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Task Centre Approach Work

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Hearing the topic, a series of questions come to our mind, like who is going to use the system, what task are we talking of, what goals are the users trying to achieve, how are tasks learned, how are tasks performed etc. Task analysis is the process of collecting data about the different tasks that people perform and to acquire a deep uunderstanding of it. In other words, it is the process of understanding the user requirements from a user interface and the type of requirement, the user is dealing with. It is required to focus on user rather than information objects. As indicated in the case study, task-centred social work is an effective approach while carrying out a needs base assessment and care plan. Coulshed ad Orme (1998) define task-centred social work as the creationn of Reid and Shyne(1969)  who focussed the effectiveness of short term focus case intervention, for eg. PSI (planned short-term intervention) launched for school children to evaluate their efficiency and activity is one such application. The main purpose of task analysis is to get a thorough understanding of work performance and describing it accurately. It intends at covering the full scope of work-job responsibilities and associated tasks. For example, for a health care organization, the necessary task is the design, implementation and maintenance of a safe medication use system. Adams, Dominelli and Payne (1998), statement about task-centred social work is that it is a systematic model of social work with a coherent and explicit value base which address issues of power and oppression. The basic steps in performing task analysis are:

  • Introduction to task analysis
  • Task analysis theories
  • Data collection techniques
  • Modeling and interpretation
  • Envisioning

In this essay, we will deal with the Task Centre Work in detail, with reference to the case. We will come to know about the service user needs, reason for referral problems, identification and analysis, taking an example of Mary (83 year old, Asian woman) from the case.

Service User Needs,identification and analysis: The requirements of each individual is different. It can be his goals, his expectation from his life and job. User requirements can be brought to the knowledge of service providers by performing an analysis on real users using existing software and processes so that full understanding of users goals can be achieved. Task analysis involves a deep observation of the users of your product and their everyday activity, which is necessary for knowing their interaction with your product. It is required to grasp, what your user thinks.

Identifying needs of the user is an ability to collect enough of the information about the user, and this can be done only in right kind of environment ( Couldshed and Orme, 1992). Mary’s assessment was done under the provision of Section 47 of the National Health Services and Community Care Act 1990, National Standard Framework for Older People (1,2,6,7) and the guidelines outlined in the Agency’s Assessment and Care management policies and procedures (ACM3 Version 1, April 2003). The assessment procedure was almost comparable to the stages of assessment described in Milner and O’Byrne (2002). This includes: planning assessment, execution of assessment, reporting, developing a care plan with the client, getting managerial authorization before final submission of recommendations for approval by the resources panel.

However, above-mentioned assessing methods are very general and are not suitable for assessing every individual. Different assessment methods should be adopted to get familiarized with the individual’s personal requirements. The assessment techniques differ with age, disability and religion. For eg. Speak the user’s language, be consistent and give appropriate feedback. To know about Mary’s actual needs, the first task was to know about her language needs for effective communication so that her views do not lost in translation. This led to the awareness that Mary was Gujrati. In fact, the ideal of hearing clients’ views is the essence of person centred care (Standard 2, NSF). The social work value of respect for the client and promotion of their right automatically bring us close to them. It was observed that Mary needed a professional interpreter.

Reason for Referral Problems: The user’s problem arises when the things does not come in the way he wants them to. When the results are not as expected or there is some kind of abnormality, the individual gets restless, which affects his health and mental balance. Some of these  are:

  • Qualitative Impairment in Social Functioning: want to make social contacts but lack social skills. Make factually true statements but socially inappropriate. Face difficulty in conversing as per the need of listener.
  • Language/ Communication problem: delay in speaking and understanding the sentences spoken by others. Difficulty in grasping the main idea of the talk. Problem in understanding phrases, humor, metaphors and irony.
  • Professional reasons: Most of the persons want to achieve the higher post in their office or sphere of work. But, due to some reasons if they do not achieve it, they become aggressive, impulsive and develop inferiority complex among themselves.
  • Personal reason: There are number of personal problems such as unemployment, disagreement between family members, carelessness of family members towards old members. Mary was old, her husband had died. After that, her sons refused to take her responsibility. She started living with her daughter, but, due to stressful job, she couldn’t gave time to her mother. In addition, Mary was suffering from umber of health problems- hypertension, Ischemic heart condition, clinical depression and insulin dependent diabetes.
  • Financial problems: poverty, unemployment are the main factors of financial crisis. In today’s world, where power is represented by money, this kind of problem is very irritating.

