Building Skills Saturday – BBST Instructor

One of the areas of training I recently chose to pursue is how to be a better trainer. Specifically, training people in testing skills, using the Black Box Software Tester (BBST) model. In my view, it’s one of the best ways to learn how to be a better tester, in part because it has serious academic rigour behind it.

Dr. Cem Kaner, J.D., Ph.D., is one of the masterminds of the BBST courses. The curriculum and pedagogical model come from his work at the University of Florida, where he teaches software testing. As far as I know, Dr. Kaner is one of the very few people teaching and researching software testing in an academic way. The format that I’ve been exposed to has been via the Association for Software Testing (AST)’s online education system (running on a Moodle instance, for anyone who is curious).

Over the last few years, I completed the trifecta of testing-focused courses that they offer: Foundations, Bug Advocacy, and Test Strategy. These courses are no cakewalk – the lecture videos cover a lot of ground, there’s a fair bit of reading, but most importantly, there’s a LOT of assignments. As well, most of those assignments are group ones, and you’re assigned to a group. Since the courses are offered online, you could be working with people from all over the globe. All the assignments are designed to teach you about the topic, but also about the benefits and pitfalls of working across borders and time zones.

The AST also offers one non-testing course: Instructor. All of the courses are taught by volunteers, and to make sure that those volunteers understand the fundamentals of what they’ll need to know in leading the courses, they’re put through a one-month course of their own. Once they successfully complete the course, they can volunteer to be assistant instructors, under a lead instructor. After a few assistant jobs, they can volunteer to be a lead. The system seems to have been designed this way to provide people with the basics, while allowing them to grow in to their own unique trainer.

I didn’t find the instructor course as demanding as the testing-focused courses, which makes sense to me. They don’t want to put too many preconcieved notions of how a course should go, especially since the AST’s testing philosophy leans towards context-driven. What’s more context-driven than a relatively random group of people, getting together online to learn about software testing?

I’m in the middle of assisting with my first course now, and have already found it really interesting. There are people from a LOT of different backgrounds, including some people who one might not normally consider as “testers”, but who have a vested interest in understanding testing. To me, that’s immensely exciting, because it means that more people are starting to come around to the idea that testing is it’s own discipline, and that it is worthy not only of respect, but serious study.

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