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Assessing Needs

The first step in building a training course is identifying the needs of target participants. There is a variety of methods for conducting a needs assessment. An in-depth Key Informant Survey can also be used to provide further details and insights into needs and overall course design approach and material focus.

A Need: A “need” refers to the gap between what is and what could or should be within a particular context, leading to strategies aimed at eliminating the gap between what is and should or could be.

Needs Assessment: Program-based needs assessment is:
a. A systematic inquiry for the purposes of identifying priorities and making decisions, and
b. Allocating finite resources in a manner consistent with identified program goals and objectives. Needs assessment includes:
• Identifying and analysing expressed and unexpressed needs.
• A plan to develop strategies that address such needs.

The following key questions need to be posed in any needs assessment:
• What do the participants need to know and do as a result of this training?
• What do we need to know about the course participants and the population they serve?

Key tasks in any needs assessment will include, but not limited to,the following:

Determine the target population
• Identify what type of professionals the course is designed for.

Determine the participants’ needs
• Draw from your past experience with similar groups
• Gather information from informal discussions among professionals in the network
• Conduct surveys
• Conduct focus groups
• Work with an advisory panel
• Observe participants
• Interview participants
• Learn about critical incidents
• Determine what emerging data should be distributed

Understand the participants’ characteristics
• Cultural background
• Education
• Location
• Mind set/Motivation
• Constraints (location, job demands, etc.)

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