Thursday, 15 November 2012

Making Connections and Critical Thinking

A key skill for any tester is the ability to 'make connections' between aspects of relevance, when thinking about the testing problem they have to address. This idea of making connections is closely related to the skill of ‘critical thinking’.

Making Connections
Making connections is about recognising such things as how - a certain aspect of the system under test, perhaps a particular testing need that’s been identified or maybe a risk that’s been highlighted; relate to things of a similar type or indeed a different type. Like many skills employed by a tester, making connections often ‘just happens’. But, we need to recognise and understand the skill if we want to improve and meaningfully employ it.

Examples of making connections between things of a similar type include;

  • relating several risks to each other and considering how one may affect the other
  • associating testing needs and perhaps reducing the number of test cases while maintaining coverage
  • considering an aspect of the system and identifying a dependency on another aspect of it, maybe a UI needs the database in place or vice versa
In addition to things of a similar type we need to connect things of a different type, examples of doing that might include:
  • relating a risk with a testing need, do all risks highlight a testing need, if not can we identify one that will mitigate the risk?
  • assessing if a certain aspect of the application under test introduces a risk which requires coverage
  • identifying where there’s a gap between planned aspects of the application, such as specific functionality, and stated testing needs that tests are being planned for
 Making connections relies in part on the knowledge and experience of the tester, in order to know how one thing relates to another. We could reflect and ask ‘… how does this thing I’m considering affect [x]?’ when trying to make connections. Developing the argument for and possibly against an aspect is the key to effective test analysis.

Understanding Arguments

Critical Thinking
The skill of making connections is closely related to critical thinking, because critical thinking is about thinking past the initial details and information that are presented about the aspects, needs and risks, etc. and critically evaluating them. When thinking critically we don’t just accept what’s presented at face value and assume no further meaning, we are not just accepting. When thinking critically we are evaluating, analysing, synthesizing and keeping our minds open to the possibility of new perspectives on the information presented to us.

We might choose to bear in mind the phrases ‘…what does that mean?’ and ‘…why is it this way and can it be another way?’, in context of the testing problem we are trying to address. For any tester it’s essential to develop reflective thinking skills and to improve the critical analysis.

An Introduction to Informal Logic

Make sure that next time you’re presented a piece of information about a system, a test or other item – stop and think.

You could always attend a free course too...


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