Procedural Task Analysis
What is a procedural analysis?
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:
-balancing a checkbook,
-changing a tire,
-formatting a disk, and
-bathing a dog.
How do I conduct a procedural analysis?
Learning goals that are procedures are the easiest goals upon which to conduct an instructional 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.
(From Smith & Ragan, 1999)
Okay, I've broken down the steps, I'm ready to flowchart...
Flowcharting has a language of its own. The following are the generally accepted conventions for flowcharting.
Start/End - This symbol is used as the beginning symbol pointing to the first task and as a symbol indicating that no more tasks are to be performed. A flowchart has only one starting point; therefore there is only one START symbol. However, there can be more than one END point.
Input/Output - A parallelogram represents either an input task or an output task. An example of an input task is keying the account number of a savings account in a bank. An example of an output task is printing a reprt or displaying the results of a computation. An output at the end of a chain creates the input for the next step.
Process - A process is a simple procedure, an operation, or an instruction. Processes do not include tasks requiring a decision. A process is represented by a rectangle. Calculating simple interest, typing a report, or taking a test are examples of processes.
Decision - Decision symbols are used when two alternative sequences are possible depending upon the outcome of the decision. Usually decisions are posed as questions requiring a yes or no answer. However, any two-way alternative may be posed.
(Seels & Glasgow, 1990)
Are there any flowcharting programs available?
Absolutely! Programs like Inspiration and Microsoft's Visio make it very easy to create quick, customized flowcharts. And if you just want to try them out, many of them offer 30-day trial demos for you to download.
What criteria should I use to evaluate my procedural analysis?
_______ Completeness (thoroughness); all steps present; complex procedures broken down; (0-5)
_______ All steps stated in performance terms (using verbs); (0-5)
_______ Appropriateness of procedural analysis for representing task; (0-5)
_______ Validity & accuracy: how well does analysis correspond to actual task; (0-5)
_______ Appropriate use of flowchart or representation used; directional flow obvious and consistent; (0-5)
Can I see an example of a procedural task analysis using a flowchart?
Can I see an example of a procedural task analysis in an outline?
Yes, indeed. Check out this example.