How to Conduct a Task Analysis

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In Brief...

Task analysis is another step in the analysis and objective setting process. Task analysis occurs after the needs assessment and the problem to be addressed by the instructional design has been identified.

Instructions

Purpose

The purpose of the task analysis is to determine the content that will make up the instruction and to also determine in what order the content will appear.

The Morrison, Ross, Kemp approach to instructional design states that the task analysis answers solve three problems for the instructional designer:

  1. What content is required for the learning to take place.
  2. The identification of subtle steps.
  3. Insight into the learner's perspective.

Gagne describes task analysis as a series of procedures performed by the instructional designer in order to gather information needed for the instruction.

Methodology

There are a number of approaches to task analysis, and the specific approach taken by the instructional designer will vary based on what type of learning is being developed.

The Morrison, Ross, and Kemp (MRK) method says that the goals that are derived from the needs assessment and the analysis of the learner, specifically what knowledge and background the learner has, influence the content that is required for instruction. This information is the starting point for the instructional designer when developing objectives.

This approach states that there are three methods for task analysis:

  1. Topic Analysis – Topic analysis works similarly to creating an outline, beginning with major information and working down to secondary information. A topic analysis provides information on the content that will make up the learning, as well as its structure. The content can be procedures, skills, facts, concepts, rules, or principles.
  2. Procedural Analysis – A procedural analysis aims to identify steps that make up tasks. In this part of the task analysis, the instructional designer will usually work with a subject matter expert and walk through the steps in the procedure, in as close to the "real-world environment" as possible.
  3. Critical Incident Method – The critical incident method uses an interview format, wherein the instructional designer interviews the subject matter expert to determine what skills and knowledge are required to complete the task.

The instructional designer will use the three methods, and the information gathered from all three methods is compiled and used by the instructional designer to write the tasks in the instruction.

The following is what these might look like for one of the sections in a business writing course:

Methodology Example

Procedures

The procedures in a task analysis process can vary by method; however, all methods have in common the goal of obtaining information about the tasks and content that will form the instruction.

The following are common task analysis procedures, depending on the type of instruction:

  • Document Analysis – Analyzing documents used by employees for possible revision.
  • SME Involvement – This is a point in the design process where instructional designers often work with SMEs, who have intimate knowledge of the subject, to help outline tasks.
  • Flowchart or Map – Instructional designers can create a flowchart or a map with tasks and subtasks, which can help visualize learner tasks.

Author: Margaux Judge

Margaux Judge has worked as an e-learning editor and instructional designer for over ten years, writing and editing a wide variety of courses, from technical topics to soft skills. She has a Bachelor's degree in English and Textual Studies from Syracuse University and a Master's degree in Television Writing from Boston University.

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