Rossett (1995) described needs assessment as an initial inquiry of information
about situation. , Jonassen, Tessmer, and Hannum (1999) explained the purposes
of needs assessment include:
- To determine if learning is a solution to an identified need, and if so,
how serious the learning need is; the result is prioritized inventory of learning
- Needs analysis is the data gathering and decision making process that instructional
designers go through to determine the goals of any instructional system
- Needs analysis identifies the present capability of prospective learners
or trainees, the desired outcomes, and the discrepancies between those
When do we do needs assessment?
Rossett (1995) pointed out the importance of the needs assessment as a driving
force affecting every other aspects in the instructional design system, i.e.
design, development, use and evaluation.
"Needs assessments are done when the instructional technologist
is trying to respond to a request for assistance. Needs assessments gather
information to assist professionals in making data-driven and responsive recommendations
about how to solve the problem or introduce new technology." (p. 184)
Rossett (1995) described the major information that needs assessment tends
- Optimal Performance: What is it that the learner/performer need to know
- Actual Performance: What is it that the learner/performer actually know
- Feelings: How do the learner/performer feel about the topic, training about
the topic, the topic as priority, and confidence surrounding the topics
- Causes: Rossett incorporated the work of Bandura (1977) and Keller (1979,
1983) into a system that recognizes four kind of causes:
- Lack of skill or knowledge: Can the learner or performer do the task?
- Flawed Environment: Does the environment support the task performance? The
support includes tools, forms, work space, etc.
- Improper Incentives: What are the consequences of doing the job badly or
not doing at all?
- Unmotivated Employees: What is the internal state of the individuals involved,
i.e. their value toward the task, and their confidence of their ability
Lack of skill or knowledge
||Are the learners able to do the task?
||Feeling, consequences of task performance
Possible Data Sources
|Records and outcomes, observations, interviews
||Observations, interviews, focused groups
||Observations, records, interviews, questionnaire
||Training, job aids
||Improved tools or forms, workplace redesign, job redesign
||Improved policies, better supervision, improved incentives
||Training, information, coaching, better supervision
Data Collection Tools
- Observations: fining out optimal and actual performance, the environmental
- Interviewing: optimal knowledge, environment, incentive, and motivation
- Records and Outcomes: finding out optimal and actual performance; environmental
factors from the complaints; examining policies to identify incentives
- Facilitating Groups: to assemble an organizational-wide accord on optimal;
it can be used to seek other information, but we need to be careful about
the honest discuss of actual performance, feeling and causes.
- Surveying through questionnaires: It is efficient to gather information
from a large number of respondent as well as information about feeling, causes,
The process of Needs Assessment
- Identify Purpose Based on Initiators: According to Rossett (1995)There are
Identify Sources: Where is/Who has the information that I need?
Can I access such information?
Select Tools for getting information: What are appropriate ways to collect
data? What are the questions to ask in the interviews and in the surveys?
What are under observations?
Conduct the needs assessment in stages in order to search for the information
Use findings to make decision: Analyze the data and identify the gaps, determine
the causes of the gaps and identify the kinds of interventions to resolve
- Performance problems: if there is a gap between ultimate and actual performance,
the focus is to find out the causes.
- New stuff: Because the new technologies, systems or approaches are used,
the focus will be more on the optimals, and feelings
- Mandates: There might be a performance problem; then there might be not.
It can be approached as performance problem or as a new stuff.
Typology of Questions (Rossett, 1995)
- Problem finding: Is there a problem? What is the nature of the problem?
- Problem selecting: Prioritize identified problem
- Knowledge/skills proving: Ask to perform the task
- Finding feelings: Questions about the feelings and attitudes about the problem
- Cause findings: Questions about the cause of the problems
Smith and Ragan (1999) categories three sides of needs assessment:
- Discrepancy Model: this focuses on the gaps between "what is"
and "what should be"
Problem-Finding, Problem Solving model: this takes a broad view
in terms of performance technology. The model focuses on resolving the causes
of the problem, and the non-instructional solutions are considered.
- List the goals of instructional system]
- Determine how well the identified goals are already being achieved
- Determine the gaps between what is and what should be
- Prioritize gaps according to agreed-upon criteria
- Determine which gaps are instructional needs and which are most appropriate
for design and development of instruction
Innovation Model: it examines changes or innovations in the educational
system or organization and determines whether new learning goals should be
added to the curriculum.
- Determine whether there really is a problem
- Determine whether the cause of the problem is related to employees' in training
environments or to learners' achievement in educational environments.
- Determine whether the solution to the achievement/performance problem is
- Determine whether instruction for these learning goals is currently offered:
if yes, carry out the discrepancy model; if no, carry out the innovation model.
Jonassen, D. H., Tessmer, M., & Hannum, W. H. (1999). Task analysis
methods for instructional design. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Rossett, A. (1995). Needs Assessment. In Anglin, G. J. (Ed). Instructional
technology: Past, present, and future, p.183-196. Englewood, CO: Libraries
Smith, P. L. & Ragan, T. J. (1999). Instructional Design. 2nd. Danvers,
MA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.