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The Art & Science of Test Heuristics

Variously defined as “fallible methods for solving problems” (Bach & Bolton) or “rules of thumb”, heuristics are essential tools for thinking test practitioners. When you construct a test around a model like “follow the money”, or adopt a leadership pattern where you challenge your team members with stretch goals, you are working with a heuristic. In each case, the model may be applicable and useful in some contexts, and irrelevant or even detrimental in others.

One of the keys to using heuristics successfully is to do so consciously. If you aren’t aware that you are operating with a heuristic model, it can become an unchallenged assumption. But if you consciously use a model as a heuristic, then you are in a better position to see its weaknesses and potential failure points in a given situation.

In this workshop, we will explore the use of heuristics in problem solving and software testing. Working in groups, participants will have opportunities to design heuristics to solve particular problems, apply them to problem solutions, then critique their models and share their conclusions with other groups.

The session will be highly interactive, consisting principally of problem-solving exercises and debriefs. Conscious use of heuristics requires both creativity and critical thinking skills. Come prepared to practice and extend yours! Participants are invited to bring testing problems from their own experience to share and work with in the second half of the session.