Supported Employment Task Analysis
Another facet of supported employment which requires some explanation is “Task Analysis”. In simple terms, task analysis is a method for teaching people how to perform tasks. Each step of a task is broken up into shorter, simpler tasks that are easier to perform.
But really we need to dig a bit deeper and analyse task analysis to understand how it all works. We are about to do some serious analysing here…
The Fine Details of Task Analysis
For people with disabilities, simple tasks can be made more challenging because of physical or mental limitations. For example, if you have a serious physical impairment, something like turning a dial on a machine might need an analysis of multiple steps.
Task analysis allows a person to create a logical pathway to get through seemingly complex tasks, step by step. After the task has been analysed and performed, it can be re-evaluated to find ways of improving their performance.
When entering a new job, it important to identify which tasks will be required of the disabled person. If any of those tasks are unfamiliar to the person, a task analysis will help identify any potential problems and help them efficiently perform the role.
A task analysis often has a requirement that a person must successfully complete the task a specific number of times before they can asked to perform it without assistance. This can be to ensure they are confident in the role and are safe while performing it. This golden number in known as the criterion and varies from task depending on the tasks needs. For example a task that has a degree of risk like crossing a road may have a higher criterion. This number may also be set higher for quality considerations.
When considering task analysis for employment, we can usually place a task in one of three categories:
Core: These tasks take place all of time and the learner as plenty of chances to practice them
Episodic: These tasks take place occasionally the learner won’t get the chance to practice them regularly (And as such training them in this case has to be of a very high standard )
Job Related:This cover any other types of task that the learner completes to do with work but not for work e.g. taking uniform and equipment from your locker before commencing shift
Tasks work in a ‘3 term contingency’ Antecedent > Behaviour > Consequence (ABC) We will examine this in a future article. When considering tasks we want the consequence (C) to positively reinforce learning and motivate the learner to continue (A) .
There are different approaches to constructing a task analysis, but the following steps are usually taken:
1) Task Classification – defining the skill
The first step of task analysis is to establish what the outcome of the task should be. For example, If a person is making a cup of coffee using an espresso machine, the outcome is a cup of coffee and the task or skill we are learning is coffee making!
Task Classification: Make a cup of coffee using an espresso machine.
2) Task Inventory
Next, a list of the steps involved in making a cup of coffee is gathered. An instructor who knows how to make a cup of coffee may be required to explain the steps or other forms of media may be used. At this point the disabled person may also explore how many of these smaller tasks they can already perform.
Task Inventory: Assess the steps required to make a cup of coffee — check water level, turn on coffee machine, wait for it to heat, grind coffee, tamp coffee into portafilter, insert portafilter, press button on coffee machine etc. Determine which tasks are already easy to accomplish.
3) Task Selection
Which sub-task is the most important or problematic? Where do we start and which order should we use?
Task Selection: Take note of the task order. Getting the level of coffee right can be difficult. Inserting the portafilter might be difficult with a physical impairment so will need to work on that sub-task.
4) Task Decomposition
Determine the components of the task and the objective. Often this will mainly focus on the problematic sub-tasks. A person with a physical impairment might have no problem turning on the coffee machine but grinding coffee with one hand on the button and the other holding the portafilter might be difficult.
Task Decomposition: further refine difficult sub-tasks into smaller steps.
5) Task and sub-task sequencing
The last step is to determine the most efficient way to teach someone the tasks involved.
Task and sub-task sequencing: It would be most efficient to focus on placing coffee into the portafilter before working on the other steps.
After creating the task analysis you should have a plan on how to learn the entire task. It’s important to note that an instructor, employee, mentor or the disabled person themselves can create a task analysis and often do so in conjunction with each other.
Task Analysis: Implementation
So now you should have a shiny new plan on how to get through a difficult task. The next step will be practicing the task.
One of the concepts for putting a task analysis into action is chaining. Chaining is the process of teaching the steps from a task analysis.
There are three types of chaining:
The steps of the task are taught in sequence from beginning to end. The learner is taught the first step, then performs it. Then they are taught the second step and must perform the first and second step. By the time they have reached the last step, they have performed the skill many times.
The trainer performs every step except the last one. The learner is then taught the last step. Once that is learnt, the process is repeated but the learner is taught the second last step and so on. The advantage of this method is that the learner gets to see the entire process in action many times.
A variation of forward chaining, the student must perform the entire task chain from beginning to end, with instruction throughout.
Certain tasks may also be naturally sequence once after another for example washing then drying hands at these times the TA can be eventually combined.
A task analysis can also help an instructor monitor the progress of the person learning the task and make refinements to any difficult parts.
By taking a logical and pragmatic approach to learning new tasks, a person can work independently and accomplish much more in their role.