Is Miagi-Do a “School” of Testing?

This posting regarding “Is Miagi-Do a “School” of Testing?” was going to be posted shortly after the tweet thread started, however due to editorial issues it got delayed ;-). However since we now have a new testing society the ISST, I think this posting becomes timely once again. You may also want to read a question I posed that was published on the Ministry of Testing.

So let’s begin

School of Testing

At the end of June, James Bach asked Huib Schoots on Twitter “Is Miagi-Do actually a school of software testing? In what sense?” this then spawned a small debate with various replies from those involved with Miagi-Do.

The question is valid, but I don’t think it can be answered well on Twitter; therefore I’m going to explain what I think Miagi-Do is to me, and why I think the term “School” is accurate in this context.

Why do I as a fledgling white belt member want to respond to this debate? Firstly the people involved in the short Twitter discussion are far more experienced and well know than I and as such they are respected within the community, so what they say must be true, yes? So when the likes of James Bach challenge the meaning of the word “School” in this context, questions are going to be asked as to what Miagi-Do really is. Therefore; as I don’t believe the question has been answered I thought I’d take up the challenge and attempt to show why I think the term “School” is valid.

So what is the Miagi-Do School of testing? Miagi-Do is a group of experienced and recognised testers that have joined together to provide testing challenges by knowledgeable peers to testers who want to learn more about the real art/science of testing. It is setup much like apprenticeships function you work with a skilled peer who challenges you to become a better tester.

As I have previously spoken about on a Miagi-Do blog, I didn’t get involved with the testing community until early this year, since then I’ve come to understand that testing isn’t what I thought it was. Testing is an all-encompassing journey of discovery, an adventure of constant learning with challenges from within the community and never accepting the status-quo.

So why should you as a tester care about that at all? As you’re reading this you’re obviously interested in the testing community and what is happening with that community. You will also be aware that there are many trains of thought regarding what testing is and how to test. These many trains of thought can create confusion as to what the right way is. Obviously that’s very much dependent on your particular context, if you’re testing a nuclear submarines missile detection system, that’s going to require a very meticulous testing approach to the one you would use for a free mobile app.

So how do we know what is a valid approach to take when learning about testing, there are many different viewpoints, even within the same communities, especially within the context driven community. Miagi-Do School of testing is one of many ways to learn about testing, they teach testing via challenges. These are tried and tested and have been crafted over a period of time in a way that provides a thought provoking assessment of your testing skills. This to me implies a school like methodology whereby materials used to teach have been thought through and developed to deliver a desired learning goal.

So why not call Miagi-Do a School? One area that is often debated is the specific meaning and definition of a word, this sometimes can be seen like semantics, but is it really? Ask five testers what regression testing means to them and you’ll get five different responses, does that matter? Of course it does, if we all have different definitions of what something that apparently seems simple is, then how do we know we’re all going to achieve the same goal when regressions testing?

Moving on let me try and define what the definition of school is, and why this definition applies to the Miagi-Do School of Testing? Firstly let’s look at a dictionary definition.

  1. An institution for educating children
    1. This is very specific, as it only applies to children; however I think we can safely say this would also apply to adults attending a college or university.
    2. A group of people, particularly writers, artists, or philosophers, sharing similar ideas or methods.
    3. Any institution at which instruction is given in a particular discipline.
    4. The process of being educated formally, especially education constituting a planned series of courses over a number of years

Therefore: A school provides a resource for learning, a school is administered by people who are skilled in their field and a school provides a framework whereby learning progress can be tracked and measured, be this by exam, written work or by demonstrating skills and knowledge learned.

So how does Miagi-Do stand up against these definitions of School?

1.       An institution for educating children/adults

Miagi-Do is definitely a resource for education, via challenges and the feedback that is given throughout the challenge. Challenges are not some hazy test this exercise and detail your results; they are similar to how coursework is managed in school. You have a question, you research the topic, and you provide some preliminary ideas and then discuss your progress with your tutor, who will then guide you and ask further questions to help you with your understanding and research.

2.       A group of people, particularly writers, artists, or philosophers, sharing similar ideas or methods.

Miagi-Do definitely has skilled people sharing similar ideas on the methods of testing, who provide coaching and administer testing challenges. They have recognised public profiles that clearly demonstrate their skill levels. They are active in the testing community, they have written books, they coordinate courses and testing events and through these activities they have shown that they are skilled and knowledgeable about the art/science of testing.

3.       Any institution at which instruction is given in a particular discipline.

It is clear to me that Miagi-Do provides instruction in a particular disciple, that being testing. This disciple is taught by knowledgeable recognised instructors by the way of testing challenges that have been developed over time and peer reviewed.

4.       The process of being educated formally, especially education constituting a planned series of courses over a number of years

Is this instruction provided in a clearly defined framework? Some would say that if there is no clearly defined curriculum or framework then how can it be called a school? Wouldn’t that be defined as an informal group that provides assisted learning in an ad-hoc manner with no overall goal? I’ll tackle these three points individually.

Is there a Goal?

Obviously there is a goal; the goal is to improve your testing knowledge which is administered by knowledgeable peers via testing challenges.

Is there a curriculum?

Does a school of learning have to have a defined curriculum? I think not, as schools can be run to adapt to students learning abilities and strengths and weakness and each individual is allowed to learn at their own pace.

However; Miagi-Do does have a stepped progression by way of a belt system, whereby you are awarded different coloured belts according to how you perform at various challenges.  This progression is a planned series of courses conducted over a period time.

Is this just not an informal group?

To me an informal group is a group with no progression levels, it’s just a group that shares an interest and helps one another in various ways, answering question, pointing out resources, general discussion on the topic of interest. This is where Miagi-Do is different from an informal group, yes all the above apply as well, but there is a concept of progression, via differing coloured belts based on a proven ability by showing your testing skills via challenges, alongside all the other activities.

Conclusion

I’m not proposing that my definitions are definitive; they are my current understanding of why I think Miagi-Do is more than just a group and why I advocate it as a school.  The definitions I have used here show that the term school aligns up reasonably well with the dictionary definitions I have chosen to use. If, as has been challenged that it’s not a school then what is it? It’s not an informal group of people just helping others out, it’s not a social club, it’s not a discussion list, and it’s not even a clique. It’s a formal apprenticeship with clear advancement, you are tested and these tests are accountable.  Hence why I stand by Miagi-Do being called a school of testing.

What’s your definition of a school? What criteria must a school meet to be given such a moniker? Are the definitions of school used accurate and do they align with Miagi-Do?

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