Skill components of task analysis

Anne E. Adams, Wendy A. Rogers, Arthur D. Fisk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Some task analysis methods break down a task into a hierarchy of subgoals. Although an important tool of many fields of study, learning to create such a hierarchy (redescription) is not trivial. To further the understanding of what makes task analysis a skill, the present research examined novices' problems with learning Hierarchical Task Analysis and captured practitioners' performance. All participants received a task description and analyzed three cooking and three communication tasks by drawing on their knowledge of those tasks. Thirty six younger adults (18-28 years) in Study 1 analyzed one task before training and five afterwards. Training consisted of a general handout that all participants received and an additional handout that differed between three conditions: a list of steps, a flow-diagram, and concept map. In Study 2, eight experienced task analysts received the same task descriptions as in Study 1 and demonstrated their understanding of task analysis while thinking aloud. Novices' initial task analysis scored low on all coding criteria. Performance improved on some criteria but was well below 100 % on others. Practitioners' task analyses were 2-3 levels deep but also scored low on some criteria. A task analyst's purpose of analysis may be the reason for higher specificity of analysis. This research furthers the understanding of Hierarchical Task Analysis and provides insights into the varying nature of task analyses as a function of experience. The derived skill components can inform training objectives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1009-1046
Number of pages38
JournalInstructional Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Skill acquisition
  • Skill components
  • Task analysis
  • Training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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