COGNITIVE TASK ANALYSIS
The cognitive demands of a task can be examined using a process called cognitive task analysis. A cognitive task analysis produces predominantly verbal descriptions rather than quantitative measurements that may be compared across tasks.
Much like behavioral task analysis, cognitive task analysis requires that the task be decomposed into its constituent parts. The process is often time consuming, requiring observation of highly competent individuals plus a detailed examination and description of the step-by-step cognitive requirements for successful performance. Many variations of cognitive task analysis have been developed.
Using the ICA to determine a measurable level of cognitive task load does not negate the value of a cognitive task analysis or vice versa. Rather, the two approaches complement each other. On the one hand, the ICA reveals the level of task load present in a task and provides a quantitative estimate. On the other hand, the cognitive task analysis identifies which cognitive skills and processes are required by the task. Results from both may be used to improve our understanding of the task as well as an individual’s performance on the task.
For more information about how to conduct a cognitive task analysis, see Chipman, S., Schraagen, J., & Shalin, V. (2000) Introduction to cognitive task analysis. In J. Schraagen, S. Chipman & V. Shute (Eds.), Cognitive Task Analysis (pp. 3-23). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates).
For a review of the most prevalent techniques, see Clark, R.E., Feldon, D., Van Merrienboer, J.J.G., Yates, K., and Early, S. (2008) Cognitive task analysis. In J.M. Spector, M.D. Merrill, J.J.G. van Merrienboer, & M.P. Driscoll (Eds.). Handbook of research on educational communications and technology (3rd edition). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.