Effects of Using Examples on Structural Model Comprehension: A Controlled Experiment
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We present a controlled experiment for the empirical evaluation of Example-Driven Modeling (EDM), an approach that systematically uses examples for model comprehension and domain knowledge transfer. We conducted the experiment with 26 graduate and undergraduate students from electrical and computer engineering (ECE), computer science (CS), and software engineering (SE) programs at the University of Waterloo. The experiment involves a domain model, with a UML class diagram representing the domain abstractions and UML object diagrams representing examples of using these abstractions. The goal is to provide empirical evidence of the effects of suitable examples on model comprehension, compared to having model abstractions only, by having the participants perform model comprehension tasks. Our results show that EDM is superior to having model abstractions only, with an improvement of (+39%) for diagram completeness, (+30%) for study questions completeness, (+71%) for efficiency, and a reduction of (-80%) for the number of mistakes. We provide qualitative results showing that participants receiving model abstractions augmented with examples experienced lower perceived difficulty in performing the comprehension tasks, higher perceived confidence in their tasks' solutions, and asked fewer clarifying domain questions (a reduction of 90%). We also present participants' feedback regarding the usefulness of the provided examples, the number of examples, the types of examples, and the use of partial examples.