Wednesday, April 02, 2008

What Makes Software Testing Training Effective - Part 2

Today I did something that many of my friends have advised me to do for many years. I had my head examined. Really.

I had a brain MRI performed because I have tinnitus in my left ear and in order to rule out a tumor, I had to get this done to get life insurance.

The funny thing is that there was power surge about 10 minutes into the process and they had to "re-boot" the MRI machine. I told them not to worry. "It's not you, it's me! I'm a tester."

To add on to my last post about software test training effectiveness, I was thinking about something I've been intending to post for some time.

That is, to learn in small doses is more effective than trying to train in large chunks. Now, this is just the opposite to how many people think. They want to cram as much information as possible into a training day. The problem is that people start to suffer from information overload.

One of my mentors, Fred Smith, said that, "The best mentoring is intensity in a narrow field...learn, practice and assimilate." He used the example of how he used to dramatically improve the performance of salespeople by teaching just few simple techniques repetitively. Then, the people would go out and try them. When they came back, they all had glowing success stories.

It also reminds me of a friend who is a great guitarist who told me the secret to playing fast is to play slow.

So, for software testers, I suggest in really drilling down into one technique. In one of my intermediate testing courses, I spend two days just teaching and practicing pairwise testing. We spend about three hours on learning how to find the right size orthogonal array. We spend a hour on how to use some of the pairwise tools that are free. I guarantee you one thing. When the workshop is over (it's really not fair to call it a class), people know all about pairwise testing.

By the way, if you would like a taste of this class, attend my Tuesday half-day tutorial at StarEast in about a month.

You will find that some people want to just breeze through the material quickly. These people just want to cut to the chase. They are likely to get impatient when the class wants to discuss questions and observations - you know, where learning actually occurs! I like to set expectations by letting the class know that the goal is not to get through all the slides. It's to internalize the information. So, I encourage people to enjoy the journey!

Remember, another way to make training stick is to take it in sips instead of gulps!

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