What is it?
Many apparently simple tasks, such as packing a school bag, borrowing a library book or completing a worksheet, are actually made up of a number of steps. Finding out what these steps are and what order they are performed in is known as task analysis.
Task analysis can be an important part of helping students to learn new skills to replace behaviours of concern. The other important role of task analysis is in determining reasons for the occurrence of behaviours. Task analysis may help to provide information about particular elements of an activity that cause difficulty for a student, meaning that the individual elements of the task that cause frustration or distress can be identified and taught. Breaking down complex tasks into smaller steps and then teaching them in a systematic way can allow students to experience success with new tasks, increasing the likelihood of the behaviour being used again. Recognising the small steps in the task as they are achieved also allows for reinforcement, again making it more likely that the behaviour will occur again. Task analysis is often paired with ‘chaining’ which involves teaching the steps in a particular order (either from first step to last step to demonstrate the order of tasks, or from last task to first task which can show the student the benefit of performing the activity).
Task analysis is a well-established element of applied behaviour analysis which is an evidenced based strategy for teaching new skills.
How do I use it?
Teachers can use task analysis by considering multi-element tasks that the student needs to learn and identifying the steps involved. It is important that all important details are captured; some students will require very small steps to complete the tasks successfully. Collection of data before and after using the strategy will play an important role in determining the success of the task analysis and teaching strategies.
Where can I learn more?