Needs Assessment for Learning and Performance
eBook - ePub

Needs Assessment for Learning and Performance

Theory, Process, and Practice

Jill E. Stefaniak

  1. 202 páginas
  2. English
  3. ePUB (apto para móviles)
  4. Disponible en iOS y Android
eBook - ePub

Needs Assessment for Learning and Performance

Theory, Process, and Practice

Jill E. Stefaniak

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Información del libro

Needs Assessment for Learning and Performance offers comprehensive coverage of the knowledge and skills needed to develop and conduct needs assessments and to analyze, interpret, and communicate results to clients and organizations. Though critical to planning any performance improvement system, needs assessments can feel abstract and vague to students who have not yet managed the process in a professional setting. This first-of-its-kind textbook uses a variety of real-world examples to connect major theories and models to effective principles for practice. Each chapter offers guiding questions, key terms and concepts, recommended readings, and case studies illustrating how needs assessment training can be applied. Graduate students and researchers of instructional design, human resources, performance improvement, program evaluation, and other programs will find this volume relevant to a range of academic and organizational contexts.

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Inklusive Bildung

The Practitioner’s Role in Needs Assessment


Case: Declining Sales for Woodward Manufacturing

Alexis Culpepper1 has been hired to do some contract work for Woodward Manufacturing, a leading manufacturer of aftermarket car products. Jim Matthews, the CEO, has shared with Alexis that the company has experienced a decline in sales over the past five years. He attributes this to several leaders who have recently retired and an inexperienced younger workforce. During their meeting, Jim expresses to Alexis that he needs her to create a leadership development and mentoring program to train his younger workforce, as he believes the decline in sales is due largely in part to their lack of experience in the aftermarket industry.
As Alexis and Jim continue their conversation, she is not entirely convinced that a leadership development program is going to fix Woodward Manufacturing’s decline in sales. She asks Jim if his organization has conducted a needs assessment. He shares with her that he has not, but that he feels very confident that the issue rests with the need for ­leadership development.
Alexis is not sure how to proceed. She wants to provide Woodward Manufacturing with a solution that it needs and she hopes it will result in future contract work; however, she is skeptical that a leadership development program is going to solve all of the performance problems. She thinks a needs assessment would be helpful for providing a better understanding the organizational issues, but Jim does not think it is needed.

Guiding Questions

  1. What is a needs assessment?
  2. What is the difference between needs assessment and needs analysis?
  3. What is the practitioner’s role during a needs assessment?
  4. What is the difference between an internal and external consultant?
  5. What items are typically included in a needs assessment plan?

Key Terms

Needs assessment
Needs analysis
Internal consultant
External consultant

Chapter Overview

This chapter will discuss the role of the needs assessor in a needs assessment. When conducting a needs assessment, the needs assessor needs to remain objective and gather data from multiple sources to validate the needs that have been presented by the client or identify actual needs. Emphasis will be placed on why individuals need and should conduct needs assessments, the importance of interfacing with their clients and organizations, and how to create a plan for addressing needs presented in initial meetings. This chapter will also distinguish the difference between needs assessment and analysis and the role that the needs assessor serves in each of these phases of a project. A needs assessment is the process of identifying or verifying needs while analysis focuses on addressing the causal factors that contribute to or cause those needs.

Is Needs Assessment Necessary If the Project Need Has Been Identified?

Consultants are often presented with a project after a need has been identified. A need is a gap or discrepancy between a present state and the desired state (Altschuld & Kumar, 2010). Oftentimes, they are approached by a client asking them to provide a service or a solution. “We need training.” “We need to reduce staff.” “We need to hire additional employees.”
These are examples of solutions; not needs. More often than not, a client has identified the desired solution without actually determining or verifying that it aligns with the actual needs. Regardless of the type of project, a consultant’s role should be to identify, validate, and verify that desired solutions align with the actual needs of the organization. The process of needs assessment can help the consultant gather the necessary information that they need to acquaint himself or herself with the organization, ­situation, and project needs.
One way that a consultant can determine if the need being presented by the client is an actual need is by exploring how the word “need” is being used in a grammatical sense. Altschuld and Kumar (2010) point out that a “need in grammatical usage is a noun, not a verb” (p. 3). If the need is being presented in a sentence by the client and they are using the word “need” as a verb, then it is a solution strategy rather than an actual need statement. Lots of needs assessment experts have pointed out that there are discre­pancies with how the word “need” is being used when clients are seeking assistance from consultants (Altschuld & Kumar, 2010; Russ-Eft & Sleezer, 2020; Watkins, Meiers, & Visser, 2012).
If a client has approached a consultant with an expressed need and a pre-identified solution, the consultant should ask their client the following questions at the beginning of a project:
  • Has a needs assessment been conducted?
  • Who was involved in conducting the needs assessment?
  • What types of data sources were used?
  • Why is it important for the organization to address this need?
  • Is the client open to the consultant gathering additional information?
If a needs assessment has not yet been conducted, it is in the organization’s best interests to gather some preliminary information to verify that the needs that have been identified will align with the identified and requested solution. In most cases, a need will not be fully identified until the consultant has time to gather data to fully understand the gap or discrepancy between the client’s current state of affairs and where they would like to be in the future. The need is not the solution; it is the gap that exists between the two states (Figure 1.1). Failing to do so will result in recurring problems and outputs that may not be measuring the specific areas of performance related to the problem. Chapter 3 will provide more details regarding how to identify and distinguish between different types of needs.
Figure 1.1 Differentiation between needs and needs assessment

What Is Needs Assessment?

