SPA Conference session: Pairing: Beyond Programming

One-line description:Which activities are best done by a pair?
Session format: Workshop (150 mins) [read about the different session types]
Abstract:The notion of pair working in IT projects became popular as a result of the promotion of the pair programming practice as part of Extreme Programming. Although all early literature on XP discusses only pairing during the act of programming (albeit the rather rich and extended form of "programming" that XP encourages), pair working rapidly came to be promoted as an important part of all development activities. In this workshop we will consider the range of activities for which pair working is more effective than working alone. Some activities might be best done alone, some best always as a pair. The deliverable from this workshop will be a list of project activities and, for each, an assessment of the importance or otherwise of having a pair perform it. An important aspect of the workshop is that we don't just want this assessment to be based on recollections of the participants. We will provide exercises that will examine and measure the performance of participants in carrying out a variety of tasks.
Audience background:No specific audience background required, although some experience of
pair working would be beneficial.
Benefits of participating:Become a more effective contributor to your team.
Materials provided:Copies of slides, questionnaires, task worksheets, materials for tasks.
Process:The session will start and end with questionnaires designed to determine the participants' initial and final opinions of what factors determine when pair working is effective. The participants will be divided into groups of 4 or 5, and they will remain in these groups throughout the workshop. We may need to limit participation to fit the availability of materials. The main part of the workshop will involve completion by each group of four tasks. The tasks have been selected so that they explore different kinds of activities. The categories

- visuospatial/physical (assembling a simple Lego model from instructions)

- creative (writing a description of a painting)

- analytic (analysis of a project schedule)

- people-centric (counselling an employee on personal issues)

To tackle the task the groups of four will divide into one pair and two singletons; groups of five will divide into two pairs and one singleton. So during the workshop the tasks will be completed by several pairs and several singletons. Each participant will, at various times, work as a pair member and a singleton.

After each task the group will complete and compare feedback forms.
Detailed timetable:000 Introduction
010 Initial questionnaire
020 First group task
045 Second group task
070 Third group task
095 Fourth group task
120 Final questionnaire
130 Plenary discussion
150 End
Outputs:- Questionnaire results
- Exercise results
History:This workshop was run (with a different title) at SPA2008 in March
2008 and at MiniSPA2008 in July 2008. At SPA2008 it was voted 5th best
session, hence its inclusion in miniSPA. The miniSPA presentation was
a compressed version and was also very well received. We think it appropriate that this workshop be run again at SPA2009 because we want as many people as possible to benefit from it.
1. John Daniels
Syntropy Limited
2. Dave Cleal