Saturday, November 12, 2011

Task Analysis - An Approach to Improving Literacy and Numeracy

A child experiencing a learning disability in the area of reading can face a great deal of frustration and low self-esteem regarding his or her academic abilities. The skill to physically read words and comprehend their meaning in any subject area is vital. Whether the student is studying language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, or another major subject, reading is necessary to fully absorb the concept. Unfortunately, the term "dyslexia" is a label often used to encompass a wide spectrum of reading difficulties.

This misconception stems from an erroneous link to the medical condition "dyslexia" as a means finding a cause for a child's reading issues. Due to the complexity of finding a cause for a reading disability, recent educational research has shifted toward locating the instructional difficulty that the child is experiencing. An instructional difficulty can be defined as "a problem acquiring or maintaining required skills in critical areas, such as language arts, spelling, mathematics ...etc." Creating an effective solution to an instructional difficulty can alleviate anxiety and boost confidence as the student improves in his or her academic environment.

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In previous years, the lack of skills or "skill deficit" in the area of reading was remediated through instruction catering to individual differences. The popular approaches were the "clinical model," focusing on issues with a student's disability, and the "psychological model," focusing on the academic strengths of a student. As an alternative to both types of remediation, the task analytic approach is centered on a sequence of tasks to be taught in a specified manner with constant feedback on student progress, rather than a student's learning disability.

It is similar to an outline. The set of tasks, created for the student to meet a long term goal or objective, is built on a hierarchy of steps. It moves from general to specific. The logical nature of task analysis allows instruction to follow a guideline or set of tasks with short term goals throughout the instructional plan. These smaller goals help the student achieve success and build confidence, as they work toward the long term goal.

As teachers formulate the instructional plan, they not only consider the necessary skills to be taught to reach the long term goal, but they must also incorporate quantifiable methods for measuring student achievement. Task analysis requires teachers to create logical and concrete ways to measure a student's success at each point in the instructional plan. If a student has not performed well on the evaluation or mastered the skill, then further practice is required until the student masters the specific skill or subskill.

Subskills are smaller skills to help students reach short term goals. Students are not measured against the performance of other students, but on their ability to meet the tasks created for them. The assessments are based on whether or not the student can perform the skill. Continuous evaluation allows the teacher to measure student progress in a precise manner and on a daily basis. With the individualized nature of task analysis, each child is permitted to practice a skill at his or her own rate until mastery occurs. Mastery is reached when a student's response is accurate and timely.

Although the instructional plan and the evaluation process are very specific and task oriented, teacher involvement is an essential part of the approach. The teacher creates the sequenced instructional plan based on expertise, experience, and interaction with the student. He or she decides which tasks are essential for the student to achieve the long and short term goals, and the necessary proficiency level.

Teachers, utilizing a task analysis approach, incorporate certain techniques in their programmed sequence of lessons, such as motivational factors to inspire and maintain a student's attention, and clearly presented tasks for a student to complete. They also offer opportunities for student participation, and provide teacher feedback to the student. Reaching a mastery level for any set of skills or tasks is aided by a teacher's positive influence on a student through incentives, rewards, positive reinforcement ...etc. Verbal praise and academic success are major motivators. An organized and precise instructional plan coupled with a dedicated teacher results in student success.

The task analysis approach is geared toward individualized instruction and continuous assessment. In the area of reading, the approach is used to remedy difficulties through small, logical steps leading to a general goal. Many students feel defeated when they are unable to achieve success in the classroom. By conquering smaller tasks, a student gains confidence in his or her ability. Constant evaluation with each subskill, keeps the teacher abreast on student progress. Mastering each sequenced step provides a solid foundation for the overall instructional goal. The task analysis approach is utilized in literacy as a logic-based remediation method to improve reading skills as well as provide tools for student success.

Task Analysis - An Approach to Improving Literacy and Numeracy

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