A needs assessment is the process of determining the gap in performance between the current state and the desired state (Altschuld & Kumar, 2010). When conducting a needs assessment, the needs assessor needs to gather sufficient data from their clients to gain a deep understanding of the current situation. Examples could include identifying challenges with individual employees or work units, reviewing the types of services and products being provided by the organization, and assessing annual sales reports.
The second stage of a needs assessment is to work with the client to identify the desired state of performance. How does the organization want to be performing if it were not faced with any current barriers or challenges? How should each work unit function? What would it like its position to be in their respective market or industry?
Once the current and desired states of performance have been identified, the needs assessor’s role is to then identify the gaps in performance. The goal of any needs assessment is to be able to provide recommendations to a client to help them bridge the gap and move towards achieving the identified desired goals. To effectively identify the gap in performance, a needs assessor must have access to the necessary data that demonstrates a gap truly exists.
Needs assessments are typically conducted for the following three reasons: (1) to address a recurring problem that has been identified within an organization, (2) to identify strategies to improve the quality of existing organizational practices, and (3) to identify opportunities for growth or expansion. Table 1.1 provides an overview of different types of reasons why an organization may request a needs assessment.
Needs assessments are not limited to any particular industry or discipline. They can be beneficial to business and industry settings, healthcare, higher education, primary and secondary school (often referred to as K–12), and military/governmental sectors. Table 1.2 includes examples of different types of needs assessments that have been explored in different contexts.
During a needs assessment, the needs assessor will gather data from multiple sources such as interviews and conversations with organizational leaders, reviews of organizational documents, direct observations and interactions with employees on the job, and conversations with employees representing multiple layers (or units) of the organization. The needs assessor must gather data from multiple sources so that they can recognize a recurring pattern in performance and justify any recommendations that may be a result of the needs assessment.
Table 1.1 Reasons to Conduct a Needs Assessment
Reasons for Needs Assessment Examples
Performance Problem
  • Company A has been experiencing decreased profits with its new sports product line for three consecutive quarters.
  • A local elementary school has not been meeting state standards for reading comprehension.
Quality Improvement
  • A call center is looking to explore whether it can reduce the number of minutes a customer is waiting to speak with an agent.
  • An automobile dealership is exploring the possibility of transferring mandatory training materials to an online format to allow salesmen the opportunity to complete training materials from a distance.
Exploring Opportunities
  • Administration in a prominent medical school is looking to offer a master’s degree in medical education that medical students could take while completing their medical degree.
Table 1.2 Needs Assessments in Different Contexts
Context Needs Assessment Topics
Business and Industry
  • Examining cross-cultural work adjustment training (...


  1. Cover
  2. Half Title
  3. Title Page
  4. Copyright Page
  5. Dedication
  6. Table of Contents
  7. 1. The Practitioner’s Role in Needs Assessment
  8. 2. Needs Assessment Basics: Understanding the Process
  9. 3. Needs Theory
  10. 4. Understanding 
the System
  11. 5. Contextual Analysis
  12. 6. Needs Assessment Models and Processes
  13. 7. Project Management as It Relates to Needs Assessment
  14. 8. Data Collection Tools and Techniques
  15. 9. Making Sense of Your Data
  16. 10. Decision-Making during Needs Assessment
  17. 11. Prioritizing Needs
  18. 12. Aligning Instructional and Non-instructional Solutions
  19. 13. Enacting Change
  20. 14. Embracing Design Thinking to Manage Project Constraints
  21. Index
Estilos de citas para Needs Assessment for Learning and Performance

APA 6 Citation

Stefaniak, J. (2020). Needs Assessment for Learning and Performance (1st ed.). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from (Original work published 2020)

Chicago Citation

Stefaniak, Jill. (2020) 2020. Needs Assessment for Learning and Performance. 1st ed. Taylor and Francis.

Harvard Citation

Stefaniak, J. (2020) Needs Assessment for Learning and Performance. 1st edn. Taylor and Francis. Available at: (Accessed: 14 October 2022).

MLA 7 Citation

Stefaniak, Jill. Needs Assessment for Learning and Performance. 1st ed. Taylor and Francis, 2020. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.