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Ways to Understand Class Diagrams
University of Gävle, Faculty of Engineering and Sustainable Development, Department of Industrial Development, IT and Land Management.
2010 (English)Report (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The software industry needs well trained software designers and one important aspect of software design is the ability to model software designs visually and understand what visual models represent. However, previous research indicates that software design is a difficult task to many students. This paper reports empirical findings from a phenomenographic investigation on how students understand class diagrams, UML symbols and relations to object oriented concepts. The informants were 20 Computer Science students from four different universities in Sweden.

The results show qualitively different ways to understand and describe UML class diagrams and the "diamond symbols" representing aggregation and composition. The purpose of class diagrams was understood in a varied way, from describing it as a documentation to a more advanced view related to communication. The descriptions of class diagrams varied from seeing them as a specification of classes to a more advanced view where they were described to show hierarchic structures of classes and relations. The diamond symbols were seen as "relations" and a more advanced way was seeing the white and the black diamonds as different symbols for aggregation and composition.

As a consequence of the results, it is recommended that UML should be adopted in courses. It is briefly indicated how the phenomenographic results in combination with variation theory can be used by teachers to enhance students' possibilities to reach advanced understanding of phenomena related to UML class diagrams. Moreover, it is recommended that teachers should put more effort in assessing skills in proper using of the basic symbols and models, and students should get many opportunities to practise collaborative design, e.g., using whiteboards.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Uppsala University , 2010. , 16 p.
Series
Technical reports from the Department of Information Technology, ISSN 1404-3203 ; 2010-013
National Category
Computer Science Didactics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-6675OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hig-6675DiVA: diva2:310912
Available from: 2010-04-17 Created: 2010-04-17 Last updated: 2011-09-29Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. On the Road to a Software Profession: Students' Experiences of Concepts and Thresholds
Open this publication in new window or tab >>On the Road to a Software Profession: Students' Experiences of Concepts and Thresholds
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Research has shown that there are gaps in knowledge between newly hired and experienced professionals and that some of these gaps are related to concepts, such as the concepts of object orientation. This problem, and the fact that most computer science majors want to work in the software industry, leads to questions regarding why these gaps exist and how students can be better prepared for their future careers. Against this background, this thesis addresses two theme-based perspectives that focus on students' views of concepts in Computer Science.

The first theme-based perspective investigated the existence of potential Threshold Concepts in Computer Science. Such concepts should be troublesome, transformative, irreversible, and integrative. Qualitative methods have been mainly used and empirical data have been collected through semi-structured interviews, concept maps, and written stories. The results identified two Threshold Concepts, suggested several more, and then described the ways in which these concepts have transformed students.

The second theme-based perspective took a phenomenographic approach to find the variation in how students understand concepts related to the software profession. Data were collected via semi-structured interviews. In one study the interviews were held in connection with role-playing where students took on the role of a newly hired programmer. The results show a variety of ways to experience the addressed phenomena in the student collective, ranging from superficial views that often have a practical nature to more sophisticated understandings that reflect a holistic approach, including a professional point of view.

Educators can use the results to emphasize concepts that are important from students' perspectives. The phenomenographic outcome spaces can help teachers to reflect upon their own ways of seeing contrasted with student conceptions. I have indicated how variation theory can be applied to open more sophisticated ways of seeing, which in this context stresses the professional aspects to help students prepare for becoming professional software developers.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2010. 61 p.
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 734
Keyword
Biographies, class diagram, computer science education, computer science education research, computing concepts, concept map, content analysis, higher education, java interface, learning, object orientation, phenomenography, programming, role-play, software development, software profession, threshold concepts, variation theory
National Category
Computer Science Didactics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-10531 (URN)978-91-554-7789-9 (ISBN)
Public defence
2010-06-04, Room 2446, Polacksbacken, Lägerhyddsvägen 2D, Uppsala, Uppsala, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
1) Forskningsämne: Datavetenskap med inriktning mot datavetenskapens didaktik 2) Boustedts forskning skedde vid Uppsala universitet, Teknisk-naturvetenskapliga vetenskapsområdet, Matematisk-datavetenskapliga sektionen, Institutionen för informationsteknologi, Avdelningen för teknisk databehandling) (Uppsala universitet, Teknisk-naturvetenskapliga vetenskapsområdet, Matematisk-datavetenskapliga sektionen, Institutionen för informationsteknologi, Numerisk analysAvailable from: 2011-09-29 Created: 2011-09-29 Last updated: 2011-09-29Bibliographically approved

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