Monday, 26 October 2015

Testing Skills #7 - Reflection

What type of learning do you need to engage in today?

Do you need to learn facts?

Or

Do you need to analyse and critically think about what you need to learn or have learned?
Neither of these ways of learning are wrong and each has its place in your learning journey.  Knowing which to use and when is a great tool for a tester to have.

Learning facts is defined as a 'surface approach ' style of learning and writing and thinking critically about what your have learned can be defined as a 'deep approach'.

Reflection is important in software testing and you need to be able to communicate what you have found and uncovered when testing.  If you have no opportunities,  in your organization, to be able to communicate with others then you may find you have a lot on tacit knowledge but little in the way of explicit.  It is vital to set aside time for members of the team to discuss what new information they have uncovered or learned when testing.  This allows them to use reflective reasoning to turn tacit into explicit and gives the person providing the information a sense of purpose and achievement in what they have learned.

To improve your own self-reflection produce a reflective action plan. By doing this you are committing to your self what you intend to do and engage critical thinking skills in doing so. Make sure your plan has goals and deadlines that you can commit to.  Make this deadlines and goals public it encourages you to keep to them.  Using a personal Kanban board can help you achieve this.

"First, the deep and surface approaches are not personality traits or fixed learning styles.  Students adopt an approach which is related to their perceptions of the task."

When you need to think deeply about what you have been studying then writing down you own thoughts and understanding is a good way for you to be able to see what you have remembered.  If you only need to learn information or facts then other models would be more suited.

Writing down you thoughts on what you have been attempting to learn enables you to better remember or apply what has been studied.  Reflection is about doing your own internal self-assessment  of what you have been learning.  This assessment enables you make what you know internally, tacit knowledge, and attempting to make it clear and detailed explicit knowledge.  To do this you need opportunities to talk to others verbally or by writing down what you have studied to invoke critical thinking.

"In general, writing appears to be suitable for tasks where the aim is fostering understanding, changing students' conceptions and developing their thinking skills, but less suitable if the goal is the simple accumulation of factual information"

One way in which can improve your learning is to use reflection:

"Reflection is an active process whereby the professional can gain an understanding of how historical, social, cultural and personal experiences have contributed to professional knowledge and practice "(Wilkinson, 1996).  
You learn from your experiences and to make this happen you need to engage in reflection.  If you think about what you are doing or what you have experienced you are engaging in self-reflection. This approach helps you to turn learning into knowledge and it is vital in improving your own knowledge and skills.  Reflection is really about looking back at a situation, thinking about it, critically and learning from the experience, then using that new knowledge to help in future similar situations.  This in many ways is similar to the approach you will taking when engaging in testing activities.

"The process of reflective writing leads to more than just a gain in your knowledge; it should also challenge the concepts and theories by which you make sense of knowledge. When you reflect on a situation, you do not simply see more, you see differently. This different way of viewing a situation is reflected in statements about a commitment to action. Action is the final stage of reflection. "

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