A few days before CAST 2012 I attended Test Coach Camp in San Jose, CA. There were thirty passionate people spending time exchanging coaching tricks and ideas. Here is what I learned in these two days.
The most important that I learned started in the morning. I approached Sigurdur Birgisson, and he could finally explain to me how to tie my shoe laces. All weekend my laces didn’t open by themselves. I think I live happier since then. At Test Coach Camp there were other sessions on concrete skills, like juggling, and how coaching in Kendo and swimming relates to coaching testing skills.
Besides that I attended a session by Michael Larsen on the method he uses for coaching boy scouts called EDGE. The acronym stands for Explain, Demonstrate, Guide, and Enable. We suggested later to treat the second E more as Empower. The idea is to start with a connection to the students first. Explain them why you are the person that should explain this new thing to them. Get their attention, and raise their curiosity. Then demonstrate the particular thing you want them to learn. Michael showed us how to make a longer rope accessible with a monkey thing (I don’t remember the term, nor can I find it). The idea is to knot the rope in multiple loops together, and still being able to extend them if you have to. After having shown it to use he helped us to do it on our own. That was the guiding part. He tied a head start, and handed it over to one of us, who continued two to three loops, and then passed it further on. In the end, the last person did the final few loops, and the finishing part. In order to empower us, he extended the rope again, and asked use to do it now on our own.
I see lots of parallels between the EDGE method as Michael showed to us, and the 4Cs from Training from the back of the room. There, you start with the connection of learners to the material, just as Michael did when he raised our attention, and explained the problem we would like to solve. The second C stands for Concept. By demonstrating it, Michael introduced the concept of the knots to us. Then we entered Concrete Practice (third C) by actually doing it, and concluded (fourth C) with a try from scratch completely on our own.
I had other smaller take-aways, mostly from the conversations in between sessions – although we did an OpenSpace at Test Coach Camp. One of them is the idea to teach Exploratory Testing to Product Owners, thereby helping them with accepting user stories. This idea from Matt Barcomb is completely in line with a talk from Sigurdur Birgisson on Exploratory Testing for programmers that he will hold at Agile 2012 as well. I think both ideas can bring great support for testers, and extend their reach. If testers are taking up more and more programming skills on an Whole Team, it seems reasonable to me that programers and product owners also learn more about the particular skills it takes for testing an application.
There were other interesting sessions that I attended, but the learnings from these sessions probably take on more time for me to digest. Overall it was an awesome two day OpenSpace, and will be working hard to make it to next year’s Test Coach Camp again.
2 thoughts on “What I learned at Test Coach Camp 2012”
Sounds like you guys were confusing training with coaching. Coaching often involves training, but it’s not the same thing.
Coaching is more about getting people to do things they already sort of know how to do, and then helping them get better.
Therefore, in coaching, I don’t start with explaining, I start with challenging the student to perform a task. (Well, I really start with centering myself and making contact, but that part is no different than training.) First the student has an experience, then we debrief, and only then is there explanation. In coaching: experience makes a better lead than lecture.
I think we talked a lot about educating testers which some people some of the time refer to as coaching. While doing a bit of research I also found out that there exists sort of a confusion around that term. Thanks for pointing that out.
On the other hand, in retrospect, I sort of agree with you, that we didn’t seem to have talked a whole lot about coaching according to your definition. Still I think I received some value from the two days.