Coercing new programmers to adopt disciplined development practices such as thorough unit testing is a challenging endeavor. Test-driven development (TDD) has been proposed as a solution to improve both software design and testing. Test-driven learning (TDL) has been proposed as a pedagogical approach for teaching TDD without imposing significant additional instruction time. This research evaluates the effects of students using a test-first (TDD) versus test-last approach in early programming courses, and considers the use of TDL on a limited basis in CS1 and CS2. Software testing, programmer productivity, programmer performance, and programmer opinions are compared between test-first and test-last programming groups. Results from this research indicate that a test-first approach can increase student testing and programmer performance, but that early programmers are very reluctant to adopt a test-first approach, even after having positive experiences using TDD. Further, this research demonstrates that TDL can be applied in CS1/2, but suggests that a more pervasive implementation of TDL may be necessary to motivate and establish disciplined testing practice among early programmers.


Computer Sciences

Publisher statement

This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of ACM for your personal use. Not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Proceedings of the 39th SIGCSE Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education.



URL: https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/csse_fac/41