We do not understand what it says: studying student perceptions of software modelling

Shalini Chakraborty, Grischa Liebel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Despite the potential benefits of software modelling, developers have shown a considerable reluctance towards its application. There is substantial existing research studying industrial use and technical challenges of modelling. However, there is a lack of detailed empirical work investigating how students perceive modelling. Aim: We investigate the perceptions of students towards modelling in a university environment. Method: We conducted a multiple case study with 5 cases (5 courses from 3 universities) and two units of analysis (student and instructor). We collected data through 21 semi-structured interviews, which we analysed using in-vivo coding and thematic analysis. Results: Students see some benefits of modelling, e.g., using models for planning and communicating within the group. However, several factors negatively influence their understanding of modelling, e.g., assignments with unclear expectations, irregular and insufficient feedback on their models, and lack of experience with the problem domains. Conclusions: Our findings help in understanding better why students struggle with software modelling, and might be reluctant to adopt it later on. Our recommendations on modelling education could help to improve education and training in software modelling, both at university and in industry. Specifically, we recommend that educators try to provide feedback beyond syntactical issues, and to consider using problem domains that students are knowledgeable about.

Original languageEnglish
Article number149
JournalEmpirical Software Engineering
Publication statusPublished - 9 Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.

Other keywords

  • Case study
  • Education
  • Software modelling
  • UML


Dive into the research topics of 'We do not understand what it says: studying student perceptions of software modelling'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this