Learning needs

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Learning needs assessment has a fundamental role in education and training. It is evident that the need to learn should underpin any educational system. Indeed, the literature suggests that, at least in relation to continuing professional development, learning is more likely to lead to change in practice when needs assessment has been conducted, the education is linked to practice, personal incentive drives the educational effort, and there is some reinforcement of the learning. Learning needs assessment is thus crucial in the educational process.

While learning needs assessment can be undertaken for many reasons, its purpose should be defined and should determine the method used and the use made of findings[1]. Moreover, there is no single best way to gather information about learner needs. In many situations, instructors can anticipate learner needs based on their prior knowledge about learners who have completed similar instructional sessions. Therefore, the process should take advantage of different techniques to uncover valuable supplemental information on learner needs in a minimal amount of time. Some of these techniques are more effective than others at shaping learners’ expectations toward the learning[2].

Related concepts

  • Learning needs assessment is a crucial stage in the educational process that leads to changes in practice, and has become part of government policy for continuing professional development
  • Learning needs assessment can be undertaken for many reasons, so its purpose should be defined and should determine the method used and the use made of findings
  • Exclusive reliance on formal needs assessment could render education an instrumental and narrow process rather than a creative, professional one
  • Different learning methods tend to suit different learners and different identified learning needs
  • A wide range of formal and informal ways of identifying learning needs should be adopted as part of an ordinary practice, which should be the starting point in designing formalised educational systems for professional improvement.

Learning needs analysis

  • Learning needs analyses are undertaken in industry and business to determine the gap between the existing skills, knowledge and abilities of staff and those that are needed for the organisation to function at the desired level. Once this gap is determined, decisions can be taken as to the type of training required (if this is the preferred action) and the form of delivery.
  • Likewise, in an educational setting, a learning needs analysis helps students identify where they are in terms of their knowledge, skills and competencies, versus where they wish to be - what are their learning goals?

Adults learn better when they can see a reason or relevance as to why they are following a programme of study. By conducting a learning needs analysis with prospective students, the learning provider can identify what programmes are needed. Including learners from the outset will help ensure that course content, schedules, etc., are in line with the needs of the student. By assisting the learner to identify the gaps in his/her own learning, the provider will be better able to support the student.

  • see learning needs analysis
  • The Centre for Organizational Excellence has designed some key questions for consideration during the programme design and development stage.pdf

References and links

  1. Needs Assessment and Learner Self-Evaluation. pdf
  2. Norm Gold. (2006) The High Schools English Learners Needs. pdf
  3. Jim Flowers. (2001) Online Learning Needs in Technology Education. Journal of Technology Education,Volume 13, Nomber 1 html
  4. Supervisors’ Guide to Learning Needs Analysis (LNA) and Personal Development Portfolios (PDPs) and their Implementation pdf
  1. Grant, J. (2002, 01 19). Learning in practice. BMJ VOLUME 324, 156-159. Retrieved 11 19, 2022, from https://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/324/7330/156.full.pdf
  2. Minderhout, V. (nd). Learner Development: Facilitating Learning. Seattle: Seattle University. Retrieved 11 19, 2022, from https://pcrest.com/research/fgb/3_2_6.pdf