Understanding the skill of functional task analysis
Adams, Anne E.
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Although widely used, little is known about the nature of expertise involved in functional task analysis, methods used to discover and represent a task structure in terms of goals and subgoals. Training studies indicated that learning task analysis is not trivial. To counter the "task analysis is an art" explanation, this dissertation approached task analysis as a skill acquisition problem that can be understood through scientific inquiry. Two studies were designed to capture and characterize experienced and novice performance. Professional (Study 1) and novice (Study 2) task analysts conducted task analyses on six tasks from two domains (cooking, communication). Master task analyses were created for each task and served as a basis for analysis. Some similar patterns to the task analysis products and errors were observed for the hierarchy dimensions (breadth and depth of analysis), subgoal focus, and versatility. However, differences in separating subgoals (verb-noun pairs) were observed and may be further investigated in the future. Future directions could also focus on understanding the association between the general approach (breadth and depth-first) and the characteristics of the task analysis products. Skill components of functional task analysis were derived from the findings in both studies conducted for this dissertation.