What is a Task Analysis?

Task Analysis Formula

A task analysis sequences and describes observable, measurable behaviors involved in the performance of a task or job. It involves the systematic process of identifying specific tasks leading to competency and a detailed analysis of each of those tasks in terms of:  

  • Frequency  
  • Difficulty  
  • Importance 
  • Job experience  

When deciding which tasks to train, two guiding factors must be used: effective and efficient. Instructional designers must seek the best program within acceptable costs while meeting the learning intents. Often it helps to select tasks for training by dividing them into three groups: 

  • Those that are to be included in a formal learning program  
  • Those that are to be included in on-the-job training (OJT)  
  • Those for which no formal or OJT is needed (i.e., job performance aids or self-study workbooks)  

A task analysis begins by collecting the task requirements.  Instructional designers perform a needs analysis of the task requirements by asking the following questions: 

  • What job tasks must the target audience complete?  

 Technical tasks  

Examples: Submitting a service request, Navigating an interface 

 Conceptual tasks  

Examples: Understanding pensions, How Hypothetical Minimum Compensation is calculated 

Interpersonal tasks  

Examples: Building teams 

  • What are adequate performance levels for those tasks?  
  • Must tasks be completed sequentially?  
  • Are some tasks primarily cognitive, whereas others are primarily psychomotor?  
  • Do corrective procedures or processes exist if an error is made while completing the task?  
  • In what settings are the tasks performed?  
  • What tools or resources are required for completing the tasks? 
  • What are the main inputs to and outputs of the task?   
  • How is a task analysis performed? 

Once the results of the needs analysis have been obtained, the instructional designer can review source material such as functional specs and business requirements for guidance on what tasks users will need to perform. 

Pro Tip:  One question to ask yourself when performing the task analysis is whether any of the tasks you are scoping out have already been covered by a previous task analysis.  All good instructional designers have guidelines for reusing or repurposing content and those guidelines should be followed.  Repurposability will cut development time considerably and helps streamline content control. 

Terms used in a task analysis 

 

Term  Definition  Examples 
Job  A collection of duties and tasks that a person is responsible to perform  Cook   CSR 
Duty  A broad area of responsibility in a job  Food preparation  Helping clients maintain their online accounts 
Task  A complete activity that  

  • Results in a product or service that has value  
  • Has a beginning and an end  
  • Is independent of other actions  
  • Is observable  
  • Is measurable  
  • Starts with an action verb  
  • Contains a noun shortly after the verb  
  • Does not overlap with another task  
Prepare Caesar salad  Unlock a user’s account 

 

Subtask  A logical grouping or category of 5 to 9 steps.  Select head of romaine lettuce  Use the Web Access Management application “Unlock Account” workflow 
Step  A discrete, specific, detailed action that describes how to perform the task. A step should be detailed enough that it can be followed and performed without assistance.  Look for dark green leaves. Choose heads that are cut close to leaf stems and are free from decay and browning. Avoid heads with any signs of rust; avoid older plants with large, strong milky ribs.   In Web browser, go to the WAM application at http://wam.wam.wam Press ENTER. 
Result  The consequence of a step or a sequence of steps.    The WAM home page appears. 

 

 

Steps in a task analysis 

 Every job has duties, and every duty consists of tasks.  

  1. Compile a task listing or inventory. 

A task, as you learned earlier, is a complete activity. A basic task listing consists of duties and tasks.  

Duty  Task 
             
             
             
             
             
             

     2. Break down tasks into subtasks and steps, if necessary. 

Recall that a task–for instance, “Submitting a Service Request Note“–has a beginning and an end. Within that tasks are subtasks, and within subtasks are the actual steps that a user must follow.  

Duty  Task  Subtask  Steps 
                           
                           
                           
                           
                           
                           

     3. Prioritize tasks.  

From the results of the audience analysis and the task analysis, it is now possible to prioritize tasks to identify potential knowledge gaps. Determining priority relies on four factors: 

  • Frequency (FR) with which the task is performed  
  • Learning difficulty (LD), or complexity, of the task  
  • Importance (IM) of the task  
  • Job experience (JE) of the target customer segment with the task  

If the target customer base is segmented, a task priority must be done for each segment. Each of the factors is assigned a value corresponding to the indicators in the following table.  

Indicator  Description  Degree  Value 
FR (frequency)  How frequently is the task performed?  H+ = Extremely frequently
H = Frequently
M = Moderately frequently
L = Infrequently 
3
2
1
0 
LD (learning difficulty)  How difficult is the task to learn?  H+ = Extremely difficult
H = Difficult
M = Moderately difficult
L = Not difficult 
3
2
1
0 
IM (importance)  How important is the task to overall job effectiveness?  H+ = Extremely important
H = Important
M = Moderately important
L = Not important 
3
2
1
0 
JE (job experience)  What level of job experience do learners bring with them?  H+ = Extremely high
H = High
M = Moderate
L = Low 
3
2
1
0 
PR (priority)  What priority does each task have in the content of the course?     

The value assigned to each task is then applied to the following formula: 

FR + LD + IM – (3 x JE) = PR 

Duty  Task  Subtask  FR  LD  IM  JE  PR 
                                                       
                                                       
                                                       
                                                       
                                                       

 

What can a task analysis be used for? 

Although a task analysis may be time consuming, it helps the instructional designer determine potential training and information products appropriate to the audience segments and business goals. It also guides the team in developing the following: 

  • Content  
  • Materials  
  • Objectives  
  • Structure  
  • Tests  

What is the next step? 

Once the task analysis is complete, the instructional designer should examine the content to determine the best way to sequence and segregate it in order to meet the needs of the target audience segments.