Randomised Controlled Trial and Process Evaluation of Code Clubs

Suzanne Straw, Ben Styles, Susie Bamford

04 May 2017

NFER completed a randomised controlled trial and process evaluation of Code Clubs between June 2015 and September 2016. Code Club UK is a nationwide network of after-school clubs for children aged 9-11 years, supported by volunteers, projects and learning materials.

Twenty-one schools took part in the trial which, through a pupil-randomised design, assessed the impact of Code Clubs on Year 5 pupils’ computational thinking, programming skills and attitudes towards computers and coding.

The primary outcome measure was the Bebras Computational Thinking Assessment, which 317 pupils completed at baseline and endpoint. Secondary measures included a Coding Quiz and Pupil Attitude Survey. The process evaluation included consultations with all teachers running Code Clubs.

Key Findings

  • Attending Code Club for a year did not impact on pupils’ computational thinking over and above changes occurring anyway. However, both intervention and control groups increased their Bebras scores between baseline and endpoint.
  • Attending Code Club significantly improves pupils' coding skills in Scratch, HTML/CSS and Python, even when control children learn coding within the regular curriculum.
  • Code Club pupils reported increased usage of all three programming languages and of computers more generally.
  • Impacts on understanding concepts and developing confidence in coding were seen at the end of the first term covering Scratch. However, it takes two to three terms to see pupils’ increased independence and resilience in problem solving.
  • Key to the success of Code Clubs is access to Code Club UK projects and teacher notes, reported to be high quality, clear and simple and easy to deliver – even for those with no prior coding experience.