Mutation testing and self/peer assessment: analyzing their effect on students in a software testing course
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Testing is a crucial activity in the development of software systems. With the increasing complexity of software projects, the industry requires incorporating graduates with adequate testing skills and preparation in this field. A challenge in software testing education is to make students perceive the benefits of writing tests and assess their quality with advanced testing techniques. In this paper, we present an experience integrating both mutation testing and self/peer assessment –two of the most used techniques to that end in the past– into a software testing course during three years. This experience allowed us to analyze the effect of applying these strategies on the students’ perception of their manually-written test suites. Noticeably, the computation of the mutation score significantly undermined the initial expectations they had on the developed test suites. Also, the application of peer testing helped them estimate the relative quality of two comparable test suites, as we found a notable correspondence with their respective mutation coverage. Besides, a more in-depth analysis revealed that the students' test suites with more test cases did not always achieve the highest scores, that they found more readable their own tests, and that they tended to cover the basic operations while forgetting about more advanced features. An opinion survey confirmed the impact that the use of mutants had on their perception about testing, and they mostly supported paying a higher level of attention to testing concepts in software engineering degree plans.