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Students' different understandings of class diagrams
University of Gävle, Faculty of Engineering and Sustainable Development, Department of Industrial Development, IT and Land Management, Computer science.
2012 (English)In: Computer Science Education, ISSN 0899-3408, E-ISSN 1744-5175, Vol. 22, no 1, p. 29-62Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The software industry needs well-trained software designers and one important aspect of software design is the ability to model softwaredesigns visually and understand what visual models represent. However, previous research indicates that software design is a difficulttask to many students. This article reports empirical findings from aphenomenographic investigation on how students understand classdiagrams, Unified Modeling Language (UML) symbols, and relationsto object-oriented (OO) concepts. The informants were 20 Computer Science students from four different universities in Sweden. The results show qualitatively 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 theblack 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 classdiagrams. Moreover, it is recommended that teachers should put more effort in assessing skills in proper usage of the basic symbols and models and students should be provided with opportunities to practise collaborative design, e.g. using whiteboards.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
London, UK: Routledge, 2012. Vol. 22, no 1, p. 29-62
Keywords [en]
class diagram, Java, phenomenography, programming, software engineering
National Category
Computer Sciences Didactics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-11622DOI: 10.1080/08993408.2012.665210Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-84859322842OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hig-11622DiVA, id: diva2:510096
Available from: 2012-03-15 Created: 2012-03-15 Last updated: 2018-03-13Bibliographically approved

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Boustedt, Jonas

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard-cite-them-right
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
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  • Other style
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  • sv-SE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
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  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • de-DE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
  • html
  • text
  • asciidoc
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