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Friday, August 14th 2009

1:23 PM

Analyzing the Job

by Brice Alvord

Job task analysis is the cornerstone of performance based training. Conducting an effective job analysis requires understanding what information is necessary for the training program, how to best extract that information from the organization, and how to properly analyze the data received, in order to provide the clearest picture of the job under study. The job task analysis should result in the identification of the essential tasks and duties and knowledge, skills and abilities required to perform the job.

The starting point is to obtain or develop an adequate job description.  A job description is a general statement about what a person does on the job and the condition underwhich the job is performed. Using this information, think about the job and create a list of the various tasks that are required to perform the job. Keep in mind the job description describes the job as it actually is, not how you think it should be. Be careful not to inject your ideas about what you think the job should be, into the analysis.

The job description gives you a rough idea of what the job looks like, it is merely a rough sketch of the highlights of the job.  You will have to dig a little deeper to obtain all of the relevant task information.  This is accomplished by the job/task analysis.

Job Structure


Job breakdowns consist of the following:

  • Duty
  • Task
  • Steps

Element Name




The name of the job for which a person was hired. Often given a job title and job description. A job consists of one or more duties.

Gas Station Attendant


Package Machine Operator



A broad category of responsibilities within a job. Duties consist of one or more tasks.

Attend the pumps

Change Oil

Wash cars

Clean rest rooms



A task is part of a set of actions which accomplish a job. Another way to look at it is; a task is an actual activity performed on the job for which the worker is paid. The tasks are the elements of the job. Tasks form the structure upon which an effective performance based training program is built. The task is composed of the procedure steps required to create an output or product.

Pump gas

Wash windshields

Check oil levels

Process a cash sale

Process a credit sale


An element of a task. Something that moves the task along. Usually listed in sequence.

Remove cap

Select grade

Start pump

Insert nozzle

The Analysis


Task analysis is the analysis or a breakdown of exactly how a task is accomplished, such as what sub-tasks are required. This information can then be used for many purposes, such as improving the design of tools or procedures that aid in performing the task. For training design, frequency and consequence of error are two important factors to consider in identifying critical tasks or duties upon which to train.




Analyzing Tasks


Task analysis is a systematic breakdown of a task into its elements, specifically including a detailed task description of both manual and mental activities, task and element durations, task frequency, task allocation, task complexity, environmental conditions, necessary clothing and equipment, and any other unique factors involved in or required for one or more humans to perform a given task.


Instructional designers perform a task analysis in order to:

  • Determine the instructional goals and objectives;
  • Define and describe in detail the tasks and sub-tasks that the student will perform;
  • Specify the knowledge type (declarative, structural, and procedural knowledge) that characterize a job or task;
  • Select learning outcomes that are appropriate for instructional development;
  • Prioritize and sequence tasks;
  • Determine instructional activities and strategies that foster learning;
  • Select appropriate media and learning environments;
  • Construct performance assessments and evaluation


There are different formats to use based on the type of learning outcome. The following are the most prevalent:

  • Procedural Task Analysis (for procedural skills)
  • Hierarchical or Prerequisite Analysis (for intellectual skills)
  • Information processing analysis (for procedural and cognitive tasks)


The first step in the task analysis is to list all of the tasks that might be included in the job. You can probably identify most of the tasks by thinking about the job description. You will need to obtain more information than that. You will do this by talking to job incumbents or people who have previously performed the job. You should also observe people performing the job and take notes of what you observe. It is a good idea to video tape the person performing the job.


Unlike learning a concept or a principle, procedures are strictly defined so that each step is clear and unambiguous to the learner. Procedures can be simple, whereby the learner follows one set of steps in a sequential fashion. However, procedures can also be complex, with many decision points that the learner must make. Regardless of the complexity of the procedure, a procedural analysis breaks down the mental and/or physical steps that the learner must go through so that the task can be successfully achieved. The steps that make up a task are arranged linearly and sequentially, illustrating where the learner begins and ends. Oftentimes, the steps throughout the task, from start to finish, as well as any decisions that the learner must make are arranged in a flowchart, but they can also be done in an outline form. See examples below.


Examples of learning outcomes that are procedural in nature are:

1.      Balancing a checkbook,

2.      Changing a tire,

3.      Formatting a disk,

4.      Bathing a dog



Tasks that are based on procedures are the easiest for conducting a task analysis. Generally, application of procedures involves these steps:

1.      Determine whether a particular procedure is applicable

2.      Recall the steps of the procedure

3.      Apply the steps in order, with decision steps if required

4.      Confirm that the end result is reasonable.


What criteria should I use to evaluate my procedural analysis?

  • Completeness (thoroughness); all steps present; complex procedures broken down
  • All steps stated in performance terms (using verbs)
  • Appropriateness of procedural analysis for representing task
  • Validity & accuracy: how well does analysis correspond to actual task
  • Appropriate use of flowchart or representation used; directional flow obvious and consistent


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