Problems where task-centred approach is effective ( Reid, 1978) are interpersonal conflict, dissatisfaction in social relationships, problem with formal organizations, difficulties in role performances, decision making problems, reactive emotional distress, inadequate resources and behavioural problems.

Methods to evaluate problem solving techniques: There are three classes of evaluation techniques. These are:

  1. Usability Inspection: Usability is defined as the extent to which a product can e used y specified users to achieve the specified goals with effectiveness. Usability inspection is a comparatively cheap method of evaluating the system function by human computer interaction specialists. It is of two types:

Heuristic Evaluation: This method investigates the major usability problems regarding specific products they are using or services being provided to users.

Cognitive task analysis: It involves identifying sequences of actions and goals  needed to accomplish a given task. It is tried to extract the personal problem of the user ad then genuine steps are taken to solve them for successful completion of the task.

  1. Usability testing: In this approach, the representative of the target population conduct surveys or adopt other methods to evaluate the degree to which a product or system satisfies basic criteria. It can be considered as the most informative test to know about system’s adequacy. This can be done by field-testing, video analytic techniques etc.

3.Workplace Analysis: Without proper working management, the target is almost unachievable. It is required to understand the work-setting. This includes work analysis methods and analysis of workflow. These techniques help in analyzing the work activities, differentiation of roles, patterns of communication, an understanding of the workplace facilities and implementation process.

Intervention Plans: The short term plans that are employed to achieve some specified goals are called intervention plans. Behavioural Intervention Plan is one such plan which aims at managing the student’s behaviour. BIP provides positive reinforcement to promote good behaviour, employ planned ignoring to avoid reinforcing bad behaviour, provide needed supports so that student may not go out of order due to frustration or fatigue. The main steps involved are

  • Preparation- It is mandate for the intervention i.e “what justifies the work”?
  • Exploring the problem: Scanning, selecting, detailing and prioritising the target problems of the individual or group for whom program is to be launched.
  • Agreeing goals and time limits: Written agreements is required on which goals and time duration of its achievement should be mentioned.
  • Tasks: It is a long procedure. First, a series of task is to be formulated, agreement of all the working members is required for its application, identification of obstacles is to be checked( i.e feasibility). If the desired result is not obtained, the process is to be changed.
  • Evaluation: Frequent assessment and quick feedback are the best method of evaluating performance of the organization.

For a long time, researchers and school personnel are studying the effects of wide range of student’s problem on classroom learning. Several intervention programs have been launched for abnormal students( advanced or reduced learning abilities) to provide them, an aid in learning. Programs are also launched for disabled children. Some of these are:

  • Individualized Education Programs (IEPs ) goals: have been launched for the children with delayed skills, unusually advanced skills and those who face difficulty in learning and functioning and those who are struggling in school. Task: These students are being taught in a special way due to the presence of learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, mental retardation, visual impairment, developmental delay, hearing impairment etc. rationale:An effective IEP is characterized by the presence of fewer students per teacher so that each individual can get more attention. The teacher is trained specifically to meet the special educational needs of the children. Children spend most of their time in special classroom which includes non academic activities like gym and music.
  • GIEP( Gifted Individualized Education Program) models goals: aims at polishing the skills, advanced conceptual and processing abilities of the gifted student. Most of the educational materials and instructional strategies available in school are appropriate for average learner. GIEP model lay down examples of goals and outcomes that show how school curriculum may be appropriately differentiated for the gifted learner. Task: These include modifying classroom instruction, assignments and assessments. Some students have unusual learning qualities and needs. Rationale: This program enables them to learn difficult material at faster rates and to think at a level higher than their classmates. A unique GIEP model  meets the need and developmental level of individual student.
  • IDEA( Individual with disabilities Education Act) goal: aims at providing special education and related services to children with disabilities between the age group of 3 to 21. It also stresses on involvement of parents in making decisions regarding the education of their children. It also provides the parents of disabled children with the “procedural safeguards notice” which explains them their rights and the facilities and services available for their child. Rationale:Its purpose is to support the use of technology, including assistive technology devices to maximize accessibility for children with disabilities. Task: An equal distribution of resources is essential for the federal government so that it can overcome its responsibility of providing an equal educational opportunity for all students. It has been also proposed that teachers, schools and local educational agencies should be relieved of irrelevant paper work burdens which can be compensated by using advanced technology.

