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ICSE 2015: Novice Code Understanding Strategies During a Software Maintenance Assignment

Existing efforts on teaching software maintenance have focussed on constructing adequate codebases that students with limited knowledge could maintain, with little focus on the learning outcomes of such exercises and of the approaches that students employ while performing maintenance. An analysis of the code understanding strategies employed by novice students as they perform software maintenance exercises is fundamental for the effective teaching of software maintenance. In this paper, we analyze the strategies employed by second year students in a maintenance exercise over a large codebase. We analyze student reflections on their code understanding, maintenance process and the use of tools. We  show that students are generally capable of working with large codebases. Our study also finds that the majority of students follow a systematic approach to code understanding, but that their approach can be significantly improved through the use of tools and a better understanding of reverse engineering approaches.

C. Szabo, Novice Code Understanding Strategies During a Software Maintenance Assignment, 37th International Conference on Software Engineering, Education Track, May 2015 (to appear).

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