Do Students Recognize Ambiguity in Software Specifications? A Multi-national, Multi-institutional Report

  • Tammy VanDeGrift
  • Beth Simon
  • Dean Sanders
  • Ken Blaha
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 4309)

Abstract

Successful software engineering requires experience and acknowledgment of complexity, including that which leads designers to recognize ambiguity within the software design description itself. We report on a study of 21 post-secondary institutions from the USA, UK, Sweden, and New Zealand. First competency and graduating students as well as educators were asked to perform a software design task. We found that graduating seniors were more likely to recognize ambiguities in under-specified problems than first competency students. Additionally, participants who addressed all requirements in the design were more likely than others to recognize ambiguities in the design specification. The behavior of recognizing ambiguity and gathering information appear to be independent of past performance, as measured by course grades.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. 1.
  2. 2.
    Adams, R.S., Turns, J., Atman, C.J.: What Could Design Learning Look Like? In: Expertise in Design: Design Thinking Research Symposium 6, Sydney, Australia (2003)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Boehm, B.W.: Software Engineering Economics. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River (1981)MATHGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Brown, D.A.: Requiring CS1 student to write requirements specifications: A rationale, implementation suggestions, and a case study. In: Proceedings of the 19th SIGCSE Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, pp. 13–16 (1988)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bursic, K.M., Atman, C.J.: Information Gathering: A Critical Step for Quality in the Design Process. Quality Management Journal 4(4), 60–75 (1997)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Fincher, S., Petre, M., Tenenberg, J., Blaha, K., Bouvier, D., et al.: Cause for alarm?: A multi-national, multi-institutional study of student-generated software designs. Technical Report 16-04, Computing Laboratory, University of Kent, Canterbury (September 2004), http://www.cs.kent.ac.uk/pubs/2004/1953
  7. 7.
    Fincher, S., Petre, M., Tenenberg, J., et al.: A multi-national, multi-institutional study of student-generated software designs. In: Proceedings of the 4th Annual Finnish / Baltic Sea Conference on Computer Science Education (2004)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Gause, D., Weinberg, G.: Are Your Lights On? Winthrop Publishers, Cambridge (1982)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Guindon, R., Krasner, H., Curtis, B.: Breakdowns and processes during early activities of software design by professionals. In: Empirical Studies of Programmers: Second Workshop (1987)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Hilburn, T.: Inspections of formal specifications. In: Proceedings of the 27th SIGCSE Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, pp. 150–154 (1996)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Jeffries, R., Turner, A.A., Polson, P.G., Atwood, M.E.: The processes involved in designing software, Cognitive Skills and Their Acquisition. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah (1981)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    McCracken, W.M., et al.: A multi-national, multi-institutional study of assessment of programming skills of first-year CS students. SIGCSE Bulletin 33(4), 125–180 (2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Soloway, E., Ehrlich, K.: Empirical studies of programming knowledge. IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering 10(5), 595–609 (1984)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Tenenberg, J., et al.: A multi-national, multi-institutional study of student-generated software designs. Informatics in Education 4(1), 143–162 (2005)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Wiedenbeck, S.: Novice/expert differences in programming skills. International Journal of Man-Machine Studies 23, 383–390 (1985)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tammy VanDeGrift
    • 1
  • Beth Simon
    • 2
  • Dean Sanders
    • 3
  • Ken Blaha
    • 4
  1. 1.Electrical Engineering & Computer ScienceUniversity of PortlandPortlandUSA
  2. 2.Computer Science & EngineeringUniversity of CaliforniaSan Diego, La JollaUSA
  3. 3.Computer Science & Information SystemsNorthwest Missouri State UniversityMaryvilleUSA
  4. 4.Computer Science & Computer EngineeringPacific Lutheran UniversityTacomaUSA

Personalised recommendations