Why students tell their peers to take introductory CS (PDF)
The BASICS study examines how an introductory computer science curriculum, Exploring Computer Science (ECS), is implemented in schools with a focus on identifying the key supports for and barriers to that implementation and endurance. ECS is a yearlong high school course designed to engage students in computational thinking and practice, originally developed for students in the Los Angeles Unified School District in an effort to broaden participation in computing. The BASICS study strives to create and share research-informed resources and tools for the CS education community to support K-12 education efforts in the field.
Our findings section is a collection of research-informed resources that may be useful to those looking to support CS education efforts and for understanding a variety of perspectives—including teachers, students, and school leaders—on the key supports and barriers that impact introductory CS in high schools. Please check back for more resources as we continue this work.
Why students tell their peers to take introductory CS (PDF)
Advice given by high school students to teachers about to teach introductory CS for the first time. (PDF)
The top five supports for teaching computer science, reported by introductory computer science teachers, and resources related to each.
A checklist for industry and university CS leaders interested in partnering with schools. (PDF)
A short checklist for the CS education community about how to communicate the benefits of CS learning to state and local education leaders. (PDF)
A checklist that captures advice from school leaders to school leaders about how to introduce CS in schools. (PDF)
See information on teacher backgrounds and characteristics from our Spring 2015 questionnaire.
ECS students in Chicago and Washington, DC completed a questionnaire in Spring 2014 focused on student engagement, teacher instruction, and student attitudes and characteristics.
In Spring 2014, 24 Computer Science teachers in Chicago and Washington, DC completed a questionnaire that, among other things, asked them to describe inquiry and equity in their classroom. All of the teachers were using Exploring Computer Science (ECS) instructional materials.
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.
The BASICS study seeks to create and share valid and reliable tools to measure implementation of an introductory computer science curriculum (Exploring Computer Science, or ECS) and the key supports and barriers that affect implementation. Over the course of three years, our research team developed, administered, and refined a questionnaire (one for teachers and one for students), with the help of teacher and students in school districts using ECS across the country. These instruments rigorously measure the status of implementation of ECS and the contextual factors that can influence teacher use of, and student engagement in computer science curricular components. The team also developed and used several qualitative tools, such as a semi-structured interview guide for teachers to assess perceptions of the supports and barriers (contextual factors) to implementing introductory computer science curriculum. The quantitative and qualitative instruments were developed using a theoretical framework (Century, Cassata, Rudnick & Freeman, 2012) that allows them to be customized for use with other instructional resources. Please contact us for additional information.
Questionnaires for systematically measuring implementation of ECS and the supports and barriers that affect implementation, and technical information about these instruments.
Descriptive statistics from the Spring, 2016 administration of the BASICS ECS Teacher and Student Questionnaires.
A semi-structured interview guide that focuses on teacher use of the ECS curriculum and teacher perceptions of the supports and barriers to implementing the curriculum.
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What are the key supports
and barriers that affect ECS
implementation and its
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.
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
BASICS Study participants work in schools using ECS in districts across the US. Current and past participants include those in Chicago, the District of Columbia, Los Angeles, Broward County, and New York City.
District of Columbia
The BASICS Study answers these research questions about high school introductory computer science using a mixed-methods research design. The design includes teacher and student questionnaires; ECS developer, school district personnel, school leader, and teacher interviews; student focus groups; 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 curriculum).
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 leads Outlier’s computer science education research efforts. She is currently the Principal Investigator of this study, as well as another NSF 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). 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.
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.
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’sS3 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.