Information-Processing Analysis

What is an information-processing analysis?

"Conducting an information-processing analysis is the first step in 'decomposing' or breaking down a goal into its constituent parts, identifying what the students need to learn to attain the goal (Smith & Ragan, 1999, p. 69)." When conducting this type of analysis, the question to keep in mind is "what are the mental and/or physical steps that someone must go through in order to complete this learning task (Smith & Ragan, 1999, p. 69)?" One way to do this is to think through the steps one could go through to complete the task. It is helpful to use a defined procedure such as the steps listed below.

How do I conduct an information-processing analysis?

The following are ten steps to follow in conducting an information-processing analysis:

1. Collect as much information as possible about the task and the content implied by the goal. Use this to become familiar with the terminology involved. Then create a set of questions that could be asked of a subject matter expert.

2. Rewrite the goal in the form of a representative test question.

3. Ask several individuals who know how to complete the task and do one of the following: a) observe them completing the task and ask them to talk aloud about their thought processes as they complete the task; b) observe them completing the task and write down, videotape, or otherwise record the steps; c) have the individuals record the steps in writing as they complete them; or d) ask them to simply write down the steps they would use to complete the task. Techniques a) and b) give the most information because experts often forget some of the steps they go through when completing a task.

4. Review the steps recorded in step 3 and ask questions about the process of completing the task. This will help you to find out the unobservable cognitive knowledge that underlies the expert's behavior.

5. If more than one expert was used, review the findings and find the common steps and decision points collected from steps 3 and 4.

6. Identify the shortest, simplest way to complete the path, noting factors that require this simpler path.

7. Make notes of factors that may require more steps or more complex steps.

8. Choose the steps and circumstances that best match the intentions of the goal.

9. Make a list of the steps and decision points appropriate for the goal.

10. Confirm the analysis with other experts. (Smith & Ragan, 1999)

Can I see an example of an information-processing analysis?

Information-Processing Analysis for a Concept

Smith, P.L. & Ragan, T. J. (1999). Instructional Design. 2nd edition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Merrill.

Task Analysis