Category: Coaching

Basic training for software testers must change

This blog post was originally written as an column for (English) and (Dutch).

On this blog I recently wrote about my meeting with James Bach with the provocative title: “What they teach us in TMap Class and why it is wrong“. Mid July I go to San Jose for the CAST conference. During the weekend preceding I participate in Test Coach Camp. The title of the post is the title of a proposal that I submitted to discuss at Test Coach Camp.

In the past I have been a trainer for quite a few ISTQB and TMAP courses. The groups attending the training were often a mix of inexperienced and experienced testers. The courses cover topics like: the reason for testing, what is testing, the (fundamental) processes, the products that testers create, test levels, test techniques, etc. In these three-day courses all exercises are done on paper. Throughout the whole training not once actual software is tested!? I wonder if courses for developers exist where no single line of code is written.

In San Jose at Test Coach Camp I want to discuss the approach of these courses with my peers. How can we improve them? I feel these courses are not designed to prepare testers to test well. Let alone to encourage testers to become excellent in their craft.

During my dinner with James, I asked him what he would do if he would train novices to become good testers. He replied that he would let them test some software from the start. He would certainly not start with lectures on processes, test definitions and vocabulary. During a session the student will (unknowingly) use several techniques that will be named and can be further explained when stumbled upon. A beautiful exploratory approach I would like to try myself: learning by doing! But there are many more opportunities to improve testing courses. People learn by making mistakes, by trying new things. Testing is much more about skills than about knowledge. Imagine a carpenter doing a basic training. His training will mainly consist of exercises! My neighbour is doing a course to become furniture maker. She is learning the craft by many hours of practice creating work pieces. Practice is the biggest part of her training!

One of the comments on my blog opposed to the suggestion by James Bach. Peter says: “I have been both a tester and trainer in ISTQB and TMap. Yes we can make testing fun but without a method that testing has no structure and more importantly has no measurable completion. How will those new people on “more practical” course know when they have finished? What tests did they do? What did they forget? What defect types did they target? Which ones did they not look for? What is the risk to the system? My view after 40 years as a developer and tester is that this idea might be fun but is not just WRONG but so dangerously wrong that I am sad that no one else has seen it.”

What do you think?

What they teach us in TMap Class and why it is wrong!

Yesterday I had diner with James Bach, Pascal Dufour and my testing buddy Jean-Paul. After picking James up from Schiphol airport, we took him to his hotel and after that we had diner. An enjoyable evening with great conversations and some testing challenges.

Pascal went home with this challenge: “Apply the Constructal Law to improve testing.” This challenge James gave himself since he is reading this book. Jean-Paul asked for a challenge via twitter and got this one: “Explain dendogram-based testing”. Since I start with BBST tomorrow, I didn’t ask for one.

We discussed a lot of topics, one of them was coaching. In July I go to Test Coach Camp in San Jose the weekend before CAST 2012. I told James I had an idea for a session at Test Coach Camp: “What they teach us in TMap Class and why it is wrong”. I think he likes it 😉 I asked James what he would do if he had to train newbies to be testers. He answered that he would have them test something. He certainly wouldn’t start with lectures about processes, definitions and testing vocabulary. During the testing session the aspirant-tester will do stuff that can be named. They will (ignorant) use all kinds of techniques that can be further explained and explored while they pop-up.

James also gave an interesting insight: the way testing is often trained and implemented results in dull testing jobs where most of the great people (who could be excellent testers) will run away from. I have to chew on that a little more, but I think this might be true. It definitely rings a bell.

Today I created a first draft for the proposal for Test Coach Camp:

“What they teach us in TMap Class and why it is wrong”

In my former job I have been an instructor/trainer for ISTQB and TMap classes. This was before I saw the Context-Driven light 😉 I trained ISTQB and TMap to people new to testing and also lots of experienced testers. I also was an instructor for all kinds of other training courses. These training courses are not focussing on the right things and are not preparing testers to do proper testing. Let alone that they encourage testers to become excellent their profession. For example: in these 3 day courses, all exercises are done on paper without actually testing software. This makes me wonder if there are classes where developers are trained without actually coding.

In this session I would like to point out the structure and content of a typical TMap (or ISTQB) class and the method/approach used. In the discussion later in the session the group collaborates in listing what is wrong with this approach and what can be done to improve it. This creates an insight in what is wrong with the majority of training courses in my country (and probably also around Europe and the rest of the world). This insight can help us create training courses to properly train people in testing, but also improve existing classes.

Let me know what you think and please share your experiences.