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Computer science studies in Spain are organized in such a way that software engineering courses normally appear in the last years. This situation establishes a programming-first approach in the overall curricular structure, and the resulting situation produces several unwanted side effects. One of the main problems is that students lack the abstraction capability they need in order to model software. For this reason, the practical classes of the first software engineering course have been organized in workshop sessions, where each session is devoted to a concrete modeling technique. A workshop session is built around a problem published on the teacher's website. The session is divided into two parts. In the first part, the students are organized into work groups, and they give an initial solution to the proposed modeling problem. In the second part of the session, one volunteer group presents its solution, and afterwards, in a moderated debate, the rest of the students discuss the proposed solution. Finally, the volunteer group writes a workshop session report that contains the final agreed-on solution. This approach has been successfully applied to the software modeling practical classes of a first software engineering course during the last five years, achieving important improvements in the students' abstraction capabilities, which is much needed in software modeling.
Date of Publication: May 2004