Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Foundations Class Has Ended… and I PASSED :)

I’ve been a little quiet this past week, but I've had a lot going on! Last Saturday I completed the Black Box Software Testing: Foundations class that has been a somewhat looming constant in my life the month of May. While I had considered that this course was going to require some effort and some sweat equity, I did not appreciate how much. Still, I am very happy to have participated in this class, and I learned a great deal of things along the way.


So here’s my long awaited review of the AST course. First, a disclaimer: I will not be sharing any of the content from this course, as the instructors and the group that works to make the course have put in a lot of time to make a challenging and interesting education environment, and posting answers or talking about the details of the course questions themselves just set them up to have to create new questions and new challenges, which take away time necessary to make the classes better or develop more classes.


I greatly appreciated the level of professionalism and the various levels of experience in the group. There were people who were fresh in the field, and those who have been at it for twenty years. There were individual contributors, and managers/directors taking the class. While some might think that the new testers would be totally outclassed and blown out of the water by the seasoned directors, actually, that turned out not to be the case at all. Everyone had an opportunity to learn from everyone else, and even those who had been consultants and testing for many years learned new insights and even the newest members of our profession had valuable insights and unique views to share. Some of you may notice a rash of new blog listings appearing in my favorite testers list. Many of those blog listings are written by my classmates.


I also greatly appreciated the ability to have all of us participate in peer review of each other’s work. Most of the assignments had similar aspects in common (again, I’m not going to talk about the assignments themselves; if you want to know what they are, go take the class ;) ). The peer review gave us all a chance to practice giving truly useful feedback, and also assigning letter grades to our classmates based on what we perceived to be strengths and weaknesses of their answers. We also were expected to review our own work after having reviewed our class mates work. Let me tell you, that’s a revealing process. What was interesting to see was just how much more we learned when we had to not only critique others work, but had to, at the same time, defend our own. Some may think this would have the potential to be contentious, but that wasn’t the case. All of the class members did their very best to give feedback that would be helpful and develop a better tester.


We all participated in a number of testing projects. Some were individual projects, while others required a group consensus to complete. Groups likewise critiqued other groups, with the opportunity for other teams to learn from what other people were saying, or to defend the choices that they made (And often both would occur).


A couple weeks back I made some comments about the quizzes that were provided as part of the class, and my frustration with them. I’ve since tempered some of that frustration, and come away with a new appreciation for how they are designed. The way they are structured, it’s extremely hard to “guess” an answer, or to do so consistently. Even if you know the answer, you have to give some thought to all of the parameters provided. My point is that it is not a slam dunk guarantee that the quiz will be easy and quickly finished. They are geared to find out what the individual knows, with very little wiggle room to B.S. the system.


So is this course worth it? If you are a beginning tester, absolutely. If you are a self trained tester, definitely. If you are fortunate enough to have come from a background with structured testing training, I would still say there is still much to this course that would prove to be valuable. The beauty of the way that the BBST Foundations course is formatted is that everyone gets to be both student and teacher, and experience both paradigms. As they say “the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else” (I don’t know who this proverbial “they" actually is, but I do believe the statement).


For those interested in getting involved and taking this class for themselves, definitely check out the Association for Software Testing and consider enrolling in and participating in the Black Box Software Testing Foundations class. I’ll dare to venture you’ll be glad that you did :).
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