An Experience Report on Introducing Explicit Strategies into Testing Checklists for Advanced Beginners


Recommended citation:

Gina R. Bai, Sandeep Sthapit, Sarah Heckman, Thomas W. Price, and Kathryn T. Stolee. 2023. An Experience Report on Introducing Explicit Strategies into Testing Checklists for Advanced Beginners. In Proceedings of the 28th ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education Vol. 1 (ITiCSE ‘23). ACM, New York, NY, USA.

[Full Paper]


Software testing is a critical skill for computing students, but learning and practicing testing can be challenging, particularly for beginners. A recent study suggests that a lightweight testing checklist that contains testing strategies and tutorial information could assist students in writing quality tests. However, students expressed a desire for more support in knowing how to test the code/scenario. Moreover, the potential costs and benefits of the testing checklist are not yet examined in a classroom setting. To that end, we improved the checklist by integrating explicit testing strategies to it (ETS Checklist), which provides step-by-step guidance on how to transfer semantic information from instructions to the possible testing scenarios. In this paper, we report our experiences in designing explicit strategies in unit testing, as well as adapting the ETS Checklist as optional tool support in a CS1.5 course. With the quantitative and qualitative analysis of the survey responses and lab assignment submissions generated by students, we discuss students’ engagement with the ETS Checklists. Our results suggest that students who used the checklist intervention had significantly higher quality in their student-authored test code, in terms of code coverage, compared to those who did not, especially for earlier assignments. We also observed students’ unawareness of their need for help in writing high-quality tests.