How to conduct a needs assessment

Tue, Nov 15,2011 @ 12:00 PM
by Suzanne Kart |
The job of professionals in lifelong learning has changed. It used to be to offer educational activities and to get people to come to those programs. how to conduct a needs assessmentToday the job is to determine what learners want and then to create those educational activities around the needs of the audience being served. In order to do this, LERN has created the 8-Stage Needs Assessment Model.

Overview of the 8-Stage Model
The 8 stages of the new needs assessment model are:

1. Brainstorming. Gathering 10-20 ideas from all sources, including staff and participants. No idea is a bad idea. It is a critical first step without which the other stages cannot succeed.

2. Research. At the same time you are doing brainstorming, you are also doing research. This includes data and numbers on your current participants and activities, analyzing the competition, and reviewing the total environment.

3. Selecting Options. From all the ideas brainstormed and researched, you narrow your choices down to 2-3 options. A small group such as an advisory board, focus group or leadership council is very helpful in this process.

4. Modeling. A critical stage is working out a potential new program on paper. Without putting some numbers to paper, such as response rate, cost of promotion and production, anticipated participants, and so on, it is difficult if not impossible to succeed.

5. Survey. At this stage, you survey a section of your participants to gain additional and final information on what will make the program a success.

6. Try it. After going through five stages, you try the new idea by offering it to your audience and giving it your best promotional shot. If you have spent enough time and thought on the first five stages, this effort should provide evidence that the new program will be successful over the long term.

7. Decide. Often times not enough energy and thought is put into analyzing the results of the first effort. Sometimes new programs are killed when they actually have demonstrated long term success, even though the first program may not have made money.

8. Evaluate. Every program needs ongoing evaluation to improve it. Certainly all new programs will need to be refined and tuned to improve the quality and the profitability.

There is more information on the Needs Assessment model - and how to conduct a needs assessment - in LERN’s manual “Successful Needs Assessment.”

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