Task analysis is the process of breaking down a particular skill into a specific set of behaviors that lead to execution and completion of a task or skill. Task analysis is very helpful for inductively teaching skills because it helps to increase fluency while moving through the necessary steps.
The first step to successful task analysis is to identify the target skill. The next step is to write out all of the necessary behaviors that need to occur to execute the target skill. So, for example, if the target skill is making a turkey sandwich, the behavioral steps may be: Step 1 --Take out a plate; Step 2 – Go to the refrigerator; Step 3 – Take out turkey; so on and so forth until there is a sandwich sitting on a plate ready to eat. The amount of specificity required for each behavioral step is going to depend on the current skill level of the learner. Therefore, while the behavioral steps may be objective, the task analysis is going to be subjective and suited towards the particular learner.
The typical applications of task analysis for teaching a skill are either through forward-, backward-, or total task-chaining.
Backward chaining is where the learner goes through all of the steps to complete a task with appropriate prompting on each step until the last step, where they are then given the opportunity to complete the step independently. Once the final step is mastered, the instructor then fades out the prompt on the last two steps, then the last three, so on and so forth until all of the behaviors required to execute the target skill are mastered. So, for example, in making a turkey sandwich, the instructor would assist or prompt with all of the steps up to the last one, which may be cutting the sandwich in half before eating it.
Forward chaining allows the learner to complete the initial step independently followed by appropriate prompts for the remaining steps. Once the learner has mastered the initial step, then they are given the opportunity to complete the first two steps, then the first three, so on and so forth until all of the behaviors required to execute the target skill are mastered. So, for example, in making a turkey sandwich, the instructor would allow the learner to take out the plate, and then would assist or prompt with the remaining steps.
Total task chaining is where the learner is given the opportunity to complete each behavior relating to the target skill with independence at each step, with the instructor providing prompts as necessary throughout the execution of the skill. So, for example, in making a turkey sandwich, the instructor may allow the learner to perform all of the steps independently, and when they get stuck, go in and prompt the target behavior, and then allow them to continue independently.
In summary, task analysis is a way of breaking down components of a skill into specific behaviors required to execute a skill or complete a task.