Cognitive Task Analysis

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Cognitive Task Analysis Richard E.Clark, David F. Feldon, Jeroen J. G. van Merriënboer, Kenneth Yates and Sean Early October 14, 2006 (Final Draft) “Cognitive Task Analysis is the extension of traditional task analysis techniques to yield information about the knowledge, thought processes and goal structures that underlie observable task performance. [It captures information about both…] ... overt observable behavior and the covert cognitive functions behind it [to] form an integrated whole.” (p. 3, Chipman, Schraagen, & Shalin, 2000) Cognitive task analysis (CTA) uses a variety of interview and observation strategies to capture a description of the knowledge that experts use to perform complex tasks. Complex tasks are defined as those where performance requires the integrated use of both controlled (conscious, conceptual) and automated (unconscious, procedural or strategic) knowledge to perform tasks that often extend over many hours or days (see van Merriënboer, Clark, & de Croock, 2002). CTA is often only one of the strategies used to describe the knowledge required for performance. It is a valuable approach when advanced experts are available who reliably achieve a desired performance standard on a target task and the goal is to capture the “cognitive” knowledge used by them (Clark & Estes, 1999). Analysts use CTA to capture accurate and complete descriptions of cognitive processes and decisions. The outcome is most often a description of the performance objectives, equipment, conceptual knowledge, procedural knowledge and performance standards used by experts as they perform a task. The descriptions are formatted so that they can be used as records of task performance and/or to inform novices in a way that helps them achieve the performance goal(s) in any context. CTA is most often performed before (or as an integral part of) the design of instruction, work, job aids and/or tests. The descriptions are then used to develop expert systems, tests to certify job or task competence, and training for acquiring new and complex knowledge for attainment of performance goals (Chipman, Schraagen, & Shalin, 2000; Jonassen, Tessmer, & Hannum, 1999). This chapter presents an overview of the current state of CTA in research and practice. The first section presents descriptions of a variety of CTA techniques, their common characteristics, and the typical strategies used to elicit knowledge from experts and other sources. The second section discusses the integration of CTA with training design. The third section describes research on the impact of CTA and synthesizes a number of studies and reviews pertinent to issues underlying knowledge elicitation. In the fourth section, we present a number of recommendations for future research. The main conclusions are given in the final section. Types of Cognitive Task Analysis Currently in Use Researchers have identified over 100 types of CTA methods currently in use, which can make it difficult for the novice practitioner to choose the appropriate method 1

(Cooke, 1994). The number and variety of CTA methods is due primarily to the diverse paths that the development of CTA has taken. It has origins in behavioral task analysis, early work in specifying computer system interfaces, and in military applications—each with its own demands, uses, and research base. Over the past twenty years, CTA has been increasingly informed by advances in cognitive science and has become an important component for the design of systems and training in many domains. The growing body of literature describing CTA methods, applications, and results mirrors the diverse application and development of CTA methods. There are, however, reviews and classifications to guide those interested in exploring and applying CTA, including a comprehensive “review of reviews” provided by Schraagen, Chipman, and Shute (2000). Cooke (1994) conducted one of the more extensive reviews of CTA. She identified three broad families of...
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