Intervention plan, in the case of Mary was developed using task centre approach. The rationale for using such a system is its time economy. In this context, social work intervention is seen as more of a partnership, attempting to empower users of its services. It is a more optimistic approach which moves the focus away from the person as the problem, to practical and positive ways of dealing with difficult situations (Coulshed and Orme, 1998). Mary had never lived alone in her life. None of her children were willing to keep her. Her mental illness was such that she was always at the verge of committing suicide. Cattell and Jolley 1995 (cited on MIND internet site) further claim that suicide among older people is strongly associated with depression, physical pain or illness, living alone and feelings of hopelessness. All evidenced pointed to the fact that Mary was a very high risk case. Hence the plan was proposed to put Mary in a safe environment where she could get support with activities of daily living, health concerns and supervision in order to minimise the risk of suicide. A temporary solution was the placement of Mary in an Asian daycentre pending the availability of vacancy at the identified or any other suitable home. The management’s agreement at this decision was the achievement of short and medium term goals of care.

In this case, management’s decision was based on resoyrce availability rather than need. In the Gloucestere case ( Mac Donald, 1999), resource availability has been used as the criteria for resource avavlability.  It was observed that management’s final decision in Mary’s case was discriminatory. Mary could not use mainstream services due to her language and cultural needs. The Department of Health’s guidance on the provision of services for older people of ethnic minority origins (From Lip Service to Real Service, 2001) supports the notions of considering users race, cultural practices and preferences when planning their care. Thus, the use of task centred method encouraged the client and carer to work in partnership. It also encouraged the active participation of client in the process of decision making about her continued care. This method promoted the anti-discriminatory practice as it considered Mary’s uniqueness in terms of culture and religion.

Theory of Task Analysis: Several theories have been proposed for task analysis. In general, task analysis is a method that involves

  • Developing a theory of tasks
  • Techniques of data collection
  • A method for analyzing tasks
  • A representational framework for constructing task models
  • Tools for task analysis activities

Goals: It is the destination reached through several different tasks. Each task( or activity) has a goal. Goals are achieved by performing tasks that bring about a change in the state of the world.

Types of goals:

Personal goals: Examples are “ keep on my job”, “ making the boss happy to get promoted”.

Company goals: Examples are “ increasing revenue”, “becoming a market leader”.

Work-related goals: Examples are “ making the management aware of the value of our marketing department”, “ maximize the time for productive work”.

Primary and Secondary tasks: Primary task is the general form of the task domain irrespective of the task domain, whereas secondary task involves the use of tools and technology.

Actions: It has no goal, its meaning is derived from the task of which it is a subset.

Plan: A particular way to achieve a goal.

Strategy: A specific sequence of plans with description of suitability for given circumstances. It is needed while dealing with problems.

Types of theories are:

  • TKS( Task knowledge Structure, by Johnson, 1988): It is a task based approach to design, comprising of theoretical underpinning to tasks, accompanying application methods and tool support. These researches assist in the development of descriptive model of user’s task and user interfaces, directly from the task model. The goal of this method is to make user interface design more predictive. During the development of task-based principles, the point which is kept into mind is to understand how people structure, utilize and recruit their task knowledge while interacting with computers. Steps for task analysis are
  • A suitable task knowledge structure is selected.
  • Then, the principles are laid down for designing user interfaces and dialogue structures such that the principles pertaining to organization and utilization of task knowledge are reflected in the user interface.
  • These principles are then put for practical application, supported in a design setting by tools.

