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This paper reports on a pilot project that incorporated small empirical studies in three industry short courses. These laboratory experiments were one component of a larger leveled study on the effects of test-driven development (TDD) on internal software quality. The approach is proposed to have pedagogical value to student-developers by improving their understanding and appreciation for empirical evidence, to instructors by providing feedback through surveys and exercises, and to the community at large by reporting results of the studies. Pre-experiment surveys in the three pilot experiments revealed large differences in programmer opinions of TDD. Possible correlations to development environment and programmer experience will be proposed. Post-experiment surveys revealed improvements in programmer opinions of TDD following the experiment exercises. Crafting sufficiently small but interesting assignments proved to be challenging. Few complete solutions were submitted and some developers were unwilling to submit their partial solutions. Positive observations will be made regarding the use of experiments in short courses. For instance, participating in the study encourages analytical thinking, prompts developers to evaluate alternative approaches, and instills the value of empirical evidence. Ethical concerns regarding threats to validity are raised and addressed. The authors find that ethical considerations not only support performing such studies, but encourage it as the duty of software professionals.
Date of Conference: 3-5 July 2007