Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Software Testing Training - What Makes it Effective?

Man, it's been busy here in the office today, but I love it!

I've been thinking a lot about really what makes training "stick", especially in software testing and software quality. Actually, I've been thinking along these lines for several years.

It was a defining moment when back in 1998, I re-designed my testing courses to be "hands-on" computer-based. Then, in 2001 I attended an AYE conference and that put another spin on things for me. (BTW, I highly recommend that conference!) It caused me to add many more experiential activities to my training.

So, why doesn't training "stick"?

Well, besides the basic things like:

You get out what you put into it.
Learn, then apply.

1) I have observed that my very best training experience, both as trainer and trainee, is when stretching happens. When training doesn't stretch you, it's easy to just coast along and not change anything.

I think learning should result in some form of change. If it doesn't result in change, then has anything been accomplished? After all, there should be some form of improvement seen.

But, back to stretching...

Stretching happens when you have to think long and hard about how to solve a problem. It happens when the case study software messes up and then you have to troubleshoot, learn, test, try again, fail, try again and FINALLY get it right.

Some people complain that the case study should have been more trouble-free. Then, they don't believe that I designed it that way!

Training sticks when people fully understand WHY certain things are done WHEN they are done. Unfortunately, too many trainers focus on the WHAT and HOW, which is great for robots, but not great for transforming people into thinking testers.

So, I'll warn you in advance. If you attend one of my sessions, you will probably be stretched. It's not because I'm mean, it's because I want you to remember.

2) People remember stories more than bullet points. I have had people tell me they didn't remember the bullet points on my slides, but they remembered some of those great project stories. (By the way, my track session at StarEast will be "Testing Disasters and Turnarounds" which will be based on three situations where things went really bad and how some of them were corrected.) You will also hear some good stories in my training sessions.

3) People learn better when things are light. So, I like to use humor tastefully and keep things loose and informal in the sessions I teach.

Here's another take which has a really good example:

That's it for now. I would like to hear what you think makes training effective!

No comments: