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Task Analysis & Chaining Project

Madeline Cross

EDU 347

Task Analysis and Chaining Project

Student Information

The student chosen for this project was a 3-year-old boy named Jake who first began

attending school in early October of this year. Jake is currently in an inclusive general education

preschool classroom where there is a general education teacher, a special interventionist and a

volunteer present in the classroom. Jake is Caucasian and comes from a stable family and home

life. His parents are married and Jake has a younger brother who is 18 months old. His mom is

a stay-at –home mom and his dad currently works as a software engineer and travels quite

frequently for work.

Currently, Jake is non-verbal and has been diagnosed with a visual impairment due to eye

cancer. As a result of his eye cancer, Jake has to wear glasses at all times and his motor

coordination fine and gross and his ability to walk are severely impaired. Moreover, he is very

unstable and needs help in ambulating throughout the classroom, as well as during transitions,

lunch, and music. Generally the teacher, special interventionist, or volunteer will help Jake to

get to where he needs to be through guidance and by holding his hand. Jake is also not potty

trained and wears a pull-up to school. For the most part, Jake is a very happy child, and loves

engaging in new projects. He plays well with his peers and uses the dolls and toys in the kitchen

for imaginative play. He does not have any behavioral issues and is positively reinforced with

Ipad time, farm toys, and positive praise

At the preschool level the primary focus of instruction is one’s ability to engage in daily

routines, answering questions, writing one’s name, identifying shapes, recognizing colors,

showing interest in the books read, being able to count up to 10 and identification of letters. In

looking at Jason’s report card, his performance in all of these areas is very low. Currently, Jake

is unable to recognize any letters or shapes, and cannot count to 10. Jake can sort up to two or

three colors, however for the most part, he is unable to recognize any of the basic colors. As for

writing his name, this is another task that Jake is unable to do due to poor fine motor

coordination. Additionally, given the fact that Jason is not yet speaking, he does not engage in

answering questions. Moreover, Jake requires many verbal, gestural, and partial physical

prompts in order to get him to engage in activities. He does not need adaptations or

modifications during assessments because observations are used as the means of assessment.

However during class instruction time he receives three accommodations, which are modeling,

extra practice and prompting of all kinds. In terms of daily routines, Jake is making significant

improvements in areas regarding social interaction, responding to the teacher, putting forth effort

and sitting during large group and small group instruction.

In summation, Jake has an individualized educational plan (IEP). Under Jake’s IEP, he

has seven areas where he is performing very poorly or below average. Moreover, Jake’s IEP

targets cognition, receptive communication, expressive communication, social emotional, fine

motor physical development, gross motor physical development, and adaptive behavior.

Currently, Jake is pulled out of the classroom for 60 minutes a month, which reduces to 20

minutes per week. The hope is that through one-on-one instruction, physical therapy,

occupational therapy and speech therapy he will be able to make steps towards better

communication, better motor coordination and overall more engagement during classroom


Targeted Task: Washing Hands

In talking with the special interventionist, Jake is able to follow simple directions, but

often times these simple directions are paired with prompts. By the end of this chaining project,

Jake should be able to independently wash his hands with minimal to no prompting. Washing

hands can be described as Jake’s ability to know where the bathroom is, being able to turn the

water on and off, wetting his hands, rinsing his hands after getting soap, knowing where the

paper towels are and using the paper towels to dry his hands. This is an important task to learn

because this task provides oneself with a sense of cleanliness, independence and it demonstrates

one’s ability to follow directions. This further fosters the student’s quality of life by teaching the

students the importance of sanitation and healthy living. In addition, washing hands is a

necessary life skill that prevents one from getting sick and passing sickness around to those in

the classroom. This is an imperative task to use before lunch and breakfast and after recess, as

students are more prone to use their hands at those times. Moreover, the focus of this skill helps

students to cognitively process simple directions and to demonstrate their knowledge of those

simple directions. Academically this skill will further reiterate the importance of following

directions and the importance of following the steps in the process. The hope is that by teaching

this functional skill to Jake, it will hopefully open the doors to other functional skills that need to

be developed such as going to the bathroom and dressing.

The teaching of this skill also promotes independence and it will enhance Jake’s quality

of life. Moreover this skill promotes independence through eventual recognition of times when

hands should be washed. By providing Jake with certain times to wash his hands, the hope is

that Jake will recognize this and begin to take responsibility for his personal health and realize

the importance of hygiene. In addition Jake’s quality of life will improve because hopefully this

skill will translate into his home life. Furthermore as touched upon, and with much practice this

skill can be generalized throughout all activities that occur during the school day. Such activities

include the washing of hands after an involved craft, when the student’s hands become

contaminated, before lunch, after recess, or after a field trip. As a result this task is a short- term

plan within a long-term plan. As stated before, the hope is that Jake will turn this short-term plan

into a long-term plan by practicing this skill at home, and not just during school activities.

Task Analysis

A task analysis refers to the teaching of a behavior generally a functional behavior such

as washing hands, dressing, brushing teeth, etc. into concise steps (Bancroft, Weiss, Libby, &

Ahearn, 2001). Task analyses are also known as response chains, where by the use of prompts

and reinforcements are used to aid in the completion of the task (Slocum & Tiger, 2011).

However before introducing a task analysis to a student a detailed observation of the task must

be done. After a thorough observation of the task has occurred, the teacher can then tailor the

task to best fits the needs of the student and decide how the task analysis is going to be carried

out (Miltenberger, 2018). Ways in which tasks can be carried out can take various forms; these

forms include forward, backward or total task chaining (Bancroft et. al., 2011).

To ensure that Jake will be able to independently perform the target task, the task was

broken down into nine steps as follows:


Table 1

Jake’s target skill of washing hands

1 Turn on water

2 Wet hands

3 Push soap 2 times

4 Rub hands together for 5 seconds

5 Rinse hands under water

6 Turn the water off

7 Pull down paper towel

8 Dry hands for 5 seconds

9 Put paper in garbage

However, there are prerequisite skills that Jake should be able to know how to do or have

knowledge of how to these skills when performing the task. Such prerequisite skills include

knowing which handle corresponds to hot and cold, physical strength to turn the handles, as well

as physical strength to pull down the paper towels, and a general knowledge of a bathroom

layout. A challenge that occurred during the initial observation stage of the task, was a lack of a

garbage can in the bathroom. This was something that was not taken into consideration initially,

but soon thereafter taken into account and added to the bathroom.

The way in which data was collected for this task analysis was through percentage of

opportunities. Percentage of opportunities to respond refers to the amount of times an

opportunity was presented to the student to engage in a behavior (Miltenberger, 2018). For this

particular task, opportunities to respond were provided through the two scheduled sessions for

each day, therefore data was collected twice a day. Throughout these sessions, prompts were

recorded to show the increase or decrease in independence for the steps of the task. Prompts

included verbal, gestural, model, partial physical, and full physical.

Chaining Procedures

There are various forms of chaining that can be used when teaching a task to a student.

The various forms of chaining include, total task, forward, chaining, and backward chaining

(Bancroft et. al., 2011). Total task chaining refers to the full participation in the behavioral

sequence. Moreover, the use of prompts are more present in this particular method, as the

teacher strives for the fullest participation and progressively lessens the prompts over time until

the student reaches independence (Miltenberger, 2018). Another method used to teach a task is

forward chaining (Hur & Osborne, 1993). Forward chaining refers to the independent

portraying of a step to fluency, achieved through the isolated teaching of one particular step at a

time. Once a student has demonstrated a clear imitation of the step, further instruction regarding

the steps in the sequence are addressed (Slocum & Tiger, 2011). Additionally an important

element that should not be overlooked is the use of reinforcement after the student engages in a

step (Miltenberger, 2018). Lastly, backward chaining deals with the instruction of the last step

followed by the sequential teaching of the steps behind the final step until the first step of the

task is achieved (Bancroft et. al., 2011).

For this particular task and student, forward chaining was used as the means to teach the

task analysis. The reason forward chaining was used for this particular student is because during

the observation phase, there were some steps that Jake could do independently, however there

were other steps that he could not do independently. For this reason there was a need to teach

isolated steps that Jake struggled with.


In a study done by Ash and Holding (1990), these researchers advocate for the use of

forward chaining and show the validity of forward chaining as opposed to backward chaining in

learning how to use a musical keyboard. Moreover these researchers saw significant

improvements whereby fewer mistakes were committed by the participants through the use of

forward chaining. In another study done by Hur and Osborne (1993) these researchers examined

the task of constructing corsages, through the use of forward chaining and backward chaining.

This study found that, both forms of chaining proved to be successful, however, the mentors used

in this study acknowledged the fact that forward chaining was easier to implement. In light of

these studies, evidence seems to show the successful implementation of forward chaining with

individuals. More importantly, there seems to be a direct correlation between teaching isolated

steps (Slocum & Tiger, 2011), and the validity of using forward chaining to teach tasks

(Shrestha, Anderson, & Moore, 2013).

In addition to using forward chaining, reinforcement will also be provided continuously

after each step until Jake reaches mastery of washing his hands. According to Miltenberger

(2018), reinforcement is an important component to incorporate into the chaining process

because it helps the student to identify that a correct behavior was performed and it establishes

the importance of the behavior. Furthermore, in talking with the teacher, Jake does very well

with positive verbal praise. During the observation phase, upon watching Jake engage in the

steps, positive verbal praise was used throughout the chain and his positive response further

affirmed the importance of using this type of reinforcement.


Baseline Intervention

Figure 1. AB graph depicting the number of steps that the student could do independently during
the baseline and intervention phases of washing hands.

Figure 2. Bar graph depicting the amount of prompts needed for each session that washing
hands was presented to the student.

During the baseline phase of this experiment as depicted in figure 1, the level shows an

average of 4 steps that Jake can complete independently. In addition in looking at baseline the

figure shows that there is minimal variability and a decreasing trend. In intervention however,

figure 1 depicts an increasing trend with regressions around sessions 14 and 15. There is a slight

increase however not by much as the level depicts and average of 5 steps out of 9 that Jake could

complete independently. Therefore the intervention of foreword chaining should continue until

Jake reaches independence on all steps. Additionally there is minimal variability in in the

intervention phase and some overlap is shown in 6 data points between baseline and the

intervention. As for immediacy of effect, though the effects of the intervention are not shown

immediately, as the sessions continue the intervention does begin to have a significant effect

beginning at session 9.

More specifically in analyzing the data gathered, Jake responded very well to the use of

forward chaining to complete the task of washing hands. During the intervention phase it was

evident that Jake enjoyed the water so focusing Jake’s attention on the next step of getting soap

and rubbing his hands after getting soap were crucial steps highly targeted and explicitly taught.

For getting soap, verbals, modeling, gesturals and full physical prompts were used to teach this

step. Though Jake did not master this step, he did show improvements in turning his body

toward the soap and in attempting to get soap. However due to his poor motor coordination and

lack of strength full physical prompts were used to help him complete this step. The following

step, which was rubbing hands was also taken out of the chain and explicitly taught using

verbals, gestures, modeling and full physical prompts. Initially it took Jake some time to grasp

this step, however by session 9 he only needed a verbal prompt and by sessions 10 and 11 he was

able to do this independently. Though Jake made improvements in being able to perform certain

task independently, he still has not reached mastery of washing his hands independently. More

specifically figure 1 indicates that Jake’s highest number of independence for each session

regarding washing hands was six independently performed steps out of nine steps. Therefore

there is an increasing need to continue to focus on this task using forward chaining until Jake

reaches independence on all steps.

In addition, throughout this chaining process, reinforcement of verbal praise was used

after each step of the chain. Whether Jake was able to do it independently or not verbal praise

was given. This method of reinforcement was chosen in seeing a positive response to the use of

verbal praise during the baseline collection of data. More importantly it should be noted that not

only was this effective but it also motivated Jake to work harder to reach mastery of the steps in

the chain.

Future Recommendations

In the future, it is evident that Jake has made significant improvements in regards to

washing hands, however Jake still needs prompts because not all steps in the chain have reached

mastery. More specifically, Jake still needs targeted instruction for the skill of getting soap,

rubbing his hands, turning the water off and getting a paper towel. Due to his poor motor

coordination, this is one area of significant difficulty for Jake. By the end of the intervention

phase, Jake still needed verbal and full physical prompts to get soap and to rub his hands. In

addition, after Jake finished rinsing his hands verbal and gestural prompts were needed to get

Jake to engage in turning the water off and to pull down a paper towel to dry his hands. In

reviewing Jake’s performance, it is clear that he is not ready to move onto more complicated

self-help skills. Rather more time to practice washing hands, specifically getting soap, rubbing

hands, learning to turn the water off, and being able to get a paper towel would prove to be

beneficial and may lead to the eventual mastery of the task. Additionally, positive verbal praise

should continue to proceed intermittently for tasks that Jake can do independently and

continuously for getting soap, rubbing hands, turning the water off and for pulling the paper

towel down. When Jake reaches mastery of washing his hands, the next step would be to then

teach Jake at what time he should wash his hands such as before breakfast, before lunch, after

using the restroom and after recess.

Unforeseen challenges were also a prominent obstacle throughout this task analysis.

Initially in my first task analysis, I incorporated the skill of being able to roll up sleeves. At that

point in time this seemed like the most logical course of action, given the fact that during the

observation phase Jake would turn on the water and begin to wash his hands without rolling up

his sleeves. Moreover the problem arose, when Jake would occasionally wear short sleeve shirts

to school, instead of a long sleeve shirt. In the future, more communication to the parents about

Jake’s attire should be more actively pursued. Another challenge in conducting this task analysis

was Jake’s poor motor coordination and strength. Jake struggled in using one hand to get soap.

More often than not, the soap would end up on the floor and not on his hand. In the future, I

think a visual model such a picture of and individual pumping soap would have been useful

along with a slight modification to getting soap. In Jake’s instance, he should use two hands to

get soap; one hand under the dispenser and the other hand used to push the soap.

Despite these challenges, Jake responded very well to positive verbal praise after

completing a task. Another satisfying reward was seeing Jake’s vigor and excitement whenever I

took him to wash his hands. During the times when verbal positive praise was given for the

completion of the appropriate task, his face would light up and in working with Jake, this was

something that was very gratifying. In short, Jake was always excited to learn and I never had

any issues with noncompliance.



Ash, D. W., & Holding, D. H. (1990). Backward versus forward chaining in the acquisition of

a keyboard skill. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and

Ergonomics, 32(2), 139-146.

Bancroft, S. L., Weiss, J. S., Libby, M. E., & Ahearn, W. H. (2011). A comparison of procedural

variations in teaching behavior chains: Manual guidance, trainer completion, and no

completion of untrained steps. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 44(3), 559-569.

Hur, J. J., & Osborne, S. (1993). A comparison of forward and backward chaining methods used

teaching corsage making skills to mentally retarded adults. The British Journal of

Developmental Disabilities, 39(77), 108-117.

Miltenberger, R. G. (2018). Behavior modification: Principles and procedures (6th ed., pp. 181-

240). Boston, MA: Cenage Learning.

Shrestha, A., Anderson, A., & Moore, D. W. (2013). Using point-of-view video modeling and

forward chaining to teach a functional self-help skill to a child with autism. Journal

of Behavioral Education, 22(2), 157-167.

Slocum, S. K., & Tiger, J. H. (2011). An Assessment of the efficiency of and child preference for

forward and backward chaining. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 44(4), 793-805.


Review of Records

1. What items did you review (e.g., sample work, report card, progress reports, behavioral
records, IEP, BIP, FBA, anecdotal notes, etc.)?
 His IEP and report card were reviewed
 He is visually impaired and non-verbal
 His cognition is very poor, his receptive communication is very poor, his expressive
communication is very poor, his social emotional skills are below average, fine motor
physical development is poor, gross moor physical development is below average, and
his adaptive behavior is very poor.
 However he is good at following simple directions
 He also likes learning labs and being around his peers

2. Record information on the student’s current level of performance as it related to their

grades, goals, and current level of development.
 His present level of performance is very low
 Reading, spelling, writing, and math
 He can sort colors and do puzzles
 He does not know his letters, shapes, colors or numbers

3. Does the student receive any accommodations or modifications in the classroom or

during assessments?
 No accommodations or modifications are given for assessment
 Mostly observations are done by the teacher- the teacher uses anecdotal notes to provide
evidence of the student’s performance
 Students engage in online-testing
 Mostly prompting and modeling are provided for this student

4. How much of the school day does the student spend in the general education environment
per the IEP?
 He receives 60 minutes a month for occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech
 The 60 minutes is then broken down to 20 minutes a week.

5. Does the student have a completed FBA, BIP, or another behavior-specific plan?
 He does not have an FBA, BIP, or another behavior specific plan

6. After reviewing the information, what was most helpful and interesting? What impact,
guidance, or influence does it have on your chaining project?
 What was most helpful was not only talking to the special ed. teacher but being able to
ask questions about the IEP of the student and understanding the format of the IEP
 What I found most interesting was how excited he was when I took him to engage in the
task analysis- he was always very excited and very ready to learn.

 I also found it interesting that though he does not speak, he can understand simple
directions and he does make facial expressions when you talk to him
 He is also very good at imitating others and positive verbal praise is a great reinforcer.
 This is helpful in understanding how to formulate my task analysis and in getting to know
my student on a deeper level.
 In having the background knowledge that he can follow simple directions, I will strive to
order my instructions to the best of my abilities in a way that benefits his needs.

7. What additional information would you be interested in obtaining?

 I would be interested in sitting in on an occupational speech or physical therapy sessions
in order see how the therapist works with the student.
 Additionally, I would have liked to have given the Brigance assessment so that I could
see exactly where he is at for cognition, motor skills, adaptive skills etc.

Teacher Interview

Student Pseudonym: Jake

Grade: Preschool

Age: 3

Environment: Urban

Parents/Guardians: Mom and Dad are married. Dad travels a lot as he is a soft-ware
engineer and mom is a stay-at home mom

Siblings: Younger brother Vinny, who is 18 months old.

Current Grades in School: can sort 2 or 3 colors successfully. Will sit and attend to large
and small group instruction. Non-verbal at this time.

Present Level of Performance:

Reading: He is non-verbal, doesn’t really show an interest in books, is unable to

identify characters or answer questions about a story read, and he cannot identify
or recognize colors, however he can follow simple directions.

Spelling: He does not know the letters of the alphabet nor can he identify any, he
also does not know how to spell his name.

Writing: His fine motor skills are very poor which impairs his ability to be able to
write his name.

Math: He is on unable to count to ten, he cannot sequence a set of objects or extend

a pattern, and he does not know shapes such as a circle, square, triangle, rectangle,
cube, sphere, heart, star, and diamond.

Any adaptations in place for taking assessments? No adaptions are put into place for
assessments given the fact that they are online tests and evidence of the student’s
performance is provided by anecdotal notes and observation. However throughout the
day, Jake receives a lot of prompting and modeling to get him to engage in certain tasks.

Academic Strengths: Happy, willing to work, tries hard and try new things. When given the
opportunity to work one-on-one with an adult, he does very well. He also engages in
learning labs but needs verbal prompting to do so.

Academic Areas for Improvement: Non-verbal, needs a lot of verbal prompting

Behavioral Strengths: Very sweet and happy. Tries hard and is willing to try new activities.
He also plays very well with his peers.

Behavioral Areas for Improvement: There are no behavioral issues as he nonverbal and
has difficulties walking around the room. However if you get mad, or provide negative
punishment or praise, he becomes very offended.

Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP)? No

Describe the level of independent functional skills. Maximum prompts for dressing, not
toilet trained, needs help ambulating through the classroom environment. He can be very
wobbly and unstable.

Describe social skills and relationships with peers: Enjoys playing alongside his peers.
Uses dolls and toys in the kitchen for imaginative play. He also enjoys imitating others
especially during music time.

Describe organization and decision-making skills: He is very good at pointing to things that
he wants or pulling your hand in the direction of something. He also imitates what he

Describe things that he/she finds motivating and reinforcing: He likes the Ipad, toy stroller,
and farm toys. Positive praise is also an effective reinforcer; however he becomes easily
offended if you tell him no.

Goals or aspirations the parents have for their child for this school year: To develop a form
of communication- sentence strip to request, ipad voice output device, showing adults what
he wants.