In programming courses, students often write and debug code by trial-and-error, running it on sample input (often provided by an instructor), or just using the compiler (i.e. believing that if it compiles, it must be correct). Students’ lack of testing knowledge and ability mistakenly leads them to believe that they can determine the correctness of their code from a small number of test cases. Pedagogical testing tools and industry tools that use code coverage percentages as the feedback mechanism further encourage the behavior, leading to the artificial perception of high code and test quality. We propose Testing Tutor, a web-based platform that helps instructors support software testing pedagogy by automatically diagnosing the fundamental testing concepts (e.g., boundary value) not covered in students’ test suite and subsequently helping students initiate their own learning process about those concepts and systematically improve their test suites. The platform’s differentiating features include 1) customizable feedback engine which allows instructors to scaffold the level of feedback (varying from conceptual to detailed), 2) a built-in repository of problems instructors can use, 3) access to digital learning content and 4) modes (learning and development) so instructors can scaffold the level of problems. Testing Tutor enables educators to maximize learning by employing an active learning approach by providing students with conceptual feedback. Empirical evidence collected during preliminary studies (see our SIGCSE TS 20201 paper “A Comparison of Inquiry-Based Conceptual Feedback vs. Traditional Detailed Feedback Mechanisms in Software Testing Education: An Empirical Investigation”) suggests that conceptual feedback provided by Testing Tutor led to higher test suite quality and better grades, which had a lasting effect on future assignments where no feedback was provided. We plan on conducting more empirical studies to understand Testing Tutor’s effectiveness at different levels of the curriculum and by exploring different levels of treatment.
Jeffrey Carver, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Gursimran Walia, Augusta University, Augusta, Georgia