Task Analysis Methods for Instructional Design

Task Analysis Methods for Instructional Design

Task Analysis Methods for Instructional Design

Task Analysis Methods for Instructional Design


Task Analysis Methods for Instructional Design is a handbook of task analysis and knowledge elicitation methods that can be used for designing direct instruction, performance support, and learner-centered learning environments.

To design any kind of instruction, it is necessary to articulate a model of how learners should think and perform. This book provides descriptions and examples of five different kinds of task analysis methods:

• job/behavioral analysis;

• learning analysis;

• cognitive task analysis;

• activity-based analysis methods; and

• subject matter analysis.

Chapters follow a standard format making them useful for reference, instruction, or performance support.


There are two primary purposes for conducting a task analysis: 1) to develop instruction or training to support the learning of tasks identified by the task analysis, and 2) to develop some form of assessment to determine if learners have learned the tasks in question. In order to develop training and tests that are congruent with the objective (i.e. require the same level of cognitive, affective, or psychomotor performance), the designer needs to know what type of task is being learned.

Task classification is the act of identifying and labeling tasks according to the specific type of learning outcome (e.g. "this task requires only memorization," "that task requires students to apply a rule."). The tool for classifying tasks is a taxonomy of learning outcomes. The taxonomy contains classes of overt performance or covert cognitive states that characterize those tasks. Once a task is labeled as a type of learning outcome, training and test strategies can be matched to it.

Task classification, using taxonomies, is the critical link between task analysis and training. Classifying learning outcomes is essential to determining the congruity between tasks identified by the task analysis (and represented in learning objectives), the assessment of those tasks (test items), and the instructional or learning strategies used to foster the development of those tasks. Congruity between objectives and the assessment and instructional strategies is the hallmark of instructional design. Task classification is an essential design process, so if instructional designers are unable to accurately and consistently classify learning outcomes, they cannot perform essential functions of instructional design.

Thus, the taxonomies described in this chapter may be viewed as task classification tools, each one with its own time period, assumptions, and classificatory themes. Taxonomies are not intended to be snapshots of reality as much as tools to interpret it. That is the job of an instructional designer--to interpret situations and needs of learners so they can design instruction.

Description of Taxonomies

A taxonomy is a hierarchical classification scheme that organizes objects or phenomena into categories. They are commonly used in the natural sciences to classify animals, plants, and other living things. A taxonomy is created to catalog a wide range of phenomena from a certain classificatory perspective: a dog can be classified from a biologist's, breeder's, or pet owner's perspective, each using a different taxonomy.

A learning-outcomes taxonomy is used to classify different types of learned capabilities, each of which can be labeled as a learning outcome. The distinguishing characteristic of each outcome is the type of performance exhibited by someone who has developed the skills which enable that outcome--someone who has acquired a rule can apply the rule to solve problems. These external performances indicate the internal capability acquired by the learner (e.g. someone who can troubleshoot a system indicates that they have acquired a mental model of that system). Designers use these distinguishing performance characteristics to identify tasks as a particular type of learning outcome (e.g. the "separates nuts from bolts" task indicates that a discrimination outcome must be learned to perform it).

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.