Updating BBST to Version 4.0

Becky Fiedler and I are designing the next generation of BBST. We’ll soon start the implementation of BBST-Foundations 4.0. This post is the first of a series soliciting design advice for BBST.

    1. We’re looking for comments, including criticism and alternative suggestions: We are revising the core topics of BBST-Foundations. This post lays out our current thinking. Some parts are undoubtedly wrong.
    2. We’re looking for recommendation-worthy readings. We point students to reading material. Some is required reading (we test the students on it, and/or make them apply it). Other readings are listed as recommended reading or pointed to in individual slides as references. We’re happy to point to good blog posts, white papers, magazine articles and conference talks, along with the usual books and formal papers. Our criteria are simple:
      1. Is this relevant?
      2. Is it written at a level that our students can understand?
      3. Will they learn useful things from it?

      We probably can’t include all good suggestions, but we do want to point students to a broader set of references, from a broader group of people, than Foundations 3.0.

This is a long article. I split it into 5 sections (separate posts) because you can’t read it all in one sitting. The other parts are at:

Background: What is BBST

Some readers of this post won’t be familiar with BBST. Here’s a bit of background. If you are already familiar with BBST, there’s nothing new here. Skip to the next section.

BBST is short for Black Box Software Testing. “Black box” is an old engineering term. When you analyze something as a “black box”, you look at its interaction with the world. You understand it in terms of the actions it initiates and the responses it makes to inputs. The value of studying something as a black box is the focus. You don’t get distracted by the implementation. You focus on the appropriateness and value of the behavior.

Hung Quoc Nguyen and I developed the first version of BBST right after we published Testing Computer Software 2.0 in 1993. (The 1993 and 1999 versions are the same book, different publishers.) The course became commercially successful. I cotaught the course with several people. Each of them helped me expand my coverage, deepen my treatment, improve my instructional style, and update my thinking. So did the Los Altos Workshops on Software Testing, which Brian Lawrence, Drew Pritsker and I cofounded, and the spinoffs of that, especially AWTA (Pettichord’s Austin Workshops on Software Testing), STMR (my workshops on the Software Test Managers Roundtable), WTST (Fiedler’s and my Workshops on Teaching Software Testing), and the much smaller set of WHETs (Bach’s and my Workshops on Heuristic & Exploratory Techniques).

Fifteen years ago, Bach and I were actively promoting the context-driven approach to software testing together. As part of our co-branding, we started signing BBST as Kaner-and-Bach and he let me incorporate some materials from RST into BBST. Our actual course development paths remained largely independent. Bach worked primarily on RST, while I worked primarily on BBST.

Florida Institute of Technology recruited me to teach software engineering, in 2000. In that setting, Fiedler and I wrote grant proposals and got funding from NSF to expand BBST and turn it into an online course. The “flipped classroom” (lectures on video, activities in the classroom) was invented independently and simultaneously by several instructional researchers/developers. Fiedler and I (with BBST 1.0) were among this earliest publishers within this group (see here and here and here).

We evolved BBST to 3.0 through a collaboration with the Association for Software Testing, and with several individual colleagues (especially, I think, Scott Barber, Doug Hoffman, and John McConda, but with significant guidance from many others including James Bach, Ajay Bhagwat, Bernie Berger, Rex Black, Michael Bolton, Tim Coulter, Jack Falk, Sabrina Fay, Elisabeth Hendrickson, Alan Jorgenson, Pat McGee, Hung Nguyen, Andy Tinkham — please see the opening slides in the Foundations course. It’s a long list.) For more on the history, including parts of the key NSF grant proposal and many other links, please see Evolution of the BBST Courses.

There are 4 BBST courses:

We teach skills along with content. Along with testing skills and knowledge, we teach learning skills, communication skills and computing fundamentals.

To see how we analyze the depth of instruction for a part of the course, see BBST Courses: BBST Learning Objectives. To see how we balance the coverage of learning objectives across the courses, see Learning Objectives of the BBST Courses and then see Emphasis & Objectives of the Test Design Course.


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