We’ve been a little heads-down here at Excelon, working on our own projects, which we could discuss in a little more detail in a separate post. In the mean time, we’ve been gathering material to teach software testing as a skill-based activity.
That turns out to be a lot harder than it sounds.
Training in Software Testing
First, you have to identify what the skills are. Then you have to design training materials around it. Then you run into two perils of training: (A) It doesn’t apply to us, and (B) Well, we already knew all that. I guess you have us some names for some things we already knew. Going beyond that requires crafting exercises that provide a score, or at least some empirical feedback the audience can receive as true. That way, the students themselves have the tools to recognize the learning.
Then you need to stick the landing. Meaning, the students need to go home and actually create a difference in their work-lives.
Now think about all the people who go home, and the boss says you can’t do this, and you can’t do that, and “all we know for sure after your little week-off junket is the project foo is a week late.” And all of it’s true! To provide people the tools to make a change in that world, people from different companies with different constraints – that is an extraordinarily high bar. Extraordinarily high. It is a bar so high that test conferences and test training frequently fail to even attempt. Dr Cem Kaner once told Matt that his standard for good training is “One genuinely useful idea per day.”
Dr Kaner is one of the best of us. Dr Kaner did test training in academia and industry in a full-time, professional basis. At the same time he was while studying and writing on how to do it better. Dr. Kaner kept up an incredible pace for decades. Along the way, he stayed relevant, as technology and testing underwent multiple “sea change”-level events.
More than once, I’ve heard entire brands of test conferences described as a “social club”, where people can come to recharge their batteries and make social connections. There is a certainly a place for that. After the conference, a single phone call for help picking a tool might pay for the entire event. It can provide energy or motivation to learn new things, or a broad overview of a concept, so people learn how to get started. These kinds of events can point you in a direction to develop deep skills. “After all”, say the organizers “What can you really do in an hour?”
Today, though, we wanted to talk about real training.
Delivering Better Software Test Training
Put differently, why not create a tutorial or training event on how to teach software testing? It might be more accurate to say “how to teach yourself to teach.” That is, come to the training to get a bunch of ideas to go create something custom that is a fit for your context. You’ll go teach it yourself, inside of your company. The training will be internal, so the audience will be much more similar than public training. That reduces, or perhaps entirely eliminates the risk that some material “doesn’t apply to us.” If it doesn’t apply, cut it. We’ll overwhelm you with ideas, and teach you how to gather relevant, internal examples.
Of course, the bar for this thing is even higher, as this is meta-cognitive work.
Still, we’ve done enough of it, working with companies to develop internal training, that we have things to share.
So: The first Workshup on Teaching The Teaching of software Testing, or WhuTTT, will be immediately preceding the Targeting Quality Conference. The event is organized by Excelon with support/hosting from the Kitchener-Waterloo Software Quality Association, from 7-10PM on September 22nd. Our goal is to create the abstract and gather materials for a training program for Teaching Teaching Software Testing, along with creating a long-term initiative
Invites have already been sent. In addition, we are publicly inviting all Targeting Quality Conference Speakers and KWSQA Board Members. If your name isn’t on the list, but you’d like to attend, send us an email; we can talk. The room is already rather full, but Excelon has an inclusive vibe and a reputation to keep.
Update: If we need to, I’ll get us a bigger room.