The first important thing to discuss about a concept is always its origin. There are always several questions about the origin of a concept, which can be classified at a high level as “Who”, “Why”, “How”, apart from the first one – “What”!

I will dedicate this post to the discussion of the mentioned questions, while directing the readers to original contents, based on which I am writing.

The idea of ‘schools of testing‘ originated in the minds of Cem Kaner & James Bach and with contribution from Bret Pettichord, it got polished through a series of discussions in several international testing conferences and workshops. This is just a summary of the long post on this history made by Cem Kaner here, and in James Bach’s interview at WhatIsTesting.

“What is a school of Testing?” – It is better that we have this question answered from the three experts who originated the idea.

James Bach puts in his blog, in his typical way (while extending the dictionary definition of a school) – “we are referring to a stronger sense of school: a paradigm; an ontology; a way of organizing, experiencing, and thinking about the entire field. In other words, in the way I use the term, it’s not possible to belong to more than one school of testing at a time. If you tried to be in two schools at once, the school I think you would actually belong to would be a new school called Confused.” In one of the discussion groups, he says – “The schools are not a set of techniques, they are a set of fundamental beliefs about the Way Things Work”

In an attempt to explain the essence of a school of testing, Cem Kaner says that the members of a school share fundamental beliefs and approach to solve a problem. They share a common vocabulary. He also points out that despite slight variations from individual to individual; the overall thinking of members of a particular school is quite comprehensive. Every school guides its own way of interaction with peers and is also proselytic as it proposes its own way as the best way. In one of the posts, elsewhere he says “Techniques do not make a school.”

Bret Pettichord in his presentation points out that a school is defined by intellectual affinity, social interaction & common goals and is made up of hierarchies of values, exemplar techniques, standards of criticism, organizing institutions and common vocabulary. He also points out that schools are not defined by a common doctrine or some specific techniques.

These three experts, who are the proponents of Context-Driven School (in addition to a long list of other testing experts across the globe), found the idea of segregation of experts into schools useful to understand the reason behind disagreement amongst testers on various concepts and to institutionalize a clear basis for debate. They say that it gives a clear basis to accept/reject ideas that do not belong to a certain school, based on the thought process of your own school.

In the next post, I will write on the categorization of schools by the mentioned experts and the debate over the nomenclature.

Rahul Verma

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