Friday, January 21, 2011

Same but Different: Needs for Needs Assessments

As DOS it is now your responsibility to devise one or more needs analyses for these two market segments. Apart from the points covered in the readings so far you will also need to consider:

First of all there is a dual focus of in company versus group school classes. DOS needs to determine which is possible for each individual student depending upon what resources and number of teachers available for in-house versus in school lessons. This might be a serious logistical constraint. For example minimum groups of six may have to collect a number of interested and available students before the bus can roll on so long lead time could be required during which we may lose students unwilling to wait to start for an in school class to be full. In 1 to 1 cases we need to increase the cost of the overall program as one teacher could just as easily be teaching six students multiplying our income and reducing unit costs of instruction and at the same time allow it to be attractive enough to acquire a contract. In London I’m sure pricing is competitive for 1 to 1 lessons in company.

from whom you will want to gather the information. Is it the learner? The learner's line manager/HR manager? Both?

DOS does need to consult with all of company prescribed and ascribed needs for 1 to 1 training. The learner is perhaps being financed by the line manager and/or HR Department where the “need to know” skills could be fairly explicitly documented in terms of cognitive skills sitting in a file somewhere already. However this may not be the case. We need to evaluate learner’s current abilities and future goals of attainment as result of training. As our lesson resources plan is inflexible it would be like assembling the ingredients (tasks and skills) from a cookbook of lessons or looking at the learner's profile and overlaying our available lessons to cover that profile of needs. What we would not want to do is set out to teach skills the learner already has or knows. At the same time we need to be assured that the learner is motivated to improve the same skills that his or her manager/HR Department seeks them to have. Everyone needs to be in on the same page and perhaps have all of them sign an agreement on the needs analysis performed after any amendments are made for the design of the individual course.

Does it depend on the market? If other people are involved, how will this be handled?

As Case suggested we need to balance the needs between the learner and his or her employer with some diagnostic testing for 1 to 1 lessons. In the case of in school groups we are already assessing similar needs and language levels by a more general approach to group needs with less emphasis on tailoring the lessons to specific individual needs. Our task is a little easier in needs assessment in this case the learner’s current skills are used fairly simply to place him or her in a group of similar needs and language levels.

Length of time spent on the needs analysis - both by the person taking it and the person evaluating it.

Needs Analysis for 1 to 1 learners will be more complex with more specific questions as Case suggests in his needs analysis sample skills and language as well as written texts, speaking and listening would reveal minimum needs but as Richardson also suggested these milestones need to be set to measure progress and re-evaluated frequently enough to adjust scope of training based on measurable progress frequently enough to satisfy continuously reassessed learner needs. These needs would require collection from learner, manager and HR department to find shared ascribed and prescribed interests to create a satisfactory learning program. It would take more time and the assessment itself should be perhaps be paid for in advance of the lessons.

In contrast the group dynamic of a class of six students would require more inter-student practical training and therefore more adoption of an in class versus out of class student feedback assessment which could take the form of many topic discussions on what lessons be taught versus what could be less important to the group. One form of group assessment called NGT (Nominal Group Technique) could be performed in an introductory lesson or a couple of consecutive sessions. It allows for group discussion and brainstorming as Case and Richardson both emphasized allowing students to share priorities for learning tasks and selecting those most important across the group. In addition it adds learner ownership to the lessons to be taught and therefore acts as a motivation tool. It's hard to complain about what you are being taught if you had a chance to add your own priorities to that list of lessons.

how detailed you will want the analysis/analyses to be for the two markets given the different circumstances.

1 to 1 training in company will need to meet in company documentation standards which could be quite detailed or even non-existent. The trainer should intend to provide a measurable set of needs and goals to the company HR or manager to provide evidence of record for the studies performed and the budget expended on it and perhaps quick reference where necessary for future learning programs. In addition needs assessment will provide the next trainer a road-map of a particular learner’s progress and will help build better needs assessments in future. In school group class needs assessments would be more general in nature but provide market reading data on what current students need or want in group studies and will help the DOS ensure that these are being met by regular end of class feedback questionnaires either weekly or at agreed set milestones on the ten weeks course. So for the first market our needs assessment must be more tailored for our learning customer who when satisfied will perhaps return to us for future 1 to 1 training and in the second our class needs and assessments assist us in ensuring our courses are always full because we listen to our students and address their needs by adjusting the lessons to meet them.

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