A Task Analysis breaks a task or activity into its smaller steps. For example, when you brush your teeth you must get your toothbrush, get the toothpaste, put the toothpaste on the toothbrush, turn on the water, wet the toothbrush, etc… A task analysis is used quite often with individuals who are having difficulty mastering all the steps of a task.
I’ve been working in the schools for years and I see them in many classrooms – but they have become stagnant and forgettable. They have stopped being the useful tool the students need. I think this is due in part to us forgetting how to enhance the use of the task analysis. Here are 5 things to remember when using a task analysis – that might bring life to the ones in your classroom:
1. Vary the length and complexity of the task analysis based on the user’s needs. Don’t add more steps than the individual can handle. Using the example of brushing your teeth – when getting the toothpaste – should you add the extra steps of taking the cap off, squeezing the toothpaste onto the toothbrush, putting the cap on, and putting the toothpaste away. That is too many steps for many individuals. When in doubt, keep it simple and collect data to see if the steps are working. Add or decrease steps as needed.
2. Make sure you use observable behaviors. The steps must be something that can concretely completed by the individual as well as easily observed by the educators. This aids in teaching, learning and scaffolding.
3. Explicit teaching may be required. Just because you put a task analysis up – doesn’t mean that all of your problems are solved. If there is a breakdown in the learning of the steps, you may have to work with the individual and the task analysis to learn all of the steps needed to complete the task. This may have to be repeated, and repeated, and repeated. That is okay. The great part is that once they have mastered this task and use it often, the skills will probably maintain. In the end this will save you time and energy and will allow for more independence from our users.
4. The symbol set you use may matter more to you than it does to the student. Symbols are used in many of our task analysis. Symbol sets vary from school to school, teacher to teacher and family to family. We sometimes dedicate hours and hours to finding just the right picture with just the right look to demonstrate the skill. We look for uniformity of people, colors, and items. Sometimes we get so hung up on these things that we never finish making the task analysis. I’ve read research that shows that we worry more about that sort of thing that the users. If we make it and show them how to use it – many learn the sequence just fine. We need to let that sort of detail go if the user does not mind.
5. Remember that data collection is vital. A task analysis is, in part, a teaching tool. We need to collect data to show if the user is successful or requiring more scaffolding to be successful. Without data we don’t know that. We also don’t know about how long it may take the user to learn a task with a task analysis. Keep collecting the data!!!
So as much as we love using a task analysis and see them often in our world – we must remember to use them effectively. I hope you keep these steps in mind the next time you use a task analysis!!