STEM study

Advancing science, technology, engineering, and math education through research and evaluation.

In early 2014, an organization called Outlier began making a name for itself, literally. The previously unnamed group is the research and evaluation arm of the University of Chicago’s Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education (CEMSE), which is dedicated to improving precollege STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) instruction. “We’re different. Our research is more innovative, more connected to practice. We wanted our name to reflect that—an outlier in the best sense of the word,” says associate communications and project director Sarah Rand, who is working to get the word out about Outlier.

The now 14-member team began in 2007, researching topics including STEM, health and nutrition, computer science, and outdoor education, sharing results with the broader research community. “We have a strong commitment to making our work accessible and usable to practitioners,” says Rand.

They also conduct evaluations for education-based clients who may want to know what the impact of their program is, what the outcomes are, or the nature of the students’ experiences. Outlier collects data and provides answers. Clients include the Lincoln Park Zoo, UChicago UTEP (Urban Teacher Education Program), and the University of Illinois at Chicago Gross Anatomy Lab.

Outlier also provides services such as data visualization.

Interactive data visualization from the Boston Schoolyard Initiative Evaluation report. (Photo courtesy Outlier)

One specific project—the STEM School Study (S3), funded by the National Science Foundation and led by principle investigator Melanie LaForce—studies models and measures the impact of inclusive (open-admission) STEM schools around the country. The S3 study seeks to answer four questions:

  • What are the essential components of each inclusive STEM school’s model?
  • What is happening at inclusive STEM high schools?
  • What affects STEM school practices?
  • What matters for achievement?

S3 will run through 2016.

Other projects include: Building an Operating System for Computer Science Education (OS4CS); Accumulating Knowledge on Scaling and Sustaining Reform: A Foundation for Future Research; and Factors that Affect Implementation, Spread, and Sustainability: An Implementation Study of Everyday Mathematics.

To learn more, visit the Outlier blog.