Date of Award

5-2009

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Computer Science

Advisor

Hallstrom, Jason O

Committee Member

Malloy , Brian

Committee Member

Madison , Wayne

Abstract

The importance of verifiably correct software has grown enormously in recent years as software has become integral to the design of critical systems, including airplanes, automobiles, and medical equipment. Hence, the importance of solid analytical reasoning skills to complement basic programming skills has also increased. If developers cannot reason about the software they design, they cannot ensure the correctness of the resulting systems. And if these systems fail, the economic and human costs can be substantial.
In addition to learning analytical reasoning principles as part of the standard Computer Science curriculum, students must be excited about learning these skills and engaged in their practice. Our approach to achieving these goals at the introductory level is based on the Test Case Reasoning Assistant (TCRA), interactive courseware that allows students to provide test cases that demonstrate their understanding of instructor-supplied interface specifications while receiving immediate feedback as they work. The constituent tools also enable instructors to rapidly generate graphs of student performance data to understand the progress of their classes. We evaluate the courseware using two case-studies. The evaluation centers on understanding the impact of the tool on students' ability to read and interpret specifications.

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