by providing the elementary teacher with the curriculum tools and professional development they need to integrate computer science into that time. Findings from this study will not only reveal the student outcomes resulting from this effort, but also the outcomes for teachers and knowledge about the supports and barriers to implementing integrated modules in the future.

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Broward County Public Schools

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A Research-Practice Partnership

This partnership between Outlier Research & Evaluation and Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) seeks to understand the effects of integrating CS problem-based learning (PBL) modules into an elementary literacy curriculum on 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students’ attitudes towards computer science and their academic achievement. Using a rigorous experimental design, this study will contribute to the field of computer science education by:


Creating a model that supports the teaching and learning of CS in elementary schools

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Establishing evidence of the merits of the model for CS integration in the elementary classroom

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Increasing elementary students' exposure to CS as part of the regular school day

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Research Questions

What will the Time for CS project tell us about BCPS students?

Effects on Student Achievement

What are the effects of using Time for CS modules in elementary classrooms on 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders’ literacy, mathematics, and science outcomes?

Changes in Student Attitudes

What are the effects of using Time for CS modules on 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders’ attitudes toward CS and their interest in pursuing future CS activities or courses?

Differences by Student Characteristics

Are there differences in achievement or attitudinal outcomes for different student populations (e.g., grade, gender, race/ethnicity, income)?

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What will the Time for CS project tell us about BCPS teachers?

Changes in Teacher Attitudes

What are the effects of using Time for CS modules on teacher attitudes towards CS?

Effects on Pedagogy

Is the use of Time for CS modules related to teachers’ engagement in student-centered pedagogical practices?

Differences by Teacher Characteristics

Do the effects of using Time for CS modules differ according to teacher population characteristics (e.g., CS experience, teaching experience, grade level)?

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The Time for CS study uses a quasi-experimental matched-pair design to evaluate the impact of integrated modules (science, social studies, computer science, and literacy) on elementary students’ academic achievement and attitudinal outcomes.

Participating schools were randomly assigned to “treatment” and “comparison” groups. Teachers from 8 treatment schools (n=116) participated in professional development and implemented Time for CS modules during the regular school year. Comparison teachers from 9 control schools (n=168) did not participate in professional development, nor did they implement the integrated modules. Each module was designed to last 5-7 weeks with one module taught in Fall, 2016 and the second taught in Spring, 2017.

Teachers in treatment schools attended one summer professional development experience, as well as a mid-year professional development experience focused on the modules as a whole with an emphasis on the computer science activities and content. They are also supported by two elementary computer science coordinators who provide ongoing classroom support through co-teaching and coaching.

Outlier collected data on module implementation, teacher attitudes, and student attitudes using pre- post- questionnaires. The questionnaires were informed by Outlier’s previous NSF-funded work on implementation measurement, as well as another NSF-funded computer-science focused project, BASICS.

Through this research design, the current study will contribute to the field of CS education by providing:

  1. 1Evidence of whether and how an integrated CS curriculum affects students’ CS attitudes and academic achievement
  2. 2Insights into the feasibility of integrating CS into elementary education and the infrastructure needed to support this novel teaching and learning model
  3. 3Open-access curricular and professional development materials for use by other schools and districts across the country
A student in front of a laptop A student in front of a laptop
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