Comparing Top-Down with Bottom-Up Approaches: Teaching Data Modeling

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

Proceedings of Information Systems Educators Conference


Conceptual database design is a difficult task for novice database designers, such as students, and is also therefore particularly challenging for database educators to teach. In the teaching of database design, two general approaches are frequently emphasized: top-down and bottom-up. In this paper, we present an empirical comparison of students’ performance between these two approaches in a conceptual data modeling exercise. Our results indicate that, while prior database education had a significant effect on the quality of design performance, the chosen approach did not. The findings suggest that database educators should integrate both top-down and bottom-up approaches in database design showing the differences and similarities between the two approaches to improve students’ learning of data modeling.