Will Students Write Tests Early Without Coercion?

John Wrenn, Shriram Krishnamurthi

Koli Calling International Conference on Computing Education Research, 2020

(Short Paper.)


Students faced with a programming task often begin their implementation without a sufficient understanding of the problem. Several prior papers suggest that formulating input--output examples before beginning one’s implementation is the key to averting problem misunderstandings, but that students are loath to actually do it. Is outright coercion instructors’ only hope to convince students to follow this methodology and hence help themselves?

We conjecture that students’ reluctance may stem from the disaffordances of their programming environments. In this work, we augment the student’s programming environment to encourage examples-first development, and design a novel measure to assess students’ adherence to this methodology. We apply these measures to students using our modified environment in a semester-long course, and find high voluntary adherence, especially relative to the literature’s low expectations.



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