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Outlier Research Evaluation Receives NSF Grant to Study the Barriers and Supports to Implementing Computer Science

March 24, 2014

Outlier Research Evaluation is carrying out a computer science research study intended to inform and support the computer science education community. Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the two and a half year study, called “Barriers and Supports to Implementing Computer Science” (The BASICS Study), examines the status of implementation of an introductory high school computer science course, Exploring Computer Science (ECS), and the supports for and barriers to that implementation in three school districts – DC Public Schools, Chicago Public Schools and Los Angeles Unified School District. The BASICS Study goals support NSF’s CS10K effort to have 10,000 well trained computer science teachers in 10,000 schools with the intent that our research will: (1) inform computer science education leaders about the supports for and barriers to wide-scale high school computer science education implementation; (2) provide tools for measuring computer science program implementation and the supports and barriers that affect implementation, and; (3) create research-informed products that include resources and recommendations for implementing and growing computer science education.

This new research 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. The BASICS Study also stems from a previous computer-science–focused study, OS4CS, which established a more comprehensive understanding of our nation’s current high school computer science teaching and learning environment.

The BASICS Study employs a mixed-methods research design, collecting data through teacher and student questionnaires; interviews of ECS developers, school district personnel, school leaders, and teacher; and student focus groups. Understanding how ECS came to be implemented in a range of sites can a have great impact on the use and endurance of ECS and other introductory computer science courses today and in the future. Research will highlight the challenges to systemic efforts to increase accessibility, quality and quantity of high school introductory computer science education and offer recommendations to meet those challenges, ultimately helping the K-12 computer science community bring needed programs into schools, and support lasting, systemic change.

The BASICS Study, lead by Jeanne Century and Sarah Wille, includes researchers Courtney Heppner, Sarah Rand, Heather King and Amelia Baxter-Stoltzfus. The BASICS team is fortunate to be working with Loyola University’s Center for Science and Mathematics Education as project evaluators, as well as the following BASICS Study project advisors:

  • Jake Baskin, Program Manager/
  • Baker Franke, HS Computer Science Teacher, Dept. Chair/University of Chicago Laboratory Schools
  • Mark Guzdial, Professor/College of Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Brook Osborne, 9–12 Program Manager/
  • Chris Stephenson, Executive Director/Computer Science Teachers Association
  • Brenda Wilkerson, IT Program Manager/Chicago Public Schools

For more information, contact Sarah Wille, PhD – Co-Principal Investigator,