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A Task Analysis of Instructors and Corporate/Organizational Trainers

By Neal Ackerman

EAC 583
North Carolina State University
Introduction

For an individual studying to become an Instructional Designer, there are different career paths one can take
upon completion of the degree. Many students studying Instructional Design come to the crossroads of whether to work as
an Instructional Designer in Academia or in Training and Development for businesses and organizations. This task
analysis examines the job and responsibilities of two individuals. One of which works as an instructor in Academia, who
will be referred to below as Subject One, while the other works in training and development for the Healthcare industry,
who will be referred to below as Subject Two. The goal of this analysis is to help those individuals studying Instructional
design make their career decisions based on the tasks of those who perform the works.
Organization One (Academia)
Organization One is an IT certification training school. The mission of the school is to help students make a
career and life change through the obtainment of a high quality, hands-on education, in order to obtain a rewarding and
fulfilling career in the IT industry (Organization One Employee Handbook). It also specializes in providing training that
is geared to help students obtain certifications through Microsoft, Cisco and CompTIA. Organization One targets
individuals who are unhappy with their current career, whether for personal or financial reasons. Since the majority of
individuals who enroll in the courses at Organization One are looking at changing careers, the training caters to individuals
who dont have a background in the IT industry (Subject One).
Organization One has around 50 employees with many different roles and responsibility. These job titles include:
Executive Directors, Instructors, Admissions Directors, Career Services Directors, Financial Aid Advisors and
Administrators. The subject of this task analysis, who will be referred to as Subject One, is an instructor at Organization
One. The instructors are primarily responsible for the successful delivery of the training content and student academic
outcomes.
Subject One
Subject One was hired as an instructor at Organization One. Since Organization One is a training institution, their
product is knowledge. Instructors are at the heart of the company and Subject One described her role asessentially
providing the product to the customers. Since instructors play such a pivotal role in the success of the the organization,
Organization One has been described as very selective when it comes to the hiring of instructors. They require that they
have over a decade of IT and IT training experience. Subject One fits that job description.
Subject One has a Bachelors degree in Education and started her career at Wordperfect in 1988 as a training
coordinator. She later became a certified Wordperfect instructor and engineer. Her role was a trainer position where she
trained Wordperfect Technical Support specialists. She then went on to work at several smaller IT training companies. At
these organizations she explained that she had to wear many hats as not only an instructor, but also as the Network

Administrator. In addition to several corporate training positions, she also had the opportunity to teach at the High School
level in 2010. There she helped develop curriculum and implement Moodle, a Learning Management System. Subject One
has a passion for teaching, loves to learn, and loves to help others better their own knowledge and skillset. She decided to
work at Organization One because it does not require travel, is financially stable and allows her to teach in a classroom
setting.

Organization Two (Training and Development)


Organization Two is one of the main healthcare systems in North Carolina. Recently this institution implemented
a new Electronic Medical Record system. The reason for the implementation was to more effectively share patient
healthcare records across their healthcare system and other healthcare facilities across the country. In order to implement
the new Electronic Medical Record system, Organization Two launched a massive planning and implementation project.
The project included over a hundred direct support specialists, over 20 analysts who built the software, 20 trainers, 10
supervisors and 2 project directors. The goal of the project was to train Providers and their staff on how to properly use the
new Electronic Medical Record System. Subject Two was hired on to be a direct support specialist and was later promoted
to a supervisor and trainer.
Subject Two
Subject Two has a dual Bachelors degree in Information Technology and Finance and has several IT
Certifications. She has been involved in training since 2005 where she provided financial software training for adult
learners. She also provided financial counseling for a non-profit organization where she educated individuals on debt,
credit, budgeting and homeownership. Later she worked for a college where she developed training materials for the
Financial Aid Department.
In 2012 she was hired on to Organization Two to provide support for the new Electronic Medical Record system.
Subject 2 analyzed clinic workflows and data in order to determine how to best implement current processes into the new
software. She also provided on-site Go-Live support and created how to guides for Providers and their staff. She was
later promoted to a trainer role where she was responsible for developing training materials and providing one-on-one
training to new Go-Live support staff. Subject Two chose to enter the training industry because she enjoys interacting with
people, loves to teach and enjoys problem solvings.
Methods

In order to obtain an accurate picture of the tasks each subject is responsible to complete, multiple methods of
data collection were utilized for this Task Analysis. For Subject One, data was collected through a face-to-face interview,
an examination of organizational records and by observation. Subject Two was also interviewed and observed, however,
Subject Two made it clear that organizational records could not be provided. Having multiple methods of data collection
ensures a full understanding of the subjects tasks. Swanson (2007) writes, Using multiple methods and multiple
perspectives increases the validity of the assessment. For example, trends in organizational records may provide a target
and interviews with workers may reveal the underlying causes (Swanson, p. 108). Utilizing multiple data collection
methods ensured thoroughness in the final report. Each method provided unique opportunities for uncovering information.
Below, this report will discuss the methods used to collect data and how those methods were conducted.
Interviews
Each subject was interviewed individually face-to-face using a combination of structured and unstructured
questions. According to Swanson, a combination of structured and unstructured questions generally yields the best results
(Swanson, 2007, p. 110). While a list of predetermined questions were used, many of the questions were open ended with
several follow up questions to ensure the maximum amount of information was gathered.
Many forms of interviews exist; in-person, telephone or online. The interview method chosen for this analysis
was an in-person interview. The reason a face-to-face interview was chosen, instead of phone or internet, was to obtain
information beyond their verbal responses. Observations were also made from the subjects body language, tone,
inflection and other non-verbal responses (Martin, 2000) given by the subject. These additional observations can hold
important information as to the subjects satisfaction with their current task load. In addition to the subjects non-verbal
responses, the interviewer also used non-verbal methods to elicit better answers. According to Curasi (2003), even
gestures can encourage more detailed responses. He explains how a questioning nod or an interested expression
encourage respondents to provide more detail. Another benefit of an interview is that the interviewer can push for more
elaborate answers should the initial response be insufficient (Curasi, 2003, p.368). During the face-to-face interview many
follow-up questions were used by the interviewer as well as clarifying questions. The interviews were recorded on audio
and below is a list of the predetermined questions that were used:

Describe the type of institution you work for and your role within that organization?
What is your professional background?
o Educational?
o Professional?
o Personal?
What made you decide to work in your field?
What made you decide to work for this organization?
Describe your job and its function within the organization as a whole?

What was the formal job description you were hired to address?
What are the informal tasks you are required to address?
Now, I need to ask you a few questions about the tasks you are required to perform daily, weekly and monthly
o What are you daily tasks?
How long does each task take?
What is the purpose of that task?
What is your strategy for accomplishing those daily tasks?
How do you know/track if those tasks are accomplished successfully?
What are you weekly tasks?
How long does each task take?
What is the purpose of that task?
What is your strategy for accomplishing those daily tasks?
How do you know/track if those tasks are accomplished successfully?
o What are you monthly tasks?
How long does each task take?
What is the purpose of that task?
What is your strategy for accomplishing those daily tasks?
How do you know/track if those tasks are accomplished successfully?
What are your goals
o How do you track those goals?
o What is the mission of the company and how do your goals align with that mission?
o

Observations:
One benefit of collecting data through observation is that tasks were analyzed without being filtered by the
subjects words (Swanson, 2007, p.116). Its was also helpful to see how and when the tasks were performed. The
observation was performed after the interview to compare and contrast how the tasks were described by the subject verses
what was observed. According to Swanson (2007), Gathering details of a specific work behavior by observing the
performer at work results in a much greater level of understanding of the task than does eliciting details through
interviews (p.148). It is clear that gathering data through observation is an essential way to create a complete task
analysis.
Swanson (2007) describes two types of observation; Overt and Covert. During an overt observation, The
observer tells the worker what is going on. The worker knows what the observer is looking for. The observer may even ask
the worker to do certain things in order to help with the observation. In a covert observation, The observer doesnt tell
the worker what is going on. Normally the observer is in plain view, but the worker is unaware of what actually is being
observed (Swanson, 2007, Pg. 116). For the purposes of this task analysis, an overt observation was utilized. Since the
observation was preceded by an interview, an overt observation was really the only option for both subjects and was the
more appropriate choice.
Organizational records:

Although it wasnt possible to obtain the records from Organization Two, Subject One was able to provide
several documents from Organization One. Since Organization One is an IT certification training school, they have
implemented several metrics to track instructor performance. These metrics include student retention rates, attendance,
grades and certification rates. All of the schools data is stored on the CRM Salesforce.com. For this analysis, I was able to
obtain access to Salesforce to review the metrics and numbers for Subject One and the organization. I was also able to
obtain the employee handbook for Organization One, which includes all of the schools policies and procedures. The
employee handbook outlines the mission statement of the school as well as best practices and expectations for employees.
Studying Organizational records were an important part of obtaining a proper task analysis for Subject One. It
allowed me to see the raw numbers of student success. Just as Swanson (2007) describes, the organizational records
allowed me to view trends and compare the success of Subject One to other instructors. Swanson list the main benefits of
analyzing organizational records as being able to analyze areas of loss, corroborate and expand work behavior protocol,
spot and predict trends, consolidate information gathered from other investigative methods, spot cyclical problems and
classify information into categories.

Task Analysis
Subject One and Organization One are significantly different than Subject Two and Organization Two in
procedures, purpose and practices. Therefore, a separate task analysis will be given for each Subject and Organization. The
task analysis for each Subject and Organization will be separated into 3 sections; Procedural, System and Knowledge
Analyses.
Subject One and Organization One
Procedural Tasks: As an instructor, Subject One is responsible for the successful outcomes of students. These
outcomes include high retention, graduation and certification rates. One of the keys to achieving a high graduation,
retention and certification rate is ensuring students have above 90% attendance and that they are completing their
assignments. Therefore, Organization One has implemented a procedure for checking and updating grades and attendance.
They have also been instructed to contact students who are not meeting expectations in order to motivate them. Below is a
procedural task analysis in sequential order for checking grades and attendance and contacting students who are not
meeting their expectations. Subject One stated that she spends roughly 30 minutes per day on the following task:
Task: Ensure all students are meeting attendance and grade standards, update daily attendance records and
contact students who are not meeting minimum standards.
Performance Standards: All students need to meet minimum 90% attendance and a 70% Grade.

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.

Sequential Steps for checking and updating grades and attendance:


Make sure attendance sign-in sheet is on hand
Login to Salesforce.com using designated login information
Go to students tab and pull up current cohort
Check box to confirm attendance for the day
go to reports tab to view overall attendance and grades
in the search box type attendance report and click on it when it pulls up
write down name of any student not meeting 90% attendance
return to reports tab and type Grade Report in search box and click on it when it pulls up
Write down the name of any student not achieve a 70% Grade
Go to Students tab
Click on any student not meeting 70% Grade or 90% attendance
Call student and record any important information in notes section of Salesforce.com
Systemic Tasks: In order for Subject One to be successful, it is extremely important that she understand her role

in the organization as whole and how her tasks contribute to the mission of the organization. The mission of Organization
One is not simply the successful academic completion of the program, it is to help students make a career and life
change (Organization One Employee Handbook). Therefore, it is important that subject one understands what she is
required to do to contribute to that mission.
A system Purpose and Spine is one way to start a systemic task analysis. Swanson outlines how this is done. He
explains, The system spine is a simplified diagram of the overall work system task where the three major components of
a general system are named: input, process, and output. You start by identifying the output of the system in creating the
purpose and spine of the system (Swanson, 2007, pg.193) . Based on the data collected the following System Spine was
created:

Using the System Spine above we are able to identify several systemic task Subject One is responsible to
oversee. One of the most important systemic tasks the instructor is required to perform is keeping students motivated.
While I was observing Organization One, I noticed that many students got discouraged when they failed a certification
test, didnt get a job or felt like they werent understanding the curriculum. Subject One was responsible for having oneon-one discussion with students when they were losing their motivation to convince them to finish the program. This goes
hand-in-hand with retention and graduation rates, but also with the companys mission. Subject one explained during the
interview that she spend roughly one hour per day counseling, motivating and tutoring students in addition to her regular
classes.
Knowledge Tasks: Swanson explains that knowledge tasks deal with non-visible work expertise that focus on
people--idea and people-people workplace expertise (Swanson, 2007, p.218). As explained by Swanson (2007), the first

step to identify knowledge tasks is to identify Performance Standards. Organization One had predetermined performance
standards which were obtained through organizational records. The goals for their instructors are as follows: 95%
Retention by Midpoint, 90% Retention by Graduation, 3 Certifications by Midpoint, 6 Certifications by Graduation, 77%
Graduation Rate (Organization One Employee Handbook). Subject One is considered a high-performing instructor and
expert that has been in IT training for over 30 years. Her expertise in conjunction with a Literature Analysis will describe
what is required to achieve the performance standards.
Since Organization One is a school that helps students develop skills for a technology based career, they employ
a hands-on learning mentality. This type of learning correlates well with the Constructivist Learning Theory. According to
a Constructivist Theory, learning happens as learners dissect new information and figure it out for themselves by building
on previous knowledge and experiences (Bruner, 1973). According to Mohanna & Waters (2008) students need to be
actively involved in discovering new learning, which is constructed by comparison of new information with existing
knowledge. It is important that students are actively involved in discovering new learning, which is constructed by
comparison of new information with existing knowledge (Mohanna & Waters, 2008). It is the job of Subject One to
facilitate and even create these active, hands-on learning experiences in class.
When I observed a class I found that Subject One was indeed doing an incredible job preparing and delivering
very effective hands-on labs. I observed students as they worked together to install and configure a router. During the
interview, Subject One described to me how she was required to carefully prepare for class so as to provide an authentic
hands-on learning experience for her students. She also described that during a class or a lab, she monitors students to
make sure the are performing their tasks correctly. She explained that if students are struggling with a lab, she doesnt
always give them the answer, but helps them find the answers for themselves. These are tasks and practices that Subject
One performs that allows her to be so successful in her field.
Subject Two and Organization Two
Procedural Tasks: Swanson describes procedural tasks as the method to use for documenting work performed
in a series of steps and substeps (Swanson, 2007, p.164). Since the product Organization Two was providing was not a
physical product, the majority of the tasks were systemic or knowledge based. However, analyzing workflows and creating
how-to guides would fall into the procedural task category. According to Subject Two, this procedural task was a task
that takes 5-6 days to accomplish, but is something that only needs to occur once with every clinic. Below is a procedural
task analysis for analyzing a workflow and creating a how to guide:
Task: Observed workflow in order to show providers and staff how to enter workflows into the electronic
medical record system.

Performance standards: When Providers and their staff can demonstrate how to perform their workflow using
the new electronic medical record system.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

Sequential steps for performing the above stated task:


Shadow Providers and their staff in order to observe workflows
Create detailed notes on the workflow
Through trial and error, discover how to enter workflow into the electronic medical record system
Create step-by-step how to guides on entering workflows into the electronic medical records system
Distribute how to guides to clinics to allow them to practice entering workflows into the new system
Organize a dress rehearsal with staff to ensure they have properly learned the process.
Systemic Tasks: In order for Subject Two to successfully accomplish her goals of training and support, it is

necessary that she understand all of the different departments that contribute to the implementation of the new electronic
medical records system. Because there are several departments within the health system, the new electronic medical
records system has many tools and parts. For example it has financial tools like billing and coding, charting tools,
perscription tools, lab result tools and so on. In order to effectively train providers and staff and new support specialists on
the electronic medical records system, it is necessary that Subject Two is familiar with all of the individual parts that make
up the health care system. For example, Subject Two was required to learn about billing and coding, how prescriptions are
written, how providers chart patient notes and how labs are processed.
Knowledge Tasks: One of the most important aspects of Subject Ones job was to train Providers, their staff and
new support specialist on the electronic medical records system. Therefore, having the expertise to successfully train adult
learners is an important aspect of the job. The way Organization Two measured the success of the trainers was through the
use of surveys. Surveys were given to the Providers and their staff to rate how well the support staff trained on the new
software. If they felt their training was inadequate, they would be able to express the displeasure through the survey.
Subject Two always earned high praise for her ability to train at a high level. For this reason not only was she promoted,
but her training materials were published nationally and she received recognition in a healthcare publication for
outstanding work. Therefore, she would qualify as an expert trainer in this subject matter.
During the interview, Subject Two discussed the elements that need to be present to achieve performance
standards. She explained that the most important element for success is that the trainer needs to have a deep understanding
of how the electronic medical record system works. Subject Two also observed that unsuccessful trainers were simply
reading from a script and didnt have proper knowledge of the system. This meant that when a trainer was reading from a
script, they were teaching at a one-size-fits-all mentality. She also described that many of the users being trained have a
very limited knowledge base in regards to technology and software. For this reason training needs to be individualized to

the learner and adapted to their pace and limitations. According to Subject Two, patience is also a vital trait for a
successful trainer.
The ideas expressed by Subject Two are supported by research and existing literature on adult learning. Since the
individuals being trained are working professionals, which are almost always adult learners, it is important to factor in
learning theories that are most effective for adult learners. Cross (1981) outlines three important principles that should be
factored in when training adults. They are:
1.

