WTANZ 11: Close Reading

As the kid who ALWAYS failed the lessons in “Following Directions” it is not without some trepidation that I decided to take Weekend Testing Australia/New Zealand in the direction of critical thinking.  What do you think critical thinking is?  Problem solving?  Following directions?  Structure?  Precision?  How many times have you heard critical thinking mentioned as important for testing? Uh-huh, yeah, that’s great…me too.  Now, what is it?

No, really…what IS IT?

Before last week, I had forgotten so I spent this week reading about it.  I needed some review.  (It’s ALWAYS ok to admit we need review.)  So that’s what I did.  This included taking a quiz about my skills to find out where I’m lacking.  For me, critical thinking is using a particular set of skills to analyze a problem or some information.  It involves the following skills

  • Categorizing
  • Following a sequence
  • Comparison
  • Following Directions (Pffffffftttt!!!!)
  • Close Reading

I did ok on all of it including “Following Directions” but I did not do as well on “Close Reading.” Between that and tester friend Chris McMahon’s suggestion that I mine this blog post of his for some ideas, I decided to base our session on “close reading.”

We had 2 activities, both of them involving bugs in Atlassian’s open-to-public-view issue tracker.

The first was to take a set of 3 bugs marked as duplicates and compare/contrast them picking out the one we considered to have the most effective information and noticing which information some noticed but others didn’t.

The second activity was looking at issues with stack traces to try and figure out more detail from the stack and information in the issue what had gone wrong.

The transcript is here.

if you’d like try some close reading on your own, find an issue and read through it.  Then, put it away and come back to it after 30 minutes or so.  What did you notice the 2nd time that you didn’t the first?  if you do this multiple times, is there a pattern?  Perhaps there’s a certain type of information you don’t digest as readily or an area of the page that is less likely to catch your eye.

I think we’re going to continue this thread on critical thinking for our next WTANZ as well.  That will take place on January 23, after the holidays.

For those who saw my tweets about involving HTML5 in this, I veered away from that because I was not having great success in putting an activity together.  I will blog that separately because I think those of us testing HTML5 features will have to reconsider how we approach the web.  Stay tuned…

Update: I logged this issue yesterday based on one of the bugs we discussed in our session.  The original problem was fixed, but I found another place to get the stack trace, so I logged it.

5 thoughts on “WTANZ 11: Close Reading”

  1. Good post … I really enjoyed reading the transcript .. I wish I participated in that session …

    Critical thinking to me (following Michael Bolton) – thinking about thinking (a kind of meta- thinking). Critical thinking is about being critical (questioning/investigating) about a particular line of thinking (mostly “own” thinking at a given point of time)

    Do write more on it …


  2. You mention here that critical thinking is 1. Categorizing 2. Following a sequence and ….

    Do you have a reference for it? Who/where this meaning of “critical thinking is being proposed?

    Is it something that you have come up with?

    Interested to know …


  3. >>>For me, critical thinking is using a particular set of skills to analyze a problem or some information. It involves the following skills

    Are you sure? Why do you belive so? To me critical thinking is not about using “ANY” particular set of skills to analyse “ANY” problem or “Some” information (note the emphasis)

    Key thing in critical thinking is being critical about an individual’s own thinking …it is about reflective analysis…

    Am I missing anything here?


  4. Hi Shrini, thanks for commenting.

    I probably should have noted my source on this. I’ve got 2 books about critical thinking, but I mainly used 1 in putting together this exercise:

    Palgrave Study Skills: Critical Thinking Skills by Stella Cottrell – This book has given what I consider to be a very abstract topic a more palatable approach. The ideas in critical thinking are broken up into smaller chunks and there are activities to help process the writing.

    2nd book (which I didn’t use very much for Weekend Testing) is Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Professional and Personal Life by Richard Paul and Linda Elder. I like this book’s focus on fair-mindedness in problem solving and arguing. Fair mindedness is easily forgotten so it’s refreshing to read about it as it applies in the setting of constructing an argument.

    The first chapter of Cottrell’s book has a quiz for assessing the skills I mentioned above. My list is in no way exhaustive or all-encompassing as the topic needed to be digestible for our session.

    I agree with you that a key is self-assessment of one’s own thinking. That was one area that may have been a bit weak in this session so I’m going to work on improving self-assessment in the next session.

    Your 3rd comment will require me to think a little more about my definition. Since I was starting from no definition, I admit that it is not extremely well-developed. Perhaps you could blog about your exposure and thoughts on this topic :)

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