Coaching tools for testers

Sometimes testers need to “coach”, when I do so I draw on my knowledge as a junior cricket coach and use the PoP framework. My cricket coaching qualification also included using the coaching tools that best suit the player, outcome and practice.

The tools that we can use to coach are:

  • Instruct
  • Demonstrate
  • Observe
  • Analyse
  • Intervene
  • Praise
  • Use silence
  • Question
  • Feedback

Having a list of tools to use for coaching is useful as it helps the coach consider which tools to use when leading a practice. The list of tools also helps the coach to review the practice after the practice has been completed as the coach can consider if they used the appropriate tools for the practice. It also helps you talk to other coaches about coaching techniques as you can discuss which tools are being used.

I will first illustrate how I use the tools when coaching cricket and then show how they can be used when “coaching” as a tester. 

If the practice is for something new to the players, for example if they are young or new to the game, then the tools I would tend to use are demonstrate and instruct. I would demonstrate the new skill and instruct the players how to execute the skill. I would also analyse their use of the new skill and give praise for their performance.

When I am working with more experienced players I often use silence, in order to let them solve problems for themselves. While I am using silence I would also analyse how they are doing and give feedback at the end of the practice.

Choosing which coaching tools are appropriate is something that we need to do as testers when we are coaching.

Facilitating a retrospective can involve using coaching skills. When I am facilitating a retrospective there are occasionally times when the facilitator intervening stifles discussion. When I am the facilitator I am not afraid of being silent as it is something I can use to let the team bring forward ideas. This means that I am less likely to intervene and the team can discuss the problem they are focussing on. Using silence is an important coaching skill. When using silence you need to be considering what are the players trying to do, whether if you say anything now will it help and what else can you be doing when you are silent such as observe or analyse.

I recently made some short videos with a colleague to explain Boundary Condition Analysis and Equivalence Partitioning to developers. In these videos I used different tools from when I facilitated retrospectives. I used demonstration as the coaching tool. I demonstrated the two testing techniques because they were new to the developers. I also analysed their responses to the first video before making the second video.

Being aware of the tools that you can use when “coaching” helps me make choices and review the choices that I have made.

Published by Mike Harris

Mike has been working in testing for 20 years and is currently the lone tester for Geckoboard. He has been a Test Lead and has also worked as a part of waterfall, lean and agile teams. He is also Programme Secretary of BCS SIGiST. Mike has a B.Sc.(HONS) from Middlesex University and is an Associate of the University of Hertfordshire. He has set up and led a Testing Community of Practice and been part of a successful agile transition. He is Co-Programme Chair of the British Computer Society’s Specialist Interest Group in Software Testing. He also contributed to the e-book Testing Stories and has had articles published by the Ministry of Testing. Follow Mike on Twitter: @TestAndAnalysis

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