Task Analysis

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Task analysis is defined as a “collection of procedures for defining the content of an instructional unit” (Morrison, Ross, Kalman, & Kemp, 2011, p. 78)

Three techniques are utilized:

1. Topic Analysis – well suited for defining cognitive knowledge. Defines the facts, concepts, principles, and rules that will make up the final instruction (Morrison et al., 2011, p. 79)

Includes the following steps:
• Review the analysis, and identify the different content structures (facts, concepts, principles, interpersonal skills, and attitudes).
Group related facts, concepts, principles, interpersonal skills, and attitudes.
• Arrange the various components into a logical, sequential order.
• Prepare the final outline to represent your task analysis” (Morrison et al., 2011, p. 82)

2. Procedural Analysis – used for psychomotor tasks, job tasks, or cognitive sequences involving a series of steps (Morrison et al., 2011, p. 79); Observable and unobservable

Each step of analysis includes three questions:
• What does the learner do?
• What does the learner need to know to do this step?
• What cues (tactile, smell, visual, etc.) inform the learner that there is a problem, the step is done, or a different step is needed (p. Morrison et al., 2011, 84)

Cognitive task analysis – identifies those covert cognitive operations associated with the overt behaviors we can easily observe. The authors state that this analysis is “beyond the scope of the book,” but suggested a “talk-aloud protocol” to enhance the procedural analysis. The talk-aloud protocol consists of asking the SME to “verbally describe each action and step as it is performed.” (Morrison et al., 2011, p. 88)

3. Critical Incident Method – useful for analyzing interpersonal skills

Critical Incident Interview is based on three types of information:
• What were the conditions before, during and after the incident?
• What did you do?
• How did this incident help you reach or prevent you from reaching your goal?

Primhoff suggested two questions:
• Ask the SME to identify 3 instances when he/she was successful doing the task;
• Ask the SME to identify 3 instances when he/she was not successful doing the task (Morrison et al., 2011, p. 91)

Lynn Munoz


Morrison, G. R., Ross, S. M., Kalman, H. K., & Kemp, J. E. (2011). Task analysis. In Designing effective instruction (6th ed.) (pp. 76-105). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Date Modified: 21 Jan 11    2:36 PM MST


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