Our NSF-funded project, Building High-Quality K-12 CS Education Research Capacity Across an Outcome Framework of Equitable Capacity, Access, Participation, and Experience, kicked off in September 2021. Our collaborators on this three-year grant are Sarah Heckman (Professor of Computer Science, North Carolina State University), Jennifer Rosato (Director at National Center for Computer Science Education (College of St. Scholastica)), and Leigh Ann DeLyser (Executive Director, CSforALL).

In an effort to formalize the assessment of equity outcomes in K-12 computer science education, Carol Fletcher and Jayce Warner published the CAPE framework in 2019 to study an entity’s Capacity for equitably offering CS education, providing equitable Access to CS education through course offerings, ensuring equitable student Participation in CS education, and ensuring equitable student Experience of CS education. The CAPE framework takes into account the many aspects of education and support for education that must be provided to ensure that all students receive impactful experiences in computing education and that positive outcomes are comparable between various population subgroups such as girls, Black, Indigenous, and Hispanic students, students with disabilities, low-income students and other underserved and underrepresented students.

Our project’s goals include identifying barriers to and gaps in equity-focused research across K-12 computing education using the CAPE model as a lens for analysis. After this review is complete, we will develop meaningful workshops to build the capacity of researchers to focus on equity in their research.

Our research questions for this project are

  1. How comprehensive is K-12 CER when examining with a specific lens on how it explicitly addresses broadening participation in computing or equity goals?
  2. What are the barriers that prevent K-12 computing education researchers from conducting research across the four components of CAPE? and
  3. How effective are new resources, materials and workshops specifically created to address the gaps in and barriers to producing high-quality, equity-focused K-12 CER?

By exploring these questions, we will provide a pathway for more researchers to understand how to conduct high-quality, equity-focused research in K-12 computing education across CAPE as well as how to incorporate an equity focus in all of their research.

This project highlights the critical need for high-quality, equity-focused K-12 computing education research (CER) across the U.S. to enable the discovery of promising, evidence-based practices for all learners.