Adult learning programs should capitalize on the experience of participants

2.

Adult learning programs should adapt to the aging limitations of the participants

3.

Adults should be challenged to move increasingly advanced stages of personal development.


These principles outlined by Cross (1981) and reinforced by Subject Two make it clear that when dealing with

adult learners it is important adapt training to the learner and not read from a script. Trainers simply reading from a script
would be unable to interact with the trainees to utilize their previous experience; they would also be unable to adapt their
training to the specific needs of the learner. Finally, its important to understand that while many adult learners dont like
learning new technologies and systems, it is important that they are challenged and pushed even if they are unhappy about
it. In regards to the new electronic medical records system, many Providers and staff were against the implementation of
the new software, but it was important that trainers knew how to push and motivate them to learn the system regardless of
their attitudes towards the new technology.
Implications
I found that both the interview and observations made it clear that both Subject One and Subject Two are deeply
passionate about their careers and enjoyed their work. Both were high performers in their respective fields and it became
evident that having a passion for the work is a critical element for success. For those interested in pursuing a career in
Instructional Design, having a desire to teach others should be an important consideration. Kupka (2012), a contributor for
Forbes, writes about the importance of having a passion or love for one's job. She writes, Success is not the key to
happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful (Kupka, 2012). It can
be assumed that regardless of where one chooses to work, being passionate can not only make the work more enjoyable,
but will lead to high success.
Another important implications that was discovered was that both individuals were extremely knowledgeable
about their subject matter. Subject One had been in IT for over 30 years and Subject Two explained that the reason many
trainers were ineffective was because they didnt have sufficient knowledge to do the job. She explained that her job

required extensive problem solving and if trainers did not possess sufficient knowledge about the electronic medical
records system, they became unable effectively train.
Organization One and Organization Two utilize different tactics to meet their demands for expertise in the
workforce. As mentioned earlier, Organization One has a very rigid hiring practice when it comes to their instructors
which is how they obtain expertise. Organization Two develops expertise by training and promoting successful employees.
Both tactics, hiring expertise or developing it, can be effective, but the result of not doing either can be catastrophic.
Swanson (2007) points out that without proper expertise in the workforce, companies have been forced to close down
large-scale operations when their workforce has neither the expertise nor capacity that meets the demands of the new
processes (p.129). In the case of both organizations that were analyzed, without proper expertise, they would have
suffered devastating losses. In the case of Organization One, without proper expertise, their certification, job placement,
graduation and retention rates would plummet resulting in the likely closure of the business. In the case of Organization
Two, without proper expertise, the new electronic medical records system would not be properly implemented leading to
catastrophic results for that particular healthcare system.
For those individuals who are interested in pursuing a career in training and development, or as an instructor, it is
clear that in order to be successful at the job, one needs to spend a significant amount of time developing expertise. This
expertise takes time and years to develop. It would be a great benefit to the aspiring Trainer or Instructional Designer to
look for an organization that invests in the development of the their staff through proper training.
Finally, upon close inspection of the Task Analysis, it is clear that both job require a significant investment of
time and energy to be successful. In my interview with Subject One we added her workweek to equal approximately 60
hours per week when factoring the classes themselves, preparation for classes, counseling students, providing tutoring and
developing personal expertise. In addition to the 40 hours per week Subject Two spent on-site at her job, she explained that
she also spent several additional hours at home simply studying how to use the electronic medical records system, creating
how to guides and responding to emails. For those interested in pursuing a career in training and development, teaching
or instructional design, it can be concluded that there are many important tasks that need to be completed, some of which
require a significant time investment.
Conclusion
The goal of this analysis was to take a look at the different tasks assigned to an instructional designer in both training and
development at the business and organizational level and the academic level. One can analyze the tasks of both Subject
One and Subject Two and decide which set of tasks sound most appealing. Both occupations present a wide range of
benefits and challenges. Neither direction is better that the other, but one may be a better fit depending on the individual.

References
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Kupka, A. (2012, January 26). Why You Need To Love Your Job. Forbes, 1.
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