Cognitive task analysis (CTA) refers to a cognitive management and may be used in numerous fields of human activity to find out how, or why, people succeed or fail in their engagements. Scholars have developed multiple methods of CTA, emphasizing the most important ones that analysts use to identify the key factors that help them find reasons of right or wrong outcomes. As CTA is a tool helping to find out different outcomes through the performers’ actions and their outcomes, it is a suitable tool assessing their activities and evaluating their decisions, deeds and results.
At first, CTA itself can be interpreted in three different ways: as a “study of practices at work”; as a process during which “CTA analysts study the minds”; and how the “minds are studied to find out how they worked to accomplish a task” (Crandall, Klein & Hoffman, 2006, p. vii). The most important is the last one, which helps performers to self-assess their processes to find out how to improve their outcomes. In other words, the key factor of CTA helps to identify how the “workplace works and what keeps it from working as it might” (Crandall et al., 2006, p. 2).
Secondly, the process of CTA consists of several milestone activities. According to Crandall et al., there are a few main actions that an analyst has to undertake to conduct CTA: “knowledge elicitation, data analysis and knowledge representation” (2006, p. 9) Additionally to the methods mentioned above, Clark, Feldon, Early, G. van Merriënboer, & Yates emphasize the “preliminary data collection and data verification” stages of the process (2006). For instance, if a firefighter decides to take a proper an quick decision, he should perform the following activities first: 1) to find out the risks of damage; 2) to compare them with the available firefighting and life rescuing resources; 3) to avoid damaging himself in order to succeed in helping the ones in fire; 4) to analyze whether the collected data is correct and sufficient and to undertake all necessary deeds that should help him achieving in the firefighting mission.
The main task of CTA is to help one understand all pros and cons of an engagement in order to succeed in it or to find out the reasons of its failure. The cognitive process of the person depends on its professional and analytical skills as well as on his knowledge and ability to accommodate him to new circumstances in order to assess his chances or analyze practical steps towards an expected outcome.