Asee peer logo

Inoculating Novice Software Designers with Expert Design Strategies

Download Paper |


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

Design Cognition III

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.784.1 - 25.784.25



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


David R. Wright North Carolina State University

visit author page

David Wright earned his Ph.D. in computer science from North Carolina State University. He is currently a Research Associate in the Computer Science Department, overseeing the day-to-day operations of four different research projects. Wright has taught a variety of undergraduate courses at NCSU and other local institutions. His research interests include software design and engineering education, focusing on ways to help students think more like engineering professionals than students, as well as developing teaching and learning tools and strategies that help keep students interested in computer science.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Inoculating Novice Software Designers with Expert Design Strategies Abstract Computer science and software engineering students need to develop the knowledge andskills necessary to build large, complex, and reliable software systems to solve problems thatare ill-structured, incompletely defined, and full of apparently conflicting information. Theapproaches employed by novices to solve these types of problems are significantly differentthan those used by expert designers. The Principles, Patterns, and Process Framework(P 3 F ) is proposed as a solution to the problem of encapsulating expert design strategiesand making them accessible to novice designers. In particular, the P 3 F is designed to helpnovices build and maintain a systemic view of a design problem, efficiently navigate andmanipulate the problem/solution space, and make effective design decisions. This paper presents the results of an interrupted time-series experiment conducted tostudy the effects of introducing the P 3 F to novice software designers. Data collectedincluded subjects’ self-assessments of their design behaviors, verbal protocols of the subjectsworking on complex software system design problems, and the artifacts representing theirsolutions to these problems. The self-assessments were compared against the behaviorsobserved in the recorded protocols to characterize the subjects’ design behavior before andafter the introduction of the P 3 F and identify changes attributable to their use of theFramework. The solution artifacts were evaluated against a design quality rubric and theseresults were analyzed to identify improvements in the quality of the solutions that correlatedwith the introduction of the P 3 F . The results of this study suggest that the Principles, Patterns, and Process Frameworkcan help novice software designers adopt expert design strategies and improve their personaldesign skills. Two of the five subjects that completed the study demonstrated significanttransformations in their construction and navigation of their view of the design problem andevolving solution as well as an improvement in the quality of the solutions they produced.Another two subjects adopted, to a lesser extent, aspects of the expert strategies incorporatedin the P 3 F while retaining much of their novice behaviors. The fifth subject showed littleor no behavioral change or difference in solution artifact quality. While there is a small but significant body of research studying expert and novice designbehaviors, there have been few attempts to bridge the gap to cultivate expert-like behaviors innovice software designers. This work contributes such an attempt combined with an effort tomeasure the change induced by the introduction of the P 3 F . Furthermore, because the designof the Framework drew from a broad range of design-intensive disciplines, the P 3 F can beadapted to suit a variety of design environments. The positive results obtained in this studyinvite further investigation and refinement of the P 3 F in the realm of engineering design.

Wright, D. R. (2012, June), Inoculating Novice Software Designers with Expert Design Strategies Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21541

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2012 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015