How do you approach task analysis?

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Peregrin5, Nov 13, 2012.

  1. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Phenom

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    Nov 13, 2012

    Task analysis has been something of interest to me lately as it seems pretty key to teaching in general. The process of breaking down a learning outcome into its processes and separate parts would definitely help students to link things together and obtain a skill or knowledge that is necessary.

    I guess what I'm asking for is a task analysis of performing a task analysis. How do you start with a large concept or a skill and break it down and where do you go from there?

    Sorry for the vague post as well, I'm getting quite sleepy and will call it a night in a few moments.
     
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  3. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Nov 13, 2012

    Peregrin, I have to say I love your participation on this forum. I swear you've made me think more in the past few weeks than most other things have!

    Here would be my simple response:

    1) Identify discrete steps in an activity or task, the completion of which would fully represent the original task.

    2) For each of those steps, identify any sub-steps.

    3) For each of those sub-steps, identify and sub-sub-steps.

    4) Repeat.

    Part of doing a good task analysis is not only the skill of behavioral observation and understanding discrete behaviors, but having a good working knowledge of the content area itself. So, for example, you could be great at understanding task analysis, but have substantial difficulty task analyzing "decoding" if you didn't understand the content area of beginning reading very well. All of this is to say that a "task analysis of task analysis" is somewhat misinformed without including acquisition of content area. So, perhaps the first step of a task analysis of task analysis is "gain a thorough knowledge of the content area in question," which of course requires further task analysis :). But, in terms of the actual specific task analysis of task analysis once concept, I think above would be a decent start.
     
  4. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Nov 13, 2012

    I would start by defining the task and successful behaviors that would show mastery or completion.

    Then I would define what the task is not or what would constitute unsuccessful behaviors.

    Then I would break the task down into sequential steps (kind of like a geometric proof), showing which steps follow from another step and which steps are a completely different track.
     
  5. HistTchr

    HistTchr Habitué

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    Nov 13, 2012

    I agree with the other posters. If I wanted students to write proficient introductory paragraphs for an essay, I would look for:
    -a good attention grabber
    -an overview of the issue under consideration
    -a clear thesis statement that states a position and supporting reasons

    Even these sub-steps can be broken down into smaller skills.
     
  6. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Phenom

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    Nov 14, 2012

    I was also wondering how you would begin finding discrete steps for certain tasks. For instance, some tasks would be more accurately represented as a web rather than a list of steps. And some tasks require further skills that need to be acquired first before they can be mastered.
     
  7. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Nov 14, 2012

    I think this is where a thorough, working knowledge of the content area comes into play. Knowing why certain skills are important, in which order, etc. are crucial pieces of information. In beginning reading, for example, knowing that phonemic awareness is hugely important would be foundational to including phonemic awareness in a broad task analysis of "learning to read."
     
  8. a2z

    a2z Aficionado

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    Nov 14, 2012

    Excellent!

    Which tasks are sequential and which tasks can be worked on in parallel....

    Which tasks need complete mastery compared to partial mastery to be used as the foundation for another task.

    For example, beginning reading often uses skills that are being taught in parallel even though these skills are not to complete mastery. This can lead to a false assessment of student ability leaning to the positive only to have the student fall flat later on appearing to then be lazy. I'm not saying that total mastery of all is always necessary to move on, but accurate assessment of the sub-skills does need to be part of the picture. Knowing how the skills interrelate and where they will cause problems in the future is key. Knowing the 4th grader still can't break longer words into syllables is a key piece of information. There comes a point where new vocabulary will not be able to be sounded out and it will limit the students ability to comprehend text. So, the reader may seem fluent in 4th grade by utilizing whole word strengths, but this same student has a high potential of struggling later on.

    The web idea fits into this. Knowing what skills are lacking within the web of reading skills and sub-skills can be a good indicator of problems in the future and solutions or strategies for that particular student. One large sub-skill deficit or numerous slightly unmastered skills can both turn into a problem.

    Great concept, Peregrin.
     
  9. a2z

    a2z Aficionado

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    Nov 14, 2012

    I commented on the web idea in another post, but wanted to address the idea of weak phonemic awareness impacting reading or learning to read. Many students will rely on other sub-skills or a gifted verbal intelligence to get around this lack of skill for a long while. Being that measures of comprehension on grade-level material show the student can read, this lack of sub-skill is often overlooked as a problem. The big picture is often looked at as the only important thing "at this time". It is often those sub-skills that cause a student to tank or give up later. How could that A student all of a sudden be having trouble in 9th grade? The text finally went beyond their ability to accommodate the weakness.

    So, I agree, knowing all of the sub-sub-skills necessary to do a task is important. Understand why it is important and the impact it can have is key.
     
  10. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Nov 14, 2012

    Absolutely. Couldn't agree more, and very much enjoyed your previous post about various elements of task analysis as well...
     

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