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An Experience Using Reflection in Software Engineering

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Pedagogical Approaches for Software Engineering

Tagged Division

Software Engineering Constituent Committee

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.160.1 - 25.160.18



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Paper Authors


Alexandra Martinez University of Costa Rica

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Alexandra Martinez has been working since 2009 as an Invited Professor in the Department of Computer and Information Science at the University of Costa Rica (UCR). She has taught courses in databases, software testing, and bioinformatics, and done applied research in software testing at UCR’s Research Center on Information and Communication Technologies. Previously, she worked as a Software Design Engineer in Test at Microsoft Corporation in Redmond, Wash., and as a Software Engineer at ArtinSoft in San Jose, Costa Rica. She received her Ph.D. in computer engineering from the University of Florida in 2007, her M.S. in computer engineering from the University of Florida in 2006, and her B.S. in computer and information science from the Universidad de Costa Rica in 2000. She also received a scholarship to study in the pre-doctoral program in computer science at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland, from 2001 to 2002. Her research interests include software testing, data quality, bioinformatics, and databases.

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Marcelo Jenkins University of Costa Rica

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Marcelo Jenkins obtained a B.S. degree en computer and information sciences at the University of Costa Rica in 1986 and a M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Delaware, USA, in 1988 and 1992, respectively. Since 1986, he has been teaching computer science at the University of Costa Rica. From 1993 until 1998, he coordinated the Graduate Committee, and from 1998 through 2001, he was the Chairman of the Department of Computer and Information Sciences. His research interests are in software engineering, software quality assurance, project management, and object-oriented programming. He has authored more than 40 technical papers on these subjects. As an independent consultant, he has worked with some of the largest software companies in the Central America region in establishing software quality management systems. In the last 15 years, he has taught several seminars on software quality assurance and software project management in seven different countries. Jenkins is an ASQ Certified Software Quality Engineer (CSQE).

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An Experience Using Reflection in Software EngineeringPurpose / Background / MotivationThis paper reports our experience in using two different reflection mechanisms as a learningenhancing tool in two graduate courses in software engineering: Software Testing (ST) andSoftware Quality Management (SQM). Both courses belong to the Master of ScienceProgram in Computer and Information Science at our university. The main motivation for experimenting with reflection mechanisms was to increasestudents’ engagement in the courses. Additionally, we wanted to help them achieve a deeperand more enduring learning from our courses. In the ST course, a learning journal was used. Students were asked to write a journalentry every 3 weeks and there were 5 checkpoints during the semester. This journalaccounted for 15% of the final grade. The style and format were free, but in order to helpstudents initially, the teacher gave them a few questions to consider when writing theirjournal entries. In the SQM course, a reflection questionnaire was used. Students were askedto fill a questionnaire a couple of times in the semester. The first one was immediately afterthe first term exam, and the second one was at the end of the course. This questionnaireaccounted for 10% of the final grade.Assessment Methods / Results / FindingsOur implementation of the reflection mechanisms was assessed from the student’s andteacher’s perspective. Students’ perspective was obtained from a Department-wide survey,and a course-specific survey. Teachers’ perspective was based on a qualitative assessment ofobserved strengths and limitations. For the ST course, one of our findings was that 86% of the students considered the useof a learning journal as either somewhat or very suitable for the course. For the SQM course,some of our findings from students’ reflection were that students needed more in-classhands-on exercises to grasp the concepts, and that most of their learning was not done inclass but during the development of the term project. Overall, we found that a major strength of using a reflection mechanism is that itallows students to move from a content acquisition level to a meta-level where they self-reflect on what they learn and how they learn it. Additionally, students felt heard by theprofessors and vividly expressed the ups and downs of their learning experience in thecourse, producing a positive and engaging attitude towards the course. A major drawback of learning journals was the burden posed by grading (it is time-consuming to give individual formative feedback to students), so it does not scale up wellfor large classes. The main shortcoming of the reflection questionnaires is that except for thegrade, no individual feedback was given to the students.What is original / Value of paperOur contribution is to report on two different reflection mechanisms used in two similargraduate courses. This paper offers an example of learning journals and reflectionquestionnaires used in two graduate-level software engineering courses, potentiallymotivating their use by other colleagues.ReferencesBrown, J.O. Know Thyself: The Impact Of Portfolio Development On Adult Learning. Adult Education Quarterly, 52, 3 (2002).Chang, C.C. Construction and Evaluation of a Web-based Learning Portfolio System: An Electronic Assessment Tool. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 38, 2 (2001).Hamalainen, H., Ikonen, J., Porras, J. Using Wiki for Collaborative Studying and Maintaining Personal Learning Diary in a Computer Science Course. Ninth IEEE International Conference on Digital Advanced Learning Technologies (2009).Tsai, W.T., Li, W., Elston, J., Chen, Y. Collaborative Learning Using Wiki Web Sites for Computer Science Undergraduate Education: A Case Study. IEEE Transactions on Education, 99 (2010).

Martinez, A., & Jenkins, M. (2012, June), An Experience Using Reflection in Software Engineering Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--20920

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