This theory proposes two principles for structuring task models. These are

  •  Categorical structuring: This principle states that the grouping of similar objects, in turn, results in grouping of actions on these objects during interaction. It helps in constructing the high level knowledge of user regarding the group structure, this influences their task-action sequencing. This grouping of knowledge leads to better recall  because people retrieve the group as a composite whole, resulting in quicker task completion.
  • Procedural dependency: This principle states that while carrying out actions, people form associations between sequentially related procedures and actions. These sequencing relations demands that previous task, goal or actions must be completed before later ones. Hence sequencing relation between actions leads to the formation of subgoals( relative to higher level goals) which are comprised of actions that are sequentially related. The advantage of this principle is that when the constituent sequence is recalled, whole of the sequence is retrieved, making more accurate and quicker task execution. Tools are the form of support in the application of principle.

Rationale: Empirical benefits can be obtained by application of TKS theory.

Evaluation: The adequate functioning of the organization by examining how tools support the evaluation of existing designs and by checking whether design follow the principles or not.

  • Norman Action Model: From personal experience, all of us know that goals are not always unambiguous and that evaluation is hardly ever straight forward. Keeping this in mind, Norman described the execution and evaluation elements of his action cycle to make the model closer to real life.

Norman’s seven stages of action: Norman had put forward four simple elements:

  • At first, we have to determine our goal i.e what do we want from the world. Psychologists referred it as the goal of action.
  • Now, to achieve the goal, we have to perform some actions. Norman thinks of this as the
  • Finally, it is the time to check whether we have achieved our goal or not. This is called an act of evaluation.

The above steps constitute the Norman Action Cycle. The most important step is to make your goal as your intention, so as the mind will be set to achieve the goal. He himself assumed that the ideas proposed by him is a kind of model rather than a complete psychological theory. He suggested that the seven stages are interrelated and are not discrete entities. This means that while carrying out any action, we experience that the stages are not separate from each other.

It may seems to be separate from observer’s perspective but from user’s perspective they are interrelated because on the basis of result of first few actions, we go for further steps.

Rationale: The Norman’s model was useful for thinking about the kinds of action that people perform while interacting with technologies- purposive, task oriented actions.

Drawbacks: This model was based on imagination. Hence, it proved more or less, unsuccessful for solving practical problems. For some, it was a complex system with confusions regarding goals and task.

  • Hierarchial Task Analysis: It is considered as the oldest method of task analysis and was developed by Annett around 1967. A hierarchy is an organization of elements that, according to prerequisite relationships, describes the path of experiences a learner must take to achieve any single behavior that appears higher in the hierarchy (Seels & Glasgow, 1990, p. 94). In this system, the instruction is sequenced from bottom to top, showing the hierarchial relationship amongst the tasks. This means that the learner cannot perform the third task without performing first and second task. The highest level in the hierarchy is the most complex. Lower levels form prerequisite skills for higher levels. Each task can be broken down into one or more tasks from one level to the next. Functions are identified, tasks are developed to carry out each function, tasks are arranged at varying levels to achieve the functional goals.

Rationale: Depicting a minimum detail, it gives an adequate information about the performance of a function. Development of pre-planning information is an advantage.

  • DUTCH( Designing for Users and Task, from Concepts to Handles): It is a highly interactive system where each user performs different roles and each role requires different knowledge to use the system. This helps in designing various kind of UVMs( user’s virtual machine) suitable for each role, based on user’s viewpoint. The designer has to find out what types of knowledge will have to be specified. The first requirement is that the system should speak a language that is understandable for the user in relation to his intentions and tasks.

