Task analysis is pretty much what the name sounds like; you take a task and analyze it or break it down, step by step. Sounds easy enough, but even simple tasks can be quite complex when you drill down into the steps and forfeit assumed knowledge or what some may consider common knowledge.
Think about all the steps that go into making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. While not a typical office task, it is a popular exercise that instructors use to introduce people to task analysis. It involves performing the steps of making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich exactly as the learner instructs; this can make for some interesting sandwich-making events, but it allows learners to see the amount of assumed knowledge they take for granted when analyzing and performing tasks. While not as messy or fun as the stated example, think of some tasks you perform in your work environment that consist of a series of steps. These tasks can all be broken down into subtasks and individual steps to make the skill easier to teach and learn. It allows you to focus on what the learner is going to do and how they will get it done.
So, how do you perform a task analysis? You break it into steps, of course.
- Identify task to analyze
You need to identify the task or target skill that is getting analyzed. It shouldn’t be too simple or too complex. Think broad strokes at this stage; don’t worry about all the little things that go into the task just yet. You should think of what you want the learner to do and start with action verbs. Build a template for documentation is going to be used as a task example throughout this post.
- Break down into subtasks
Now that I’ve identified the task I’m going to analyze, I need to break it down into subtasks, all the smaller processes that make up the larger task of building a template for documentation.
Again, these are short tasks I want the learner to do, so each should start with an action verb.
I will add the following to my analysis breakdown:
- Create Word document
- Set styles for the template
- Build header
- Identify steps in subtasks
Now we’re getting down into the individual steps, and this is when decisions about how detailed the analysis will get need to be made. How detailed you get in the steps will depend on your learners’ needs, don’t go down a rabbit hole just for the sake of detailing every piece of information. Learners just need to be able to follow your instruction and get the task done.
So, if I combine all the information from the three steps into one analysis, it could look something like this:
This task was a relatively simple example, but you can see all the little steps involved in creating a basic Word template. Some of these steps could be broken down further, but I know the learner has already had training and can navigate around SharePoint, so I left the steps regarding SharePoint broader.
So, while task analysis is essentially a simple three-step process, you can see that within those three steps there can be numerous broken-down subtasks and an intense attention to detail, the level of which will be determined by the task and your audience.