PEST3: Kickstart learning by teaching! Vol 2

Here are my notes  and thoughts about the rest of the presentations at PEST3.

Raimond Sinivee talked about how testing is perceived without teaching. His example was fairly simple but effective: have someone who doesn’t know much about testing set up a Selenium script. If they don’t know much about testing, then the idea of simply recording and playing back the script sounds very alluring (as we know…). Yet spending a little time on trying to set it up and then play it back with appropriate comments and feedback may teach more than all the hallway talks.

As Raimond showed, it is easy to come across the scenarios that should fail but don’t. This should prompt the teacher to talk about the weaknesses but also strengths of tools, about how, where and why to use or not to use tools. It is the teacher’s job to explain those possible contexts. I think he made an excellent point about keeping in mind that teaching about tools shouldn’t vacillate between “tools are great!” and “tools are useless!”. It’s better to start a conversation rather than remain binary.

Harles Paesüld talked about his teaching experience at the universities and what he has learned from this (he also touched upon his experience with the BBST course and other AST courses). The main learning outcomes for him were the following: have specific goals for learners; prefer narrower scope when choosing material and topics for teaching; make a quick and solid connection between the concept you explain and a practical exercise. Concepts may be easy to lecture on but it is the immediate practical application that will help the learners remember something.

Harles also pointed out that peer evaluation has been a big part of his own learning. He expects constructive criticism and refuses evaluations that simply say “very good” 🙂 Also, evaluating someone else helps you to digest the content of the course.

Petteri talked about the testing dojos. Boy, did this dojo thing get me thinking 😀 You could check out Petteri’s blog where he has described the dojos held in Helsinki (http://pro-testing.arabuusimiehet.com/?s=dojo).

In a nutshell (and in my interpretation), a testing dojo is an informal gathering of people who get to work in teams testing something for a limited amount of time. As I understood there may be unexpected scenarios tossed at the participants (this is the fun part, right?). Importantly, the participants don’t have to be testers per se. I think it’s actually more interesting if there are non-testers involved… (by non-testers I mean those that are not testers by their job description).

The main benefit seems to be the collaboration between people with different backgrounds and the possibility of non-testers getting their feet wet. I can imagine a lot of interesting conversations to be sparked if different perspectives are smashed together like this. So I’ll be looking forward to a testing dojo in Tartu 🙂 I want to experience one and then I have other ideas what to do with that experience 🙂

Kristjan Uba, our content holder and facilitator, also briefly talked about his teaching experience. His main point was that an integral part of doing a testing exercise is a debrief. This is because it will summarize the experience, reinforce learning, and help relate the experience and the testing skills this particular exercise was supposed to teach. Kristjan also pointed out that finding examples that anyone can easily relate to (some sort of real life situations) helps to explain concepts. Even though you may be teaching testing, you don’t have to relate EVERYTHING to testing.

Another method (that I myself have used as well) is that you have your student rephrase what they heard (OR they think they heard). I’d like to point out that this should be done carefully. I have some bad experiences with people who try to make me rephrase something TOO obvious (yes, it’s subjective). This didn’t help with cooperation and made me angry or insulated. Like, hey, do you think I didn’t get it? It wasn’t the fact that I was asked to rephrase. It was HOW I was asked to rephrase something. So here goes for the manners 🙂

 

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PEST3: My testing exercise

The exercise I presented at the last peer conference (PEST3) November  24 looks like this:

exercise

Note: If you want to solve the puzzle by yourself, do not view the comments as these may contain spoilers! If you have thought of some solutions but want help with the rest of them, contact me on Skype (SkypeID: onlyonejerru). You can ask questions to get more information and keep figuring it out until you have covered the solutions I have listed. Please include an explanation in the contact request. Also, I  won’t answer immediately if I don’t have time, so please be patient.

Mission: Replicate the drawing you can see in the image above. Draw a circle and a dot in the middle of the circle so that you do not break the contact between the pencil and the paper, and so that there is not connecting line between the dot and the circle.

How does this help to teach testing? This exercise is mostly about asking questions about the assumptions one makes when they see it, and the courage to experiment. I initially had one solution in mind but this exercise actually gets people quite creative as I’ve seen. I think  I know around 5-6 solutions for this by now.

Yes, it is an exercise in the size of a snack. However, I guess a test lead can appreciate a small exercise to do with their team that won’t take too long, and that they can modify as well (I’ll write about this later).

Are you up for a challenge? Let me know how you would solve this in the comments. I’ll publish the solutions I know of later, and if you offer a solution I didn’t know, I’ll list it along with others (credit is due).

P.S. I have not restricted to conditions for the exercise to a great extent deliberately.