Same was the case with the system which was providing help to the Mary. It was highly interactive so that they became aware of her personal problems, that she was gujrati and can’t understand English and hence, required an interpreter, that she was suffering from number of diseases. This type of analysis method has been proved very useful in solving user specific problems.

  • Evaluation: Evaluation is the most important step in task analysis because it facilitates in getting the view of system’s performance. There are several evaluation techniques, some of them are group discussions of members, survey, conducting an open talk with the users, rating the extent of satisfaction of the user after availing our services. This practice of evaluation is done to improve the working of the system or to change the working strategy of the system, if it is not responding as desired.

Evaluation of the programs, running for students is done by  lectures, alternate assignments and exercises, giving module for homework etc.

From Mary’s perspective, the system was evaluated on the basis of recommending suitable placement in a safe and culturally suitable environment. From the perspective of client advocate, the evaluation of the system made him to realize that he did not highlight the three phases of  his engagement with the client as outline by Adams, Dominelli and Payne (1998), namely: exploring problems, agreeing a goal; and planning and implementing tasks. This helped him to make his work more effective by covering these areas in future works with client.

Areas for further development: Today, information technology is deeply involved in almost all the sphere of human activity. It is now seen as an essential tool to allow learners to acquire and exploit information. Several proposals have been made for the requirement of Higher still in which IT is fundamentally required.

Use of multi-media packages for staff-development for teachers has also been emphasized.

Considerable change has been observed  in the perception of what constitutes a ‘learning environment’ have been highlighted in a number of recent developments which may exploit the potential of ICT, in particular the National Grid for Learning (NGfL). New concept of using world wide web and internet in schools have been developed.

There has been much discussion on the idea of opening virtual university( Western Governors University, 1998, Blumenstyk) . This kind of university is highly dependent on electronic networking to deliver its teaching.There is urgent need to develop the programs which provide effective guidelines to the teacher. Teacher Education (ITE) in Scotland (SOED, 1993 – currently being revised) require teachers to be able to select and utilise information technology.

Conclusion: Task centre approach has evolved as a most effective tool for solving social problems. It is the best method of evaluating the performance of any organization and provides scope of improvement with frequent assessment and feedbacks.


Referred to-

  1. http://links.jstor.org/ Research on the Outcome of Social Work Therapeutic Interventions: A Review of the Literature/ STEVEN PAUL SEHGAL.
  1. http://www.leaonline.com/doi/abs/ Abstract / Journal of Clinical Child Psychology/

Evaluation of a Planned Short-Term Intervention for Schoolchildren With Focal Adjustment Problems

Janice I. Winer Elkin, ‌Roger P. Weissberg, ‌Emory L. Cowen‌

  1. http://www.optimalinterfaces.com/services.html/ User task analysis 
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  1. http://specialchildren.about.com/od/behavioranddiscipline/g/BIP.htm/ “Behavior Intervention Plan”
  1. http://classes.kumc.edu/sah/resources/sensory_processing/learning_opportunities/case_studies/sample_intervention_plan_outcome1.htm
  1. http://www.mpf.org/SPIN/FAQ%20Sheets/BehInterPlans.html/ Behavior Intervention Plans
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  1. http://www.ericdigests.org/1999-4/plans.htm/ Functional Behavior Assessment and Behavior Intervention Plans. ERIC/OSEP Digest E571
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  1. http://wwwcs.uni-paderborn.de/fachbereich/AG/szwillus/chi99/ws/PosPap/fraser.html/ From theory to practice: Tool support for task-related principles/ Fraser Hamilton, Hilary Johnson and Peter Johnson
  1. http://www.geocities.com/rk_hci/HCI_extra_readings.pdf/ Description of Norman’s action cycle
  1. http://classweb.gmu.edu/ndabbagh/Resources/Resources2/hierarchical_analysis.htm/ hierarchy_vs_procedural.htm
  2. Hierarchical Task Analysis
  3. http://www.ercim.org/publication/Ercim_News/enw46/van_der_ver.html/
  1. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/library/ict/append-section1.htm/
  1. files attached with this order.

Dated 30th June 2007

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