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Repetition begets skill…however

In testing, I think there is a tendency to confuse repetition for the purpose of learning with repetition as the application of skill. I have heard that some expound using scripts as a means of skilling up unskilled staff. I believe this thinking is fundamentally flawed. The reason being is that there is no clear delineation between the repetition of an action (i.e., a script) and actual software testing, which is far, far more than simply following a recipe.

In kendo, a beginner starts by learning the basic moves. A student might practise a single cut 10,000 times or more. Time and again they are made to demonstrate correct footwork, body position, striking and movement. At this point, they have no clue about the application of these techniques, only how to execute them. They can make a cut, but it doesn’t mean they can consider themselves skilled in kendo.

Once they have the basic mechanics down, they are ready to strap on armour and face a real opponent. Unlike before, where they had specific instructions about what do do, how and when, they now face a situation where the application of their techniques may or may not work and it is up to them to work out why. Moreover, their opponent is attacking them, shouting at them, trying to unsettle them, make them nervous and throw them off their game. Are you software testers out there seeing parallels?

The difference here is that the delineation in kendo between learning basic technique and application of that technique is quite explicit. In software testing, especially where scripting is involved, this is not always so. Herein lies the danger of using scripts as learning tools. A script may help you learn to execute a technique. It will not teach you to be a tester.

One thought on “Repetition begets skill…however

  1. “…they now face a situation where the application of their techniques may or may not work and it is up to them to work out why.”

    I can definitely see the parallels to testers hacking away and not understanding why they aren’t learning anything about the software under test 🙂

    The step of working out why a test technique didn’t work, reformulating your approach, and trying again is rare except in the best testers.

    As you say, I think there is a lot of repetition in testing, but not as much skill building as there could be.

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