I recently attended training to become an English as a Second Language tutor with people speaking eighty-seven different languages. The key takeaway for me from this class was that learning styles play a big role in acquiring relevant job skills, particularly in the global market. This is especially true when it comes to communication, which is vital to the agile community.
Cultural differences, geographical location, socio-economic level, and native language have a significant impact on learning styles. For example, Inuits who are dependent on the environment for their daily needs are usually excellent visual learners. Those who have been in the United States for more than three years tend to be significantly more auditory learners. Some of the quieter cultures prefer a hands-on, or kinesthetic, approach. People who are trained to work with numbers, like most engineers, often prefer a more logical way of learning. Most of us prefer a combination.
Working in distributed agile teams necessitates strong communication. Clients ask me questions like, “How do you make sure that near-shore teams understand what should be tested? How do you derive testable requirements from epics and user stories? What is your communication mechanism for bi-weekly sprints?”
Understanding your global team and their preferred learning styles can play a critical role here. Exploring four different styles will help you get the most from your agile testing community.
Visual: Individuals who prefer learning using pictures, images, and spatial understanding

  • Convert user stories into testable requirements using visual techniques such as flow charts, graphs, and mind maps.
  • Use state interaction diagrams and context specification diagrams to encourage behavior-driven development.
  • Unite these learners with the business side to create acceptance-driven tests.

Auditory: Individuals who prefer a lecture-style forum

  • Use recorded media for presentations and web seminars.
  • Hold brainstorming and questioning sessions.
  • After introducing new ideas, verbally re-enforce the concepts.
  • Leverage these learners as facilitators, such as putting them in ScrumMaster roles.

Kinesthetic: Individuals who prefer an active, hands-on approach

  • Take advantage of these people in exploratory techniques, such as to test an application and create test scenarios.
  • Make provisions for field-based learning, like by visiting a retail store and creating testable requirements in the wild.
  • Allow these people to shadow other workers in different types of roles for job transitions.

Logical: Individuals who prefer working with numbers and scientific approaches

  • Convert user stories into logical steps. For example, demonstrate via algorithms, or create macros involving complex calculation.
  • Use orthogonal arrays to explain test combinations.
  • Show equivalence portioning and boundary value analysis for data-centric tests.
  • Leverage these learners in test-driven development and tool-based scripting.

One size does not fit all. The need to address the balance between uniformity and diversity is critical. Everyone can perform and excel, provided we understand the learning styles of our teams.

This story was published on Techwell – http://www.techwell.com/2015/01/leveraging-learning-techniques-distributed-agile-teams