Mark Needham

Thoughts on Software Development

Learning cycles

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I’ve noticed a recurring trend in the way that I learn new concepts which doesn’t seem to fit exactly into any of the models of learning that I have come across so far.

It seems to me to be a learning cycle which goes something like this:

  1. Don’t know what is good and what’s bad
  2. Learn what’s good and what’s bad but don’t know how to fix something that’s bad
  3. Learn how to make something that’s bad good

The two areas I have noticed this have both been related to concepts about writing clean code.

When I first started writing code I couldn’t tell the difference between testable and untestable code. After my first project I became more aware of patterns that led to untestable code but I wasn’t able to make untestable code testable. Finally after working on a couple of projects I had worked with enough people and shown enough tips that I have a reasonable idea of how to get difficult to test code into a state where we can put some kind of tests around it.

I noticed the same trend more recently when discussing how to write truly object oriented code. Initially I wasn’t aware that suffixing classes with ‘Manager’ or ‘Helper’ was a code smell until I came across Peter Gillard-Moss’ post about this. Having become aware of this I started noticing this in code bases that I worked on but I still couldn’t see how to fix it. I’m not completely in the 3rd part of the learning cycle yet but I am more aware when creating classes to focus on what they are not what they do when it comes to naming, to think about the classes responsibility and so on.

This doesn’t seem to fit precisely into learning models that I have come across such as the Dreyfus Model, Four stages of competence or Shu-Ha-Ri.

I think it is closest to the Four stages of competence, closely relating to each of the first 3 stages. I’m not sure how the unconscious competence stage would fit in though.

At the moment I’m using the pattern to raise my awareness of where I currently am for different skills and to help me move from stage 2 to stage 3.

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Written by Mark Needham

December 7th, 2008 at 11:40 am

Posted